Select Committee on Environmental Audit Seventh Report



  8. The Committee is charged with considering the contribution of Government policies and programmes to sustainable development. We agreed to inquire into the effectiveness and coherence of the Government's approach to promoting the efficient end-use of energy (excluding the transport sector) after an exploratory session of oral evidence from Professor John Chesshire, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), Sussex University and Mr Nick Hartley, Oxford Energy Research Associates (OXERA) in 1998.[4] We received memoranda and other papers from a range of sources—central and local government, environmental and consumer groups, and business and industry. There has been a significant amount of consultation in this area, by both government and others. Many witnesses helpfully submitted copies of papers generated for other relevant inquiries and consultations. Relevant memoranda received by the Committee are published in a separate volume.[5]

9. We were particularly assisted by the preparation of an excellent briefing paper on energy efficiency by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) covering the concepts involved, current trends, activity and institutions and significant barriers to progress identified by existing research (see Appendix 1 to the Minutes of Evidence published in the accompanying volume of evidence). In addition to POST's helpful analysis the following reports from non-government sources proved of particular value in this area: the Local Government Association's Energy services for Sustainable Communities; the Consumers' Association's Warm homes, low bills, cool planet; The Green Alliance's Case for a Sustainable Energy Agency; and the International Energy Agency's Energy Efficiency Initiative.[6] The National Audit Office's 1998 reports on: the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES), and on the energy efficiency programme run by the Office of Electricity Regulation (the Energy Efficiency Standards of Performance scheme ( EESOPS)), were also useful.[7]

10. We took oral evidence from: the Energy Saving Trust (EST); the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE); officials from the Energy, Water and Waste Directorate of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR); the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA); Enron Europe Limited; Mr John Battle, MP, Minister for Energy, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Mr Callum McCarthy, Director-General for Electricity and Gas Supply; and Mr Alan Meale, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DETR with responsibility for supporting the Environment Minister on energy efficiency. In addition we visited Nottingham where we both took formal oral evidence and held informal discussions with representatives of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Local Authorities Energy Partnership and others. We also travelled to Copenhagen and Bonn where we had informal talks with our counterparts in the Folketing and the Bundestag and with Ministers and officials from a range of relevant government ministries in both capitals. In Copenhagen we also had relevant discussions with the European Environment Agency.

Other relevant inquiries

  11. In Parliament the last inquiry in this area was in 1992-93 when the then Environment Committee reported on energy efficiency in buildings.[8] Currently, in addition to our own work, the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee is inquiring into the Climate Change Programme; Sub-Committee B of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities has recently reported on the prospects for the promotion of electricity from renewable sources; Sub-Committee I of the Lords Science and Technology Committee is looking at non-food crops of which a significant number are energy- related. In this Parliament the Trade and Industry Committee has published a number of reports on aspects of UK energy policy and has recently published a report on the impact on industry of the Climate Change Levy.[9] Outside Westminster, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is examining energy and the environmental issues in a major study on the implications of phasing out fossil fuels. This is due for completion by the end of 1999.

Government reviews and other activity

  12. The inquiry was conducted against a background of Government reviews and consultations on:—a climate change programme for the UK; the place of social and environmental considerations within energy regulation; a possible tax on business energy-use; sources for power generation and the promotion of renewable energy. During the course of our work the Government made a number of relevant announcements:—plans for a business energy tax—the Climate Change Levy; proposals for a new Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES); the first report on performance by local authorities under the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 (HECA); and a revised Sustainable Development Strategy for the UK. Still to come is a draft Climate Change Programme for the UK, which should set out the Government's expectations for the contribution of energy efficiency improvements to achieving its commitments on emissions reductions; legislation for the establishment of a new framework for energy regulation; and the most recent energy consumption forecasts.

13. Our inquiry concentrated on the objectives, coherence and effectiveness of the Government's approach to promoting the efficient end-use of energy, excluding the transport sector. We look at the current situation; the potential for improvement; the barriers to improvement; and the Government's efforts to addressing those barriers. In addition, we comment on the Government's green paper on renewables, and white paper on energy sources for power generation.[10] The Government's own target for improving the energy efficiency of its own estate, and issues in the wider public sector, are examined in our second annual report on The Greening Government Initiative.[11]

4  HC1038-I, 1997-98 Back

5  HC159-II Back

6  Ops. cit. Back

7  Reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General, HC556 and HC1006, 1997-98 Back

8  Fourth Report from the Environment Committee, Energy Efficiency in Buildings, HC648, 1992-93 Back

9  Ninth Report from the Trade and Industry Committee, Impact on industry of the Climate Change Levy, HC678, 1998-99 Back

10  Renewable Sources of Energy, DTI and Conclusions of the Review of Sources of Power Generation, Cm 4071, DTI. Back

11  Sixth Report, The Greening Government Initiative 1999 ,HC426, 1998-99. Back

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