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Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I share the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for the important initiative of promoting micro-generation. In trying to make micro-generation as commonplace as he describes, would it not be an exciting initiative to try to find out whether more social housing—provided by housing associations, arm's length management organisations and others, such as Cheltenham Borough Homes in my constituency—could incorporate micro-generation, because that would have a double benefit? Not only would it help the environment, but reduce in the long term fuel bills for some of the least well off in our society.

Dr. Whitehead: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and anticipates exactly what I shall come to in a moment: the idea that such devices could be installed in future homes so that, at the flick of a switch, their occupiers could save on their fuel bills and compensate for increasing fuel bills by generating their own energy in their own homes.

Mr. Forth: Has the hon. Gentleman made any estimate at all of the likely on-cost of all those goodies, how much might be added to the price of new homes with all that built in, and the effect that that could have particularly on first-time buyers?

Dr. Whitehead: Yes. The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that I have made such an estimate. Indeed, I have discussed with members of the National Housing Federation what their reaction might be in respect of creating a level playing field for building homes in which those new devices are placed. For example, the cost of installing a combined heat and power boiler is not significantly greater than installing a condensing boiler, especially if it is installed when the house is built. Putting on solar PV tiles that are embedded in the roof is far cheaper than retrofitting them there. So the extra cost of building a house is marginal when introducing those devices, but the payback and benefit from doing so when a house is built can be enormous over a considerable period.

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): I hope that my hon. Friend's Bill succeeds, even at this late hour. I wonder whether he has read the research showing that top-end, executive homes are the least
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energy efficient. That is partly explained by the fact that those people can afford to waste energy. So I hope that his Bill will have a chance of being considered in Committee.

Dr. Whitehead: My hon. Friend is right. His comments reflect the intervention made by the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key), who suggested that it is important that the Bill apply to all homes across the board in the future, so that people in all walks of life, not just enthusiastic investors or those in certain niches, can gain from energy efficiency.

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): My hon. Friend makes important points that perhaps ought to be picked up in the energy review. Is not one of the things that we should examine an equal VAT rate as between new and old homes? He also referred to micro-generation, which will require a newly designed transmission scheme that the Government would do well to consider when the energy review is announced.

Dr. Whitehead: What the energy review says in total is a little outside the purview of the Bill. Nevertheless my hon. Friend makes an important point about the idea that energy arrangements could lead to a network grid rather than a hard-wired grid going from parts of the country to other parts via the large power stations that we have at the moment. It is important that the energy review consider such issues.

My Bill provides the means to allow for a potential revolution to take place in how we heat and power homes. It wants to provide the planning environment in which people would be able to take decision to retrofit micro-generation devices to their homes without having to await the lottery and uncertainty of planning regulations.

Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I, too, wish to place on record my support for both the Bills that we have considered today. Does the hon. Gentleman not think it absolutely ludicrous that controversial applications for telecommunications masts of less than 15 m are often permitted whereas applications for something that is far less noticeable and far less controversial require expensive planning applications?

Dr. Whitehead: The hon. Lady is quite right. The issue is not just telephone masts, but deemed planning permission for satellite dishes and television aerials. The devices that we are discussing are no larger than them.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend look forward to the day when a child drawing a house will automatically include solar panels and a wind charger in the picture?

Dr. Whitehead: I fear that houses will continue to be drawn with two chimneys, flowers in the garden, a gate and a little path. However, my hon. Friend is right to suggest that if they were drawn differently, that would really show that we had made a change.

The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) is right. Depending on where one lives in the country, one's plans for a renewable energy device on the house may be thwarted or agreed after long days of substantial cost.
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On new build, the Bill's aim is to encourage building regulations that, without specifying the device, require new homes to be fitted upon completion with boilers, solar tiles, or small wind turbines and other possible devices that guarantee that the home is both energy efficient in its design and energy productive in its daily use. It would also provide for assessment of how household machines such as fridges, freezers and so on can use dynamic demand technology, so they too play their part in using only the most efficient power supply and in the best circumstances.

