Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill


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New Clause 17

Reports under section 1 of the Sustainable Energy Act 2003: community energy projects and renewable heat

    In section 1(1A) of the Sustainable Energy Act 2003 (c. 30) (annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy aims)—

      (a)   at the end of paragraph (b) insert—

      “(ba)   things done during that period pursuant to section 9 of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2005 for the purpose of promoting community energy projects;

      (bb)   things done during that period pursuant to section (Renewable heat) of that Act for the purpose of promoting the use of heat produced from renewable sources;”, and

      (b)   in paragraph (c), after “sections 2 and 3” insert “of this Act”.’.—[Malcolm Wicks.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Malcolm Wicks: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

That was exciting after all the consensus. The figure of the Leader of the Opposition joined us in the Committee room, at least spiritually—and not for the first time. One day there will be a wonderful doctoral thesis with the title, “New Conservatives: the new localism and climate change”, in which the words of the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle will be much cited.

New clause 17 is easier, because in our previous sitting we had a good discussion about the promotion of renewable heat and community energy schemes. To supplement the duties being imposed on the Secretary of State in those areas, I agreed to consider associated reporting requirements. The new clause imposes a requirement on the Secretary of State to report on the steps taken to promote renewable heat and community energy. That reporting will be done through the annual reports on energy policy that are already produced under the Sustainable Energy Act 2003. I hope that the
 
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hon. Gentleman will agree that the new clause achieves the aims of the proposal that he withdrew in our previous sitting and that he will support it.

Gregory Barker: I thank the Minister, who has been true to his word. We had a lengthy discussion on this matter in our previous sitting, and he has come back with a proposal that exactly fits the purpose, for which I am very grateful.

Reporting back on renewable heat and community energy is important; it will stimulate the debate and allow us to monitor annually the progress that is being made. I realise that it could create a rod for the Government’s own back, but it is a matter of accountability, as people should be able to see what the nation is doing to meet these important objectives and hold politicians of whatever party to account. I am grateful to the Minister for acting on our suggestion. His proposition is very sensible and I am happy to support it.

Mark Lazarowicz: Without wishing to claim exclusive ownership of the Bill in anything other than the best sense, I point out that my understanding is that the second sub-paragraph in the new clause relates to my amendment on renewable heat. I, too, am happy to support the Minister’s proposal, which takes on board the points in that earlier amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 19

Review of permitted development orders

    ‘(1)   The Secretary of State shall for the purpose mentioned in subsection (2) carry out a review of the effect in England of development orders made by virtue of section 59(2)(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8) (which confers power by order to grant planning permission for development or a class of development specified in the order).

    (2)   The purpose of the review is to enable the Secretary of State to form a view as to what provision (or further provision) such development orders should make to facilitate development in England consisting of the installation, within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse, of equipment, apparatus or appliances for microgeneration.

    (3)   As soon as reasonably practicable after he has carried out the review, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report of the review, including his view as mentioned in subsection (2) and the reasons for it.

    (4)   The report must also set out what provision (or further provision), if any, the Secretary of State proposes to make in development orders by virtue of section 59(2)(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8) in consequence of the review.

    (5)   Where the Secretary of State proposes to make provision (or further provision) in development orders in consequence of the review, he must—

      (a)   exercise his powers under section 59 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8) so as to provide that development orders made by virtue of that section make such provision in consequence of the review as he considers appropriate, and

      (b)   exercise those powers as soon as reasonably practicable after laying the report before Parliament under subsection (3).


 
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    (6)   In this section—

“dwellinghouse” does not include a building containing one or more flats, or a flat contained within such a building; “flat” means a separate and self-contained set of premises constructed or adapted for use for the purpose of a dwelling and forming part of a building from some other part of which it is divided horizontally.’.—[Dr. Whitehead.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time and added to the Bill.

New Clause 20

Building regulations: microgeneration

    ‘In Schedule 1 to the Building Act 1984 (c. 53) (building regulations), in paragraph 7(a), after paragraph (xxiid) insert—

      “(xxiie)   the production of heat or the generation of electricity by microgeneration (as defined for the purposes of this paragraph by building regulations),”.’.—[Dr. Whitehead.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Dr. Whitehead: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The provisions that may arise from the new clause would in many ways reflect the aims and ambitions that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle mentioned in speaking to his new clause 16. I understood his reasons for seeking to press his new clause to a vote, but I was a little sorry that, to try to ensure that the Bill reached the statute book, I considered it necessary not to vote for it. I think that everybody will wholeheartedly agree with much of what he said, however, and with the content of the new clause. I hope that all members of the Committee will be able to agree that new clause 20 would pave the way for much of what the hon. Gentleman sought to make a reality.

