Green Agenda — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:59 pm on 12th January 2012.

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Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench 3:59 pm, 12th January 2012

My Lords, I apologise to the House for being a late addition to the debate, but the opportunity to speak for four minutes in the gap is a great aid to energy efficiency delivery-so here goes.

I very much welcome the opportunity to debate this extremely important issue. As I explained to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, before the debate, I have strongly felt all along that there has been a moral and economic imperative, as a baseline starting point, to be less profligate with our energy use. I have a few interests to declare. I am a landowner, a chartered surveyor with a particular interest in older building stock, a member of the Country Land and Business Association and its heritage working group, and I chair a small energy panel for the South of England Agricultural society, of which I am a trustee.

I very much welcome the policy on green energy, and my only concern is that it could work better. That is where I am coming from. I am glad to say that my first point has been much more ably made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, with regard to the changes to the solar photovoltaic feed-in tariff. They were a somewhat lamentable move. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, mentioned investor confidence-and so do I. We need to move to somewhere near a single-pot budget that is allocated according to cost-benefit rather than having different little pots that risk running out and being hypothecated towards only certain aspects. We need to look at energy in the round.

Many projects, apart from solar and photovoltaic, have to reach a very advanced stage before they can be certain of getting any subsidy allocation at all. This lack of security and certainty adds to the costs and risks, and makes such projects relatively unattractive to prospective applicants. The financial prop that the Government could offer through effective preregistration would significantly reduce the risks and raise a scheme's viability. I do not suggest that this be done without due consideration to the cost-efficiency of the scheme in question.

The minimum code C level of thermal efficiency for buildings with solar photovoltaic that are to benefit from a feed-in tariff is another concern. The site and location of a PV panel is a very different concept from the nature of the fuel and the energy efficiency of the building or structure to which it is attached. The two are not ad idem. There has been a little incoherence here and I should like that issue to be addressed. Only 9 per cent of properties in the UK, according to my understanding, achieve code C. Their energy use and generation may coincide, but given that 75 per cent of homes are not heated by electricity, one can begin to see the disparity. I would hate to think that we were eliminating good and worthy green energy-generation sources simply because of some other relatively unrelated criterion.

Consumer knowledge of and control of how energy is used is vital. The cost-benefit of the myriad schemes and products with which we are presented is an issue that is reaching a level of incoherence. Although smart metering will help, it will deal only with the electricity aspect. What we need is a complete lifecycle energy assessment for all products and processes, and informed choices could thereby be made. That will empower people and lead into a better concept of energy conservation. It would certainly-to use the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull-avoid people chasing grant and subsidy regardless of the internal efficiency of the project or product in question.

I shall conclude there because my four minutes are up, but I thank your Lordships for your indulgence.