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Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab):
My hon. Friend mentioned companies and manufacturing. Does he
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agree that the Bill gives us the opportunity to come to the aid of a beleaguered manufacturing industry? Renewable energy technologies are labour-intensive, and international concern about climate change would provide huge opportunities for export markets, too.
Mark Lazarowicz: Absolutely. One of the things that I have found out in working on the Bill, as I have developed my own research and organisations have contacted me, is how extensive employment in the renewables sector is already. I suspect that if they inquire, most Members will find that tens or even hundreds of people in their constituency are already involved in the industry in some way. The reality is now large, and the potential is even larger.
Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this country will have the moral authority to tackle India and China and encourage them to reduce their carbon emissions only if we can turn round the situation here? Does he agree that clause 2 of his Bill is a good way of bringing that about?
Mark Lazarowicz: I certainly support clause 2 of my Bill! Yes, we must ensure that we meet our international targets if we are to call on others to do the same. The hon. Gentleman also highlights another opportunitythe fact that there is a market out there which could be immense, and which we could take advantage of if we had a strong domestic micro-generation market on which we could build export potential.
We need a kick-start for the micro-generation industry in the United Kingdom. That is an important feature of my Bill, as well as of another Bill to be debated later; I must not speak about it at this stage, but it too will have a bearing on this issue. The essential element in my Bill is that by setting targets to encourage the installation of micro-generation we would give a clear signal to the market and the industry that the Government are serious about micro-generation. The industry would then put in the investment to allow prices to come down, and create the virtuous circle of price reduction and greater take-up. The Government have already made a good start, with a micro-generation consultation, and the Bill will allow us to build on that in the most effective way.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again; he has been very generous, and I agree with what he is saying. In my part of the world, one of the schemes that I have strongly supported is hydroelectric micro-generation. However, some of the people who have brought water mills into use and contribute a very small amount of energy to the grid, as well as supplying their own needs, are now concerned that they might be assessed for non-domestic rates on that small production. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Minister could put their minds at rest by clearly stating that such schemes will not be assessed for business rates, so that there will not be a further disincentive to installing them?
I have heard of that concern, and it would be extremely unfortunate if there were a disincentive to micro-generation as a result of that feature of the local rating system.
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That leads me to the next point about micro-generation in the Bill. One of the measures is designed to make it easier for householders and groups of householders who produce electricity by micro-generation to sell to National Grid. This is not just a question of individuals' own energy needs; in some cases, surplus energy will be produced. That can be sold on, which makes the cost of installation more viable. Clearly, it is important that there should not be disincentives such as the hon. Gentleman described. Some electricity is already being sold back to the grid, but I understand that there are difficulties in certain areas, and the Bill will address those.
David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab/Co-op): I represent a constituency where there is a great deal of interest in renewable energy, but many of my constituents who are most interested in it live in conservation areas. My hon. Friend has talked about the importance of households and groups of households taking forward what is proposed. Does he agree that it is important that the Minister for Energy, who is on the Front Bench at the moment, should liaise with the Minister for Housing and Planning, who has been in the Chamber this morning already, to examine the regulations that may be putting obstacles in the way of the developments that he suggests?
Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his Bill. Does he acknowledge that there is a structural problem with the payback on investment in micro-generation, in that we have a habit of moving home regularly? Will he share with the House any views that he might have on the level of Government support required to bring the costs of the technology down to offset that factor?
Mark Lazarowicz: I shall have to decline the hon. Gentleman's invitation, because to do so would take more time than I would want to spend on that subject today. It probably relates to a Bill to be dealt with later.
The key point of my Bill is to bring about reductions in the price of the technology by promoting the mass market. Many measures need to be brought into play to allow micro-generation to take off. My Bill concentrates on the target, the link to the grid and the ability of those who make use of micro-generation to get green energy certificates, which are especially important in making the installation of the technology viable for households for which it would not otherwise be viable.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this important Bill before the House. Does he agree that, if micro-renewables are to make the contribution that we all want, it is important to have stability in respect of a Government framework behind them and consistency of policy and funding? What does the hon. Gentleman make of the recent changes announced by the Department of Trade and Industry towards the funding of micro-renewables and the time scale over which it is likely to be provided?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that consistency is important, but if he does not mind, I
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shall have to decline his invitation to comment on areas of policy that, though relevant to my Bill, would take us down a much longer road. I agree, however, that consistency is important and having targets allows us to show the industry and consumers that we have a clear strategy over a period of time.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that, when it comes to practical action on the ground, cities are very much centre stage? Does he welcome the Mayor of London's initiative to launch a dedicated London climate change agency, which will work in partnership with the private sector to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in London? That is particularly important for the Olympics in 2012, as we want to ensure that the project is sustainable both environmentally and socially.
Mark Lazarowicz: Indeed, the Mayor's initiative is remarkable and provides lessons for other cities and communities throughout the UK. It is important, however, to ensure that opportunities are available for all types of communitiesfrom rural areas to urban areas and the largest cities. My Bill is thus designed to encourage the development of community schemes whereby local communities can set up their own renewable energy systems that give them a stake in local energy projects. Such projects are more likely to be accepted than if they are viewed as being imposed on communities from outside. Communities can sometimes be unhappy about certain aspects of those developments.
Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD): I strongly support the Bill, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that this is not a London or city-centric issue. To my knowledge, some 21 local authoritiesincluding my own of Stockport, which is also represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter)have expressed strong support for the Bill. There is considerable support for the Bill among the local government community as well as here in Parliament.
Mark Lazarowicz: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention and for his support. I am pleased that local authorities throughout the UK have contacted me to express their support for my Bill.
Mr. Kidney: My hon. Friend was dealing with community energy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mrs. Dean) said, the Bill provides a good opportunity for rural areas that are not on the gas mains to avoid being compelled to buy oil for their heating. They will now have access to renewable energy for their community energy systems.
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