The new clause is the result of discussion of how such a clause could become law, following the tabling of a similar clause in the private Member’s Bill that I moved for Second Reading on 11 November last year—the Management of Energy in Buildings Bill. The ambition of that Bill, which is also central to the Bill before us, is that future building regulations should define the level of energy that houses should produce in relation to the amount of energy that they consume in any one year. An ideal building regulation would measure the amount of energy that a house used in a year, like the mileage on a vehicle. Under building regulations, the builder of such a house would be required to choose from a palette of different forms of microgeneration the forms that could be installed in a way that produced energy to a set proportion of the total amount generated. Therefore, the house would not simply be a relatively efficient low consumer of energy, but would be a positive producer of energy, as a result of the daily living that went on in it. Members of the Committee will not need much mathematics to realise that, if such a measure were installed in the new houses built each year, the gain in terms of the widespread introduction of microgeneration with a guaranteed market for microgeneration devices and the saving of CO2 would be enormous and would make a substantial contribution towards our target of
 
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moving towards a low carbon and renewable energy economy where possible. Therefore, the new clause would have substantial potential, should it be adopted.

The new clause would pave the way towards that potential by introducing into the Building Act 1984 an additional range of items that building regulations may include. I am sure that when the new clause was first published, hon. Members anxiously scanned their copies of the 1984 Act. If they tried to do that by recourse to the internet, they will have realised that the publication of Bills on the internet goes back to 1988, which meant that I was ably assisted in obtaining the relevant schedule. That schedule sets out a large number of things that we are now familiar with from the various building regulations from A to L—or whatever they are; I should have worked out the number of letters. Nevertheless, there are regulations on the passage of sound, open spaces around buildings, ventilation, standards of heating—all the things that are included in the 1984 Act—and at the end is appended the statement that building regulations may be introduced on the production of heat or the generation of electricity by microgeneration as defined for the purposes of the paragraph in question by building regulations. Therefore, the Act looks to such a building regulation being enabled.

4 pm

The code for sustainable buildings is widely known as the precursor to building regulations. It encourages those building new homes to go beyond the present building regulations and employ, as a matter of course, standards of building construction and finishing that are reasonably uniform and that mean a level playing field for development, but that go beyond the minimum that might be required by current regulations. In that sense, a code for sustainable development heralds what the direction of travel for building regulations is likely to be. However, the heralding is towards the top end of the code; the code is not where one might ideally like it to be.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning said on Second Reading of my Management of Energy in Buildings Bill last November that

    “there are additional ways we can promote micro-generation, such as through the code for sustainable buildings”.—[Official Report, 11 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 660.]

That was a welcome and important statement on my Bill, which I hope can be reinforced by what is said on this new clause. Ideally, the code for sustainable buildings would be refined in terms of the requirements that it places on builders.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend is speaking about the importance of the code, and my hon. Friend the Minister spoke earlier about the possible need for more guidance from the Government about the communication of this Bill’s objectives. In view of that, does my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test agree that this is another area in which a strong message could go out
 
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from the Minister about the Committee’s concern that we should aim for the highest possible outcome for the code while we are still in the consultation period?

Dr. Whitehead: My hon. Friend makes an important point about how the outcome of the consultation might be a code that not only indicates the general direction of travel, but lays things down very clearly by specifying, for example, the years after which building regulations might be introduced and the level at which those regulations might be introduced. I am thinking of the levels that are currently part of the building code consultation.

Andrew Stunell: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is tragic that it is a code not for sustainable buildings but for sustainable housing and that the buildings element has been taken out of the consultation that we are undertaking? That means that only half the building stock will be covered by it.

Dr. Whitehead: I am sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s point, and it may be something that can be considered in the consultation. Nevertheless, let me explain what the important point is about the relationship of the new clause to the code for sustainable buildings. I hope that, if adopted by the Committee and incorporated in the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill, the measure will provide a clear means by which building regulations may be not only heralded but implemented within a set time. That would ensure, among other things, that those people who are considering investing in building and in the equipment that goes into building would have a clear indication at an early stage of what is required and will be required in the future and, therefore, of how they should plan for the future development of buildings.

Andrew Stunell: I believe that the new clause should be added to the Bill. It would send a signal, but the hon. Member for Southampton, Test should not have too high an expectation of what it would achieve. I say that because I added two items to paragraph 12 in my Act—I am turning into a bit of a self-promoter in the debates on this Bill. I added two bits to the 1984 building regulations, and I was told that it was the first time that the primary legislation in the Building Act 1984 had been amended at all since 1984. Another change would not be a bad thing.

