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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I support the Bill, as does my party, the Green Party. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on introducing it. I shall turn away from climate change, which is what most people talk about, to the point made by noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about energy security.
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An article in the New York Times supplement, published in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, stated about oil:

An international expert in energy security was quoted as saying:

Energy is not something that we can count on being able to import from abroad. We must be able to produce it ourselves, and we must be able to produce it in a way that does not help climate change.

In its spring conference, which will take place next month, my party will be taking energy policy as the main subject of debate. My party says that the primary solution to this problem is for us to reduce our need for energy radically by energy conservation measures and, in the long run, by reorganising our economy and built environment. But in addition to that, we want to generate, store and distribute energy as close to the point of use as practicable. On that point, I join with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. It is very important that we have small-scale and local energy generation.

Building regulations should be amended from simple insulation values to prescribed energy performance values and should be applied to existing as well as to new buildings. Tenants should have the right to demand that their dwellings be brought into line with prevailing energy performance values at their landlords' expense. We need to have as much small energy and as much local energy as we can. The Bill will help us do that.

We need to do other things as well. We need many more incentives for running vehicles on fuels that produce little or no harmful emissions. We need as much wind energy as possible. The use of small fields of wind energy is to be seriously commended and the Government should be doing much more than they are towards making them possible. The Bill will help by removing a lot of the disincentives to produce energy in that manner and scale. I wish it very well. We will do our best to take part in the debate and to help to improve the Bill as it makes its way through Parliament.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we warmly congratulate our noble friend Lord Redesdale on introducing this necessary Bill. It is regrettable that it is necessary to introduce it so soon after the Government put their own Energy Bill through both Houses. That could have incorporated some of these measures, had they chosen to do so. Indeed, some of these measures were amendments that the Government resisted during the passage of that Bill.
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My noble friend has taken some of those ideas, developed them further and presented a practical Bill to the House this morning. He is absolutely right in saying that we all need to do our bit as households. The role of the Government should be to facilitate that, but they have not done that to date. They have done little to make it easier for individual households, beyond giving a few grants. If you are clever at using the web, you may discover what is on offer. The grants are not widely publicised, and the forms are quite difficult. However, I should declare an interest as a recent recipient of a grant and should not be too rude about them, but they are not easy to access.

Clause 1 is a key clause when encouraging households to see that it is a good idea to make an investment. After all, we are asking people to make an investment in renewable energy for their future and for the future of the planet. It is perfectly reasonable to expect to receive a return on that investment. The mean-spirited way in which the industry and the Government have dealt with net metering needs urgent review. We need to reward households that invest in various forms of microgeneration.

Clause 2 deals with microgeneration and local authority targets. I declare an interest as a Somerset county councillor. I am pleased to tell the House that the council has recently won a Green Apple award for its renewable energy strategy. Somerset County Council has been recognised for practising some of what it preaches by putting photovoltaics on its county hall. It has also gone much further and encouraged communities, through small grant schemes and a lot of help and advice, to develop a range of energies from biomass to a very innovative partnership with Wessex Grain and the Ford Motor Company. Grain will be converted to fuel and made available to the car fleets of participating bodies. Interested bodies include the police force, county hall and various other partners. In addition, there is combined heat and power in various community buildings throughout the county.

My noble friend is right: even given the will that exists at Somerset County Council, we could do more with individual households. I hesitate, as my noble friend Lady Maddock said, to set stringent targets; local authorities have had enough of the Government setting targets and never providing funding. In thinking about target setting, the Minister might like to consider that the funding currently goes to the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trust. Perhaps if targets were set for local authorities, they might receive directly some of that funding to help them meet those targets.

Clause 3 deals with planning for renewables. My noble friend Lord Redesdale is absolutely right: one of the main difficulties is that the picture is unclear. As he said, different planning authorities take a different approach. It is a disincentive when households are not clear about whether they need planning permission. Applying for planning permission is time-consuming, difficult and bears a cost, so removing such a need would be a big help. Perhaps the Minister could say whether, in their current review of permitted development orders and general
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development orders, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is considering anything along the lines suggested in the Bill.

I was delighted to hear the general welcome for the Bill from the House and pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, reminded us of its importance in the context of global warming. Along with other speakers, he mentioned the necessity of the reliability of many small sources. At a time when, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, reminded us, energy security is important, having many small diverse sources is a lesson that the Government should take to heart.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester reminded us that we cannot afford to be profligate with our resources. Anything we can do to be less profligate is to be welcomed. The spirit in the country is that people would like help to be less profligate, but it is so difficult at the moment that they find it impossible.

My noble friend Lady Maddock has done as much as anybody, and probably a great deal more than anybody in either House, to promote renewable energy and energy-saving measures. I listened to her speech with great interest. Her point about federalism was made in conjunction with the example of Scotland given earlier. The people of Scotland have made much greater progress than we have.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, reminded us of the issues surrounding long-distance electricity transmission. That is one of the most important points for the Government to consider in the context of the Bill. If we can have microgeneration on a domestic scale, all the wastage of money and electricity that is part of long-distance transmission would be overcome. That point is particularly important.

I share the noble Lord's view that nuclear energy is not the answer. We have heard many questions from the Conservative Benches about the efficacy of renewable energy, particularly wind power, over the past few months. Many on the Conservative Benches are heavily promoting nuclear energy as the answer. But as I have said on previous occasions, it is not the answer, particularly while we have so many outstanding questions about what to do with the waste we have as well as the waste that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, reminded us is being imported from other countries, notably Italy, which has had permission to export its waste. The Italians, quite rightly, recognise that there is no answer at the moment to the safe storage or disposal of such waste, and have managed to offload it on to the UK.

Finally, I was interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that the Green Party's spring conference is in February this year. That is indeed an indication of climate change, with spring coming ever earlier. I am grateful to him for the Green Party's support for the Bill.

I look forward with great interest to finding out whether the Government will support my noble friend's Bill. I very much hope that they will.
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12.7 p.m.

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