Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The House takes a strong line on mobile phones going off while we are debating in the Chamber. I do not know whose mobile phone that was[Hon. Members: "He's gone."] The Member responsible has obviously beaten a hasty retreat.
This Bill reiterates the need for the Secretary of State to produce a strategy, and requires that the Secretary of State make an annual report to the House about the progress of the micro-generation strategy produced. Like the Prime Minister's report that the Bill advocates, the Secretary of State's report will serve to make the Government more accountable to Parliament for both their successes and their failures. This Bill goes further than section 82 of the Energy Act 2004, as it makes statutory provisions for the Secretary of State to set targets for the take-up of micro-generation in Great Britain. The stability for the industry that such a target would offer could reduce prices by as much as 50 per cent.those statistics come from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith. Microgeneration has huge advantages. The Sustainable Development Commission argues:
"Microgeneration technologies, in particular micro-renewables, have the potential to make a significant and prolonged contribution to efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide . . . it is hard to envisage a scenario whereby on-site generation of both electricity and heat will not play a major part in future energy supply."
The locality and individual input of micro-generation demonstrates further advantages for its use. The fact that it sources energy locally means that on-site electricity generation substantially reduces the transmission losses that can account for 7 per cent. of total output. That information comes from the Sustainable Development Commission and answers some of the questions from Members who spoke of the loss through the National Grid.
Microgeneration plainly has economic and environmental advantages. It empowers individuals to make a visible impact on climate change. Research has confirmed that when individuals are using micro-generation, their awareness of the environment and energy use increases.
"It seems that microgeneration provides a tangible hook to engage householders emotionally with the issue of energy use . . . Householders describe the sheer pleasure of creation and of self-sufficiency: 'It's like growing your own vegetables.'"
"The installation of microgeneration had a profound effect on many individuals across the samples, in homes and schools. Instead of being invisible and unengaging, they could now see the creative process of energy being made and powering their buildings. The emotional benefits from the energy, such as warmth, comfort, light, entertainment, cooking and cleanliness, were now strongly associated with the energy source and made people feel good about their own technology."
Clause 7 will enable consumers to sell the surplus energy that they produce back to the grid. That economic incentive should prompt more people to install micro-generation. I believe that there are already plans to use hydropower energy production on the River Thames to meet about a third of the energy demands of Windsor castle, and there are individual projects such as those on the River Stour in Dorset. There is, however, a massive lack of Government support for those measures.
"Since 2003, we have seen two primary initiatives aimed at encouraging the installation of microgeneration technologyClear Skies2, and the Major PV Demonstration Programmebut the extent of these programmes has been limited, with total funding over four years of around £42.5m. This has helped to create a domestic solar PV installation industry (and the UK's first manufacturing plant in Wales), and has dramatically increased the growth of other microrenewables. But it has not led to the creation of mass-market status, and in most cases microgeneration companies are small, and operate in a niche market."
I hope that the Minister will talk more about the Clear Skies 2 programme. He shook his head following an intervention about the time lag and the continuity of the programmes. If he has some good things to say I shall be grateful, because he needs to explain why the micro-generation industry is not happy and has been complaining.
Our economy is the second largest in Europe, yet the United Kingdom accounts for only 2 per cent. of Europe's installed thermal capacity. Germany managed to account for 47 per cent., more than 20 times as much. At the end of 2004, our installed capacity of photovoltaic energy production represented a mere 8.2 MWe out of an EU total of 410.5 MWe. Seven EU countries are installing more photovoltaic technology than we are, and even a country as small as Luxembourg can boast almost six times more photovoltaic capacity than us.
"Our vision for the future is of an energy system that includes much more diverse, local energy generation. Small-scale renewable generation has an important part to play in helping the individual to make a contribution to our renewables targets and our wider energy policy goals."
The Government are making over £800 million a year through the climate change levy. They should be able to fund some micro-generation projects, especially given that the costs of water turbines, for example, can be as low as £3,000. Earlier this month, during talks about climate change in London, the Prime Minister remarked:
The Government have set themselves a target of reducing Britain's carbon dioxide emissions to 20 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010. In 1997 we were on target to achieve that; now that looks far less likely. The Government have been slow to respond to the changes, and it is the practical effects of many aspects of the Bill that will equip them to make a more positive response to climate change.
Given the amount of Government rhetoric about climate change and sustainable energy production, why should not the Government support a Bill that would oblige them to do what they claim they want to do, but have not done yet?
The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) on presenting an important Bill and a well researched and considered case on climate change and sustainable energy. In the interests of time, which I know we all take seriously, I will not comment in detail on all that has been saidI hope Members will forgive mebut I will say that, at times, the talk here this morning has been as green as the House of Commons Benches. I find that significant.
The private Member's Bill procedure is important. Some 10 years ago I had the opportunity through the ballot and the privilege through the House of introducing what became known as the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995, with much support from the then Conservative health Ministers. I have told my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith privately that if I, a mere Labour Back Bencher in those days, could present a Bill under a Conservative Government, surely it may be possible for a Labour Member to do so now.
Mr. Forth: Is the Minister aware that during the last three Fridays when we have discussed private Members' Bills, it has been his ministerial colleagues who have systematically talked out three of his Labour colleagues' Bills?