I added two-way meters and recycling to the themes on which it would be competent to have building regulations. It should be noted that the list to which the new clause would be added is a permissive—or even weaker than that—illustrative list. It certainly does not in any way bind anybody to doing anything. The new clause is worthy and worth while, but we should not get too excited about what it would achieve.

In the context of a Bill that is trying to promote microgeneration and ensure that things happen, the new clause is a useful but rather small part of the jigsaw. Each year, the building regulations apply to only about 1 per cent. of the building stock, yet the building stock contributes a significant fraction of the
 
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carbon output of the United Kingdom. Only 1 per cent. of it is caught by building regulations, and that is the 1 per cent. that is built each year.

It would be good to hear the Minister say that he will urge colleagues to apply other unused parts of the present building regulations. They would apply when alterations and renewals of buildings are done and when buildings are purchased or changes of occupancy take place. In that way, we would be able to speed up the necessary changes much more quickly.

Microgeneration is, in essence, a heating system. A million central heating boilers are replaced each year in this country. The huge majority of them are not in new premises but in old premises, and they are not in any way caught by the present regulations. The hon. Gentleman referred repeatedly to the code of sustainable buildings, but it is not that—it is the code of sustainable housing. It sets standards that are lamentably below the high levels that one might have expected from, for instance, the Building Research Establishment’s eco-homes standard.

The statement by the ODPM that the Bill is in some way a substitute for proper regulation should not be accepted. This is an opportunity for the Minister to blow away the fog that is being created by the ODPM and to say that he accepts the urgency of making things happen in this area, that he accepts the new clause, and, more than that, that he will go back to his desk and write a stern memo to the ODPM to get a move on with sustainability.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): The elephant in the room with this Bill is the ODPM’s house building programme. Hundreds of thousands of new houses will be built in this country by 2031, and my constituency is right in the middle of one of the growth areas. There are 36,000 dwellings in Kettering borough; there will be an additional 13,100 by 2021, and between 5,000 and 10,000 will be built between 2021 and 2031. The Bill gives constituencies such as Kettering a huge opportunity to ensure that those new houses conform as much as we would like to energy efficiency and anti-climate change measures.

The new clause on which we divided was essentially about planning regulations, and I am sorry that that vote was lost. The new clause before us is about building regulations. Although we may not be sending a clear signal on planning law, we can send a clear signal on building regulations that will catch in time the new build that will take place in my constituency. I humbly submit that, in constituencies such as Kettering where housing stock will increase by a third in the next 15 years, getting regulations right in the context of the Bill is crucial.

Gregory Barker: I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) for his sensible and spot-on intervention. He reminded us of the practical implications with which we should concern ourselves.

I entirely endorse the points made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, who tabled this new clause. It should come as no surprise, because he has a tremendous track record in the area and is one of our
 
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great experts. However, I am concerned that the new clause does not go quite far enough. He made the point that, on Second Reading of his Management of Energy in Buildings Bill, the Minister for Housing and Planning said that she would use the code for sustainable buildings to promote microgeneration:

    “We . . . believe that there are additional ways we can promote micro-generation, such as through the code for sustainable buildings, on which we will consult shortly.”—[Official Report, 11 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 660.]

However, the current draft of the code is disappointing and in no way fulfils the promises that the Minister made on Second Reading. Microgeneration, which has many enthusiasts in this Committee, hardly features at all. In some important cases, it is omitted altogether.

Without being unfair to the Minister in any way, I shall give the Committee a few examples. On page 17, under the proposed essential elements of the code, energy efficiency is defined as the

    “conservation of fuel and power”.

Nowhere is microgeneration included separately. On page 19, in a table under the heading “Establishing Minimum Standards”, energy efficiency is defined in the same way, with no mention of microgeneration.

On page 24, in the paragraph “Establishing the Minimum Standard”, microgeneration does feature, but only as an alternative to energy conservation for homes unable to access mains gas. The paragraph says:

    “Homes unable to use mains gas for space and water heating will have to invest in additional energy efficiency measures or incorporate lower carbon technologies, such as microgeneration, than homes that use mains gas for such uses.”

That is really not good enough. Nor should energy efficiency be seen as an alternative to sustainable energy or microgeneration. That is not what we expected when the Minister for Housing and Planning spoke in November.

I can give other examples. On page 42, in appendix F, the first objective listed is

    “improvement in energy efficiency of new homes”,

with no mention of the promotion of microgeneration. Page 43 lists the guiding principles of the IRA. Did I say “IRA”? I meant to say “RIA”. Again, there is no mention of microgeneration, and perhaps we should hold the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to account for that. There is mention only of energy efficiency. Pages 44 onwards make no mention of the benefits of microgeneration; only energy efficiency is mentioned.

