Topical Questions

Energy Security and Net Zero – in the House of Commons at on 4 July 2023.

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Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade)

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

Next week will mark the 500-day anniversary since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine and began trying to blackmail the world on energy. As ever, Britain stood strong in the face of tyranny, and I am pleased to report that from Saturday just past, energy bills are falling by an average of 17% for households. We are committed to powering Britain from Britain, despite some alarming energy surrender plans coming from the Opposition.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade)

The Climate Change Committee’s report published last week found that of the policies and consultations that are the responsibility of the Secretary of State’s Department, no less than 33 are overdue. He cannot blame anyone else. Will he now own up to the Government’s appalling failure?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

The actual data argues the opposite way. We have met all our carbon budgets to date. The Climate Change Committee last week said that the chances of reaching carbon budget 4 are “slightly increased”. We are confident of meeting it, and we have set out our plans for carbon budgets 5 and 6. I have to say that given that this country has the best record in the world among developed nations for getting carbon under control, it is surprising to hear the Opposition’s view.

Photo of Mark Fletcher Mark Fletcher Conservative, Bolsover

Our domestic nuclear sector and our military are struggling to recruit and retain enough nuclear engineers. What discussions is the Minister having with the sector and the Department for Education to create a long-term workforce plan to solve the issue?

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

Since day one, the skills challenges that we face have been a top priority for me, which is why my Department is working closely with the Ministry of Defence, the DFE and the sector to tackle them. With the employer-led Nuclear Skills Strategy Group, we have deployed a joint plan of skills actions to support the civil and defence programmes, but I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that further.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

Six days ago, the Climate Change Committee delivered its most scathing assessment in its history on the Government’s record, saying that they were off track on 41 out of 50 key targets. It said that we have gone “markedly” backwards in the past year, on the Secretary of State’s watch. Who does he blame for this failure?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

As has been discussed more than once in these questions and answers, we have taken this country from having only 7% renewable energy to over 40%. We have decarbonised faster than any other G7 nation and we are on track for carbon budget 4, having already overdelivered on carbon budgets 1, 2 and 3. Based on our record to date, we are doing a pretty good job.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

That answer is total complacency from a Secretary of State who has just been proven to be failing on every major aspect of his agenda. That is why Lord Goldsmith resigned. Lord Deben has said he is failing, and Mrs May has said that we are losing the global race. Is not the truth now that even the Tories do not trust the Tories on the climate crisis?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

This is one of the problems with not being prepared to follow the data, which shows us overdelivering on the commitments of carbon budgets 1, 2 and 3, and that we are more likely to meet carbon budget 4 than we were a year ago. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to ignore all that and still roll out his pre-written question, that is how we get to his conclusions. The truth is that the Government are delivering on the issues of climate change while protecting every single household in the country from Putin’s tyranny. I am afraid that has already been surrendered by the right hon. Gentleman, who subscribes to the Just Stop Oil approach.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

Will the Minister tell the House what his latest assessment is of the full financial cost to the United Kingdom of reaching net zero, and, if the UK reaches net zero, what difference that would make to global temperatures?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

We estimate that the net cost excluding air quality and emissions-saving benefits will be equivalent to about 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050. As my hon. Friend knows, emissions are global, and we all need to play our part. The UK has a part to play in tandem with others, and that is why I will be working with other Ministers at the conference of the parties in Dubai.

Photo of Mick Whitley Mick Whitley Labour, Birkenhead

The Climate Change Committee has slammed the Government for their failure on energy efficiency, with the number of homes helped under the energy company obligation having fallen by half between 2021 to 2022 and now standing at a tenth of the level under the last Labour Government. Instead of the usual complacent nonsense, will the Minister explain why the Government are failing to insulate Britain’s homes and what he will do about it?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The hon. Gentleman is right to be frustrated about progress. But as the Secretary of State said, when Edward Miliband, who is chuntering on the Front Bench, was in power, just 14% of homes were decently insulated; by the end of the year, it will be more than 50%. We have set up the energy efficiency taskforce because we want to go further and faster. We are determined to do more. We are spending £12.6 billion over this Parliament and the next, and—

Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley

Many businesses across my constituency, including Lishman’s butchers and Clip ’n Climb in Ilkley, have kindly contacted me about needing additional support to help with their energy prices. The Government have done a huge amount to support domestic users, but will the Minister outline what more support can be provided to small independent businesses?

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Government Whip, Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

My hon. Friend will be interested to hear that the Government provided more than £7.4 billion of support to businesses—more than £35 million a day—through the energy bill relief scheme last winter.

Photo of Mary Foy Mary Foy Labour, City of Durham

Mine water heating is an emerging technology that employs the heat stored in former mines to heat buildings. It is low-carbon and efficient, and it could be a boon for our country, especially in deindustrialised areas such as County Durham that experience high levels of fuel poverty. What forms of support is the Minister offering? Will he meet me to discuss how we can take this forward in the north-east?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I share the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm. We are taking steps to support this technology, and I would be delighted to meet her to discuss it further.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Lots of green renewable energy is generated in Northamptonshire. For the last year for which figures are available, what was the total output, and the breakdown by type?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

Unfortunately, we do not have public data by constituency and do not yet have the full data for 2022. However, I can tell my hon. Friend that in 2021, north Northamptonshire generated a total of 362 GWh of renewable electricity. The people of Kettering, like their representative, want Kettering to be one of the greenest constituencies in the country.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam

