Energy Bill

Part of Charities Act 2011 (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 5:58 pm on 19th December 2012.

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Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South 5:58 pm, 19th December 2012

The overarching policy statement sets out the context of the problem we are trying to solve, and to which there are three dimensions: cost, decarbonisation and security. We have heard quite a lot about decarbonisation, and something on security, which has two parts to it: the level of imports that we continue to need and keeping the lights on. We have heard less about cost, and I will also talk about that.

On security, the big issue unique to the EU is that we must spend £200 billion on new capacity in the next two decades. The companies that need to spend that money are more or less the same companies that we have heard so much about from the Opposition, who say they are ripping off consumers and so on. I gently say to the Opposition Front Bench, and to other hon. Members, that if that sort of language is heard in the boardrooms of some of those companies—which, due to the previous Labour Government, are now principally foreign-owned—it will not be an incentive to invest in our country. A great deal of work needs to be done on that. The biggest source of the increase in electricity supply in the past three years has come from imports through the interconnectors from France and Holland. That is a failure.

On cost, fuel poverty increased from 6% to 16% in the decade up to 2010. It is not possible to grow an economy with differentially high energy prices, particularly when trying to rebalance it towards manufacturing. We must be cognisant of that.

It is right that we decarbonise, but decarbonisation comes at a cost. Ministers must accept that there is a cost to be paid and not hide behind savings from better energy use and all that goes with it. We need to win that argument, otherwise the whole thing will unwind over the next two decades.

I want to ask Ministers about a particular issue. Hon. Members have talked about the European dimension and globalisation. Alex Cunningham rightly said that we are 25th out of 27 when it comes to renewables, although that—I gently tell him—is something we inherited in 2010. Nevertheless, it is true. It is also true, however, that we are one of the best when it comes to carbon per head and carbon per unit of GDP. In particular, Germany uses 30% more carbon per head than we do and 25% more per unit of GDP. It is often set up as an exemplar when it comes to renewables, and it is true that it has a lot of renewables, but the reason it performs so much worse than us is that it burns so much coal.