Hon. Members have mentioned fuel poverty; let us think about it for a moment and of the prospect of homes—perhaps social housing or rented property—that could pay us to live in as well as cost us. As fuel prices rise, they would possess an automatic brake on prices through the domestic energy that the home produces.

Clause 1 looks to build on energy efficiency targets introduced in the Housing Act 2004 by adding reports on the effect of energy efficiency measures on CO 2 emissions and on the alleviation of fuel poverty. Clause 2 seeks to extend permitted development orders to include the deemed permitted development of small renewable devices—carefully defined and limited—so that householders, local authorities and manufacturers of micro-generation would be clear about what can be done, and if it is of domestic size and use, would ensure that the device can progress to production within the home quickly and straightforwardly.

Clause 3 seeks to require that new homes be graded for energy efficiency and assessed as to the total amount of energy that they are likely to use in a year, and then would enable a percentage of estimated use to be required to be produced by the working of the house itself. Clause 4 would add to the Sustainable Energy Act 2003 the requirement to asses how dynamic demand technologies could contribute to carbon saving, and how obstacles to the use of such technologies in the home could be overcome.

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): I wish the Bill every success, as I did the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that clause 4 of the Bill is especially important, because if dynamic demand technologies work, they will encourage the use of other renewable technologies throughout the grid system? In addition, they could save the grid up to £80 million a year by reducing response generation costs.

Dr. Whitehead: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Dynamic demand technologies use the intelligence that we possess on measuring energy to ensure that energy is used in the most effective way. He is right that such technology could become widespread in other areas.

I have reviewed briefly the principal four clauses of my Bill—that is it. The Bill is short, and I do not believe that it would be possible to spend approaching an hour dissecting it clause by clause, but we shall see. It opens the door to profound and overwhelmingly beneficial changes to the way in which we heat and power our homes.
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I mentioned earlier what is already under way within Government to move forward on energy efficiency in buildings. I am aware, of course, that there is never an ideal time to introduce such legislation if work is already in progress. I do not want to stop such estimable work progressing by introducing the provisions in the Bill in such a way that that happens while new directions are incorporated. I am also aware that the wording of private Members' Bills is rarely, if ever, exactly right straightaway, which is of course why if such Bills achieve their Second Reading, it is necessary to examine their clauses closely and perhaps amend them in Committee. If my Bill receives its Second Reading, I am sure that we will want to do just that.

We might, for example, want to examine the way in which the Government's review of the complex and sometimes internally contradictory regime of permitted development orders can be assisted, rather than hindered, by the way in which deemed planning permission for micro-generation devices is best advanced. We also might want to consider how any legislative requirement to empower the Secretary of State to make new building regulations would sit best with the new code on sustainable building. When that code is developed, I understand that it will strongly guide developers on the minimum standards to which they will be expected to build. It will herald the emergence of future revisions to building regulations to incorporate such guidelines. I would want any provision in my Bill to work with that code, not against it.

We might also want to consider in Committee whether immensely encouraging potential and actual developments in building efficiency could be undermined by the completion of buildings that do not conform to the regulations as they stand. It is too late to make changes after completion, because the dwelling is built and occupied. It is regrettable that recent surveys have shown that an appreciable minority of new buildings fail to incorporate present building regulations standards. An important element of my proposals relies on the completion of buildings that work efficiently to the standards set down.

I say these things because above all I consider the Bill to be a real piece of workable legislation that would—yes—act partly as the midwife of a revolution in the heating and powering of our homes, but do so in a practical, clear and equitable manner. I ask the House to give my Bill a Second Reading so that it can be advanced to play the role that I believe it can, and so that perhaps in 10 years, we can look back, as people in their thousands, or perhaps even millions, pick up from the mat not the bill for the energy that they have consumed, but the cheque for the power that their homes have produced, and say, "We did that. We helped to make it happen in November 2005 for the benefit of our climate, for the fuel well-being of our people and for our comfortable, but energy efficient, daily living."

1.53 pm

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