The Secretary of State has signalled that his party will finally drop the nonsensical proposed hydrogen levy—another welcome Government U-turn. Will he confirm that it is, in fact, a U-turn? Will he outline exactly how the much-needed investment in green hydrogen technology will be paid for without already struggling households being made to foot the bill? [R]

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

The whole House will welcome the hydrogen economy as an important way to store power. It is becoming increasingly apparent that that power is most likely to be used in heavy industry as well as heavy transport. This Government are committed to hydrogen power, but we are also keen to ensure that it does not impact on people’s energy bills, just as those bills are starting to fall thanks to the support that we provided families with this past winter.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

The contracts for difference auctions have been very successful in kickstarting the British success story that is offshore wind. However, the mechanism now needs adaptation to maximise job creation in places such as Lowestoft and to ensure that we adopt a strategic approach to the provision of enabling infrastructure such as ports and the grid. I would welcome an update from my right hon. Friend on the Government’s work on this important issue.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I could only just hear my hon. Friend’s question, as the shadow Secretary of State made it quite hard to hear. The Government recently completed a call for evidence on this very subject, looking at the introduction of non-price factors in the contracts for difference scheme so that it values things other than just cost deployment. My hon. Friend, like all Members on the Government Front Bench, wants the maximum number of jobs created and retained in this country.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Chair, Petitions Committee, Chair, Petitions Committee

Lord Deben has urged the Government to

“find the courage to place climate change once again at the heart of its leadership.”

Does the Minister share concerns that the Prime Minister and, therefore, this Government are just too weak to stand up to their Back Benchers and really grasp the opportunity and necessity?

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

It was this Prime Minister who created the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and it is this Government who have delivered more than 43% renewable electricity on to the grid. We will take no lectures from the Labour party on combating climate change.

Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby

Will my hon. Friend please outline what his Department is doing to look at the import of green hydrogen feedstock into the UK, to increase the scale and speed of the UK industry and help us achieve our 10 GW capacity by 2020?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I am aware of proposals on the shipping and possible piping of hydrogen and the important part that must play. If we are to decarbonise all of British industry, we will need shipping as well as piping. I will be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss what further we can do.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I very much welcome the recent progress on developing carbon capture, usage and storage on Teesside. I hope we will see the final confirmation that it will happen and the work will start. That said, local industrialists and investors are concerned that the Department is not now asking BP to build the CO2 collection pipework as originally planned, meaning that it will not go to CF Fertilisers or Kellas or pass by the Alfanar site. Could the Minister provide an update, please?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

We are moving at top speed to drive forward CCUS. We are in a world-leading position. The opportunity is enormous in the Tees, the Humber and areas in the north-west as we seek to get that right and embed those industries in this country.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth

The unique geology of Cornwall means that there is huge potential for geothermal energy. There are a number of projects bidding for the current allocation round. Geothermal energy has a competitive strike price, has lithium as a by-product and makes use of mature technology. Will the Secretary of State ensure that those benefits are properly factored into any assessments?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the opportunities of geothermal. He will be pleased to know that it just received a potential allocation through the contracts for difference round. As he and other hon. Friends have pointed out, geothermal has great potential in this country, and we look forward to supporting it.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

Communities in Padanaram, Forfar, Aberlemno and Stracathro in my constituency have been on the receiving end of an extraordinarily flawed consultation by SSENScottish and Southern Electricity Networks—on taking a 400 kV line from Tealing to Kintore. I welcome the investment, but can the Minister advise on the minimum standards for consultations on capital infrastructure of this nature, and why will Ofgem not mandate that there is a community benefit?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

I will, with the hon. Gentleman’s permission, arrange to write back to him in a more detailed structure, given that the development is actually in the constituency of my hon. Friend Andrew Bowie.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

Unlocking access to the grid will unlock significant private sector capital ready to come in for microgeneration of battery storage projects. Can my hon. Friend give me an update on the timing for the Winser review and the Government’s response to it?

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The Government have received Nick Winser’s review and it will be published imminently.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (International Trade)

Following a debate in Westminster Hall on making heritage buildings more sustainable, will the Secretary of State undertake to meet his colleague the Minister with responsibility for culture to push for the urgent revision of guidelines to allow greater flexibility in the siting of solar panels and other renewable installations on heritage buildings, in order to make them more environmentally sustainable and economically viable?

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

At a time when the cost of generating electricity is falling thanks to the increasing use of renewables, my constituents do not understand why the price of electricity remains linked to the price of gas. I know that the Government are undertaking a review of electricity market arrangements. When might they expect to see a change?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

My hon. Friend is quite right to ask that question. We would all like to see gas setting the price of electricity less frequently. That is why we are accelerating the take-up of renewables, which were so pitifully low in quantity when Labour was in power. We need a Conservative Government to keep up progress and lower bills right across the country.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The Secretary of State outlined the progress being made on small modular nuclear reactors. Can he provide an estimate of how many there might be within 10 years?

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

Great British Nuclear will be launched later in July. We will also be launching the draw-down selection process for which technologies we will invest in and support. I would be delighted to speak to the hon. Gentleman in more detail about that progress moving forward.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North

I think my constituents, not least those who are part of the Glasgow Community Energy co-operative, will be disappointed with the Minister’s answer to Mr Bradshaw. The Minister is extremely familiar with the clauses that form part of the proposed community energy Bill. They are not acceptable as amendments to the Energy Bill before this House. Will the Government bring forward their own amendments, so that community energy groups can have the confidence they need to take forward their projects?

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

As I said, we are working with the sector and parliamentarians to find a way forward to further support community energy projects. As part of that, I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss it further.