4.15 pm

There is a real danger that in some quarters even in the environmental movement, energy efficiency is seen as an alternative to microgeneration or decentralised energy. It is not and it must not be presented in that way, because that is a false argument. We must be full advocates of all those technologies and of energy conservation and efficiency. Page 44 merely mentions it in passing as a low carbon technology when it should have been included in all the relevant sections, all the way through, particularly those headed “Essential Elements”.


 
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The Government have spoken consistently of their support for microgeneration, and the Energy Savings Trust report for the DTI clearly shows that microgeneration could deliver up to 40 per cent. of electricity needs by 2050. That is ambitious, but we should be ambitious. That can happen only with the right regulatory and policy frameworks. Without those, microgeneration will remain the niche product that it is at the moment and the benefits will not be achieved.

The Minister is reasonable, so will he repeat the promise made by the Minister for Housing and Planning back in November and this time drive the Government hard and ensure that the sustainable buildings code will be changed accordingly? So far, it is not good enough.

Malcolm Wicks: There will come a time when we can compare and contrast the record of previous Conservative Governments on climate change with our own. Some of us are still trying to come to terms with the idea of the cleaner and greener Conservative party. We look forward to discussing the Conservatives’ voting record on the climate change levy and the hon. Gentleman may want to announce a change of policy on that, which would be of some historic importance.

Gregory Barker: I really do not want to get into an historic argument because I am focused firmly on the future. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether carbon emissions fell dramatically between 1990 and 1997 under the last Conservative Administration, and whether they rose during the first years of this Government.

Malcolm Wicks: Part of the story is the attack on manufacturing industry and the move to a service sector during those years, which had an effect on emissions. We should discuss that with care on another occasion.

We support new clause 20, which will create a new power to make building regulations requiring the incorporation of microgeneration technologies in new build. I was asked about buildings other than housing, and I am advised that a code for homes is a first step and that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will develop a code for buildings at a later stage. The question is important, as is the answer.

Joan Walley: It would be enormously helpful to have some idea of when the further code on sustainable buildings might be with us.

Malcolm Wicks: My hon. Friend will understand that I must seek advice on that. If I can give any advice during a later stage of our proceedings, I shall be happy to do so.

Andrew Stunell: When the Minister receives or gives that advice—he seemed unclear about which was which—will he encourage the adviser to come forward with an early timetable? The material was going to be published for consultation last autumn and at the last
 
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minute it was pulled back. Many of us were puzzled by that, bearing in mind what we thought was the intended direction of Government policy.

Malcolm Wicks: I obviously need to receive advice on this occasion, as on many occasions, not least because it will come from a sister Department, if the Secretary of State for that Department will forgive me for using that expression.

Creating the power will allow the option of requiring a full consideration of microgeneration, when justified, as a means of conserving fuel and power. When new buildings are constructed or existing ones are materially altered or their use is changed, the power will ensure that there is an opportunity for those important technologies to contribute to the built environment’s carbon savings.

We know that a draft code for sustainable homes has been issued for public consultation, and in that context, my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning would welcome suggestions about the positive role that microgeneration might play. In her consideration of the responses to the consultation, she has stressed that no options will be ruled out, and she is hopeful that a way can be found to promote microgeneration by, for example, awarding more points for its installation. I therefore urge my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test to advance the case for its use in that context. It is important that the consultation exercise takes full account of the potential benefits of such a technology and how it can contribute to the code’s effectiveness.

Hon. Members made one or two points about existing building regulations. I am told that current building regulations include replacement windows and boilers in existing homes, so upgrades will have to conform to the new regulations, even if they did not previously.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle has obviously made a textual analysis, but not an adequate one, because as he will reflect, page 28 of the draft code says:

    “Additional code points available where zero emission energy sources are specified”.

In response to the notion that building regulations do not do enough, the 2006 revision of part L will impose significant improvements in relation to carbon emissions, requiring for homes a reduction of 20 per cent. compared with the existing regulations. The tenor of my remarks is that we are not complacent, and that colleagues are considering the matter.

I agree with the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell), that we need to consider not only new build but existing dwellings. Most of the Bill is about microgeneration in existing dwellings, including, I hope, those of members of the Committee, should our negotiations progress. That is an important point. There is an obligation on the supply companies, known as the EEC—energy efficiency commitment—obligation, to consider the energy efficiency of customers, not least those on low incomes. In Scotland, there is also an equivalent of the
 
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Warm Front campaign, which has improved energy efficiency and heating systems in 1 million dwellings in England.

I should not want to let the debate pass without acknowledging what has been done. The energy review, which I am conducting, is also taking energy efficiency in existing dwellings very seriously. As I have said, I am therefore happy to support new clause 20.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

 
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