Report (2nd Day)

Part of Energy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 21st October 2015.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 6:30 pm, 21st October 2015

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on this part of the Bill. I shall take the amendments in the order that they are marshalled.

With regard to Amendment 78S, we are committed to ensuring that the UK continues to do its part to tackle climate change, in line with the Climate Change Act, but we want to do so as cost-effectively as possible to make sure that our energy is secure and affordable, as well as lower carbon. We believe that locking ourselves into an expensive and inflexible target for the power sector is not the way to do that. There are just too many things that we cannot predict about how the energy system will develop up to 2030, and the costs of getting it wrong would be picked up by consumers for many years to come.

The amendment would, in effect, require the Government to introduce an additional power sector target in the form of an obligation on electricity suppliers in the United Kingdom. As has been referred to, the Conservative manifesto, upon which this Government were elected, stated that we will not support additional distorting and expensive power sector targets, but it is our belief that this is what the amendment would lead to.

Noble Lords will know that setting a decarbonisation target for the power sector, which would be the effect of the amendment, was debated in this House during the passage of the then Energy Bill 2013, which has been referred to, and the then Infrastructure Bill 2015. The topic of power sector decarbonisation targets was also discussed during the Committee stage of this Bill. In that discussion, I set out the Government’s intention not to set a power sector decarbonisation target, following that manifesto pledge. As has been confirmed, I also wrote to noble Lords after that further reiteration of the position, explaining that, instead, the Government have already committed to set out totals for the levy control framework beyond 2020, providing a basis for electricity investment into the next decade. I shall not restate the position on contracts for difference, as I think it is already clear that we are committed to making a statement on that this autumn. Therefore, I know that noble Lords will be familiar with the arguments against setting a target such as this.

We have an extensive range of targets at the domestic, EU and international levels. These require action across the economy to meet targets in 2020, 2030 and 2050 on carbon, renewables and energy efficiency. Domestically, we have a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. We have carbon budgets setting out targets to 2027 and will be setting a further budget next year, covering the period to 2032. We are also subject to EU targets on carbon, which cover 2020 and 2030. On renewables, these run to 2020 and include interim milestones along the way. Internationally, we are subject to the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol and the compliance periods that these set up.

These targets are comprehensive, far-reaching, and mutually reinforcing. What makes the United Kingdom unusual by comparison with our European partners is the fact that we have a carbon budget system with comprehensive reporting and independent scrutiny. Investors want to know that we have clear, credible and affordable plans. The CBI has said that clarity on future financial support for low-carbon electricity will be more important than targets in driving investment. That is why we have said that we will set out totals for the levy control framework beyond 2020, providing a basis for electricity investment into the next decade, as well as setting out plans in the autumn in respect of future contract for difference allocation rounds.

In relation to Amendment 78T, I acknowledge that it is important that developers and investors have some foresight as to the frequency of CFD allocation rounds. However, this must be balanced with LCF budget availability, which, as noble Lords know, is funded by a levy on consumer bills. The function of the levy control framework is to limit the amount paid by consumers. It is therefore crucial that the Government are able to take decisions in the light of the latest evidence around deployment projections and costs.

The United Kingdom is continuing to make progress towards the 2020 renewables target of 15% of final energy consumption from renewable sources, with provisional 2014 figures showing that on we are on target to meet the 2020 target. No carbon intensity targets for electricity generation have been set in order that we retain flexibility around how we achieve our 2050 target. Committing to annual CFD allocations, even only in certain circumstances, would inhibit the Government’s ability to respond to evidence around levels of deployment in renewable electricity generation, costs to consumers and opportunities in other sectors, such as heat and transport.

The noble Baroness’s amendment would unnecessarily commit the Government to a course of action that would neither benefit the consumer nor provide any certainty to renewable energy generators or investors. We are committed to our energy targets and continue to make progress towards meeting them. For this reason, I do not accept the amendment.

Amendment 78UA seeks to make a fundamental change to the Climate Change Act which—as, in fairness, I think the noble Baroness acknowledged—runs contrary to how the carbon budget regime was designed and implemented by the last Labour Government. The noble Baroness played a significant part in that, I know. I think that this is much more than a small, technical amendment and it has huge implications for the Climate Change Act. It changes the focus of the United Kingdom’s approach to decarbonisation and, I believe, sends a wrong message about our faith in the

EU emissions trading system. I may have misquoted the noble Baroness in terms of it being a radical change. If I did, I apologise. I think that it is a radical change. She is shaking her head, so I have misinterpreted her position and I apologise for that.

We believe that the amendment would make a fundamental change to the basis of carbon budgets and, if it were accepted, it is likely that we would need to revisit the levels of all current budgets. It would be an unnecessarily and overly burdensome process, as carbon budgets reflect the EU ETS.

Instead, we want to focus on driving the action to deliver decarbonisation at least cost. We are committed to ensuring that the United Kingdom continues to do its part to tackle climate change in line with the Climate Change Act and international obligations. However, we want to do this as cost-effectively as possible to make sure that our energy is secure and affordable, as well as lower carbon.

The EU emissions trading system is a central component of the United Kingdom Government’s policy for delivering emissions reductions in the UK and further afield in a cost-effective and technologically neutral way. The EU emissions trading system is designed to deliver least-cost decarbonisation of particular sectors across the EU, and we are supportive of this approach. We are also supportive of international efforts to price carbon, such as the EU emissions trading system, which is the first, and largest, cap-and-trade system of allowances for emitting greenhouse gases in the world.

We recognise that the EU emissions trading system requires reform, and the United Kingdom has been one of the leading advocates of measures to strengthen the scheme, such as negotiating the market stability reserve. However, on what is, I think, at the very least a significant change, we need to beware of throwing out the baby with the bath-water. We do not want to imply a loss of faith in the EU emissions trading system as a means of achieving least-cost decarbonisation by decoupling our carbon budget regime from it. Instead, we are focused on continuing to work with other member states to strengthen the EU emissions trading system.

Finally, it must be noted that our approach is in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on the use of emissions trading system allowances. It renewed its advice in 2013 that we should include emissions trading system allowances in the net carbon account and proposed an approach for doing so, which the then Government broadly accepted.

My noble friend Lord Howell made significant points during the debate about ensuring that we keep energy affordable. I think that this would jeopardise that, at the very least.

In the light of those comments, I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord have found my explanation reassuring and will not press their amendments.