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I do not believe that that is the right way. We must balance the three objectives and ensure that sufficient security is built in because we will obtain gas from many parts of the world. Of the G8 countries, the UK and Canada are the only ones which are not major importers of energy. Other countries have survived well in terms of growth and security while obtaining energy from abroad. It is a question of the number of markets and their stability. Therefore, from today's perspective, sufficient security is built in.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, will the Minister accept that I find the White Paper not only deeply disappointing but regret that so many key issuesnot those 50 years away but those relating to todayhave been seriously fudged? I want to give three examples.
The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, mentioned the contribution which should be being made by combined heat and power. The document contains many columns expressing the importance which the Government place on CHP and the way in which they will reach their target, but the document contains no real measure that will have any hope of reaching their 2010 target. All the UK's leading producers of plant for CHP have withdrawn and even the Government's own CHP plant in Whitehall is operating for only four hours out of 24. It is not economic to operate it for longer. The Government are going backwards in terms of CHP. When the Minister spoke of aspirations, I looked at the immediate future and asked: what do the Government intend to do to deal with that problem? The answer appears to be nothing.
Secondly, a number of us have been making representations during the past few years as regards coal mine methane. Methane is 23 times more damaging to the environment than CO2, so why have no positive measures been taken? The document is long on studies, discussions and hopes, but by the time anything has resulted from them most of the operators of coal mine methane plant in abandoned mines will have gone out of business.
On nuclear power, the Government have included a column in the White Paper about skills. Is the Minister aware that in this country there is no single university course in nuclear engineering? How are the nuclear engineers to be provided if, as ultimately I believe they must in order to achieve the CO2 targets, the Government decide to embark on a rebuild?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the issues have not been fudged. The noble Lord may not like the answers, but that is different from fudging the issues. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, we made clear our position on CHP. We do not see it making a major contribution, which is why we do not believe there should be a CHP obligation.
We have previously debated the issue of coal mine methane and it is common ground that there are good reasons for doing something about it. However, it will make no contribution whatever to the central issues relating to energy supply in this country. There is no fudging of issues, but the noble Lord may not like the answers. We have not fudged the issues; we have taken a realistic appraisal of what CHP can contribute in this situation.
As regards the nuclear option, there are actions we should take to maintain the skills base. They will be taken through the sector skill councils. In that way, we can maintain the base of skills for the future.
Lord Palmer: My Lords, I welcome the Statement and indeed this long-awaited White Paper. As president of the British Association for Biofuels and Oils, I am disappointed that the Government have not put more emphasis on the important role that the liquid biofuel industry could play in helping Her Majesty's Government to meet their environmental commitments and, most importantly, in helping the beleaguered farming industry. Furthermore, biofuels would help to reduce the UK's reliance on imported fossil fuels, particularly in these uncertain times.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we are looking to biomass to make a contribution to our renewables targets in both 2010 and 2020. Alongside renewable produced hydrogen, fuels made from biomass represent an important potential route for achieving the goal of zero carbon transport. As the noble Lord said, it will create new opportunities for agriculture in the UK as well as globally. That is why we have reduced the duty on biodiesel to 20p per litre below the standard ultra-low sulphur diesel rate. This fuel is now coming onto the retail market in increasing volumes in a 5 per cent blend with conventional diesel. Some lorry fleets are also converting to a 100 per cent biodiesel fuelling.
As announced in the Pre-Budget Report in November 2002, we propose to introduce the same 20p per litre incentive for bioethanol, subject to EU agreement. This can also be used in blends for existing cars and potentially as an 85 per cent pure biofuel in adapted cars. We are taking this issue very seriously. It is an important part of our plans, even though the document does not make any changes to the taxation proposals.
As to the warm front scheme mentioned in the Statement, the Government seem to be at least capping the money to be spent on the scheme next year, if not reducing it. That also does not seem to tie in with the policy.
There are a lot of warm words in the document about the role of local authorities, in particular in regard to giving energy issues priority in their community plans. But, as far as I can make out from the planning Bill which will be before us in the future, there is not much opportunity for that to happen.
Having been a sponsor of the Home Energy Conservation Act, I welcome the fact that the Government will review the existing guidance to energy conservation authorities. Can the Minister say precisely what the Government have in mind and what time scale they are talking about?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I do not see any discrepancy between our views on CHP and energy efficiency. It is a question of the weight we attach to the different parts of our energy policy. No one is saying that CHP is not important in its own right, but it bears no comparison to the greater energy efficiency we can achieve in other areas.
As to planning and local authorities, the White Paper sets out proposals for simplifying and streamlining the planning system for renewable developments. It is an extremely important area. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will shortly publish new planning guidance on renewables for England. A separate guidance on best practice will also be published. It is a practical way of helping to plan for renewables at a local level. If we are not prepared to improve the situation on planning permission we cannot achieve the targets on renewables.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Government promised that every home would be heated and implied that something would be done about energy poverty. Can the Minister say how people in need will be identified? What will the Government do to find the homes that need help?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the question of energy for vulnerable people is very important. We have already made considerable progress in that regard. In 2001 there were 3 million fuel-poor households compared with 5.5 million in 1996. The main reasons for that are increases in household incomes and fuel price reductions. When Members of the House complain that energy prices have come down, they should remember that huge benefits occur in terms of fuel poverty. We shall continue to look at
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the Minister accused my noble friend of failing to understand what should be encompassed in an energy policy, and then set out what he believes is appropriate to be in such an energy policy. Is my noble friend alone or have I misread the foreword by the Prime Minister? In the foreword, he seems to be promising us something positive and concrete in the substance of the report, but all we find is a series of fudges and aspirations.
Will the Minister come clean? Is it not the case that the private opinion of the estimable Minister for Energy and Construction, Mr Brian Wilson, is that if the Government's objectives and international commitments are to be met, there is only way that will be achievedand that is by having nuclear energy as part of the package?
Is not the alarming outcome of the White Paper that there will be only one set of winners in Europeand that is the generators of nuclear power in France?
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