My Lords, it is curious to rehearse the same arguments so soon after the recent debate on feed-in tariffs. It is very disappointing in the wake of the success in Paris of COP 21, and the enthusiasm engendered from that about a new level of ambition in response to human-caused climate change. I feel as though the Minister is in a position of defending the indefensible. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, made a very good point about the place of subsidies and pump-priming. Therefore, it is disappointing that the Government are not working more effectively with the renewable energy sector to build on the considerable success of that industry.
In its analysis of the impact of the changes to feed-in tariffs, DECC estimated that there could be a loss of 18,700 jobs. There is no equivalent analysis in relation to the impact of the withdrawal of renewable obligations, but going towards no subsidy will undermine a sector that is moving rapidly to a position of needing less subsidy. The House’s Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has been critical of the analysis of this in the EM by not highlighting the level of opposition to, or the paucity of support for, the proposed changes, or acknowledging the concerns expressed by a large number of respondents about the methodology used by DECC to justify its proposals. The desire for increasingly competitive pricing would be a good deal more compelling if this were a feature of the whole electricity market, but last week the Government’s Competition and Markets Authority drew attention to the highly uncompetitive features of the market, dominated as it is by the big six companies.
The desire to cap the levy control framework has introduced two thought errors into the Government’s proposals. The first is that, if the costs of decarbonisation are not to fall on already hard-pressed consumers, further support will be needed in addition to the LCF. However, as has already been pointed out in this debate, the additional cost to the consumer is estimated to be less than £1 per annum. This does not feel like the right way to address this issue. The second point is something that I have referred to before. The desire not to exceed the LCF cap means that we are content with hitting mid-range targets, whereas we ought to be seeking to exceed them on renewable energy in order to escalate the process towards decarbonisation. Many Members of the House want the Government to go back and think about this again. The issue is one of creating a strategy for energy that addresses the need, which was identified in Paris, to move rapidly towards a low-carbon economy.