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Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way. I cannot accept that we cannot devolve these matters to Northern Ireland. When the Home Energy Conservation Act came through, we managed to do so through the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. It is possible and we have done it with many other Bills.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I do not want to add to what I have said about the state of devolution. The responsibilities, in my view, plainly lie with the devolved authorities.
In conclusion, I should simply like to say that I am not unsympathetic and the Government are not unsympathetic to what the Bill seeks to achieve. The real question is whether the approach is rhetorical or practical. We obviously need a practical responsethe point which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, made. I think that that is absolutely right. We need realistic thinking and realistic action.
I was intrigued by what my noble friend Lord Berkeley said about a number of matters including whether the wrong type of electricity might get into the grid. That added to my thinking on the wrong kind of leaves and the wrong kind of snow. I had thought that there were only two sorts of electricityDC and ACbut it may very well be that my physics is behind the times.
We shall continue to work hard with key stakeholders to develop an effective strategy that will make a significant contribution to the growth in the number of microgeneration institutions. Our principles on this are the same; the practicalities are the problems. However, with those words, I hope that I have indicated that we have a great deal of sympathy and will ourselves continue to press this important strand.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, most of whom have been entirely positive and expected the Bill to be passed. Of course my heart sank like a stone when the Minister said that he was not 100 per cent behind all the measures and did not see them moving forward with great speed. Perhaps I may pick up some of the points on which he said that he saw problems with the Bill.
The Bill has not been easy to draft. We attempted to draft it in a way that provided as much flexibility as possible. In Clause 1, on metering, we added the term "market rate" to raise this very problem. The Minister mentioned the comment by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, about the wrong sort of electricity.
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The real problem with microgeneration is the voltage at which electricity would be fed into the grid. That could cause problems. However, it seems very unfair that at present one buys electricity at between 5p and 8p per kilowatt while those who are seen as providers receive only 2p to 3p per kilowatt for selling it back to the grid. That is obviously due to the skew in the market towards the very large producers. I have a massive briefing on how many megawatts, gigawatts or kilowatts one has to produce over a half-hour period to be described as an electricity provider and on the rate that one would receive. Seeing the time, however, I do not think that I should go into it at great depth at the moment.
Secondly, the Minister said that local authorities may well not appreciate further statutory instruments and burdens being placed on their shoulders. I happily take on board that point. The Minister also mentioned Merton and Woking, which are the two greatest examples. However, he said that we will have to look at how other authorities address the issue. How will the environment benefit from our spending a couple of years looking at hundreds of other local authorities that are doing absolutely nothing on the issue? The Minister indicates that that is not the case, but in many cases it is not a real issue.
The city of Newcastle has declared itself carbon neutral and is now trying very hard to achieve that end. However, for many reasons, a vast number of local authorities do not see this as a priority and are not working hard towards itdespite the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, said, not only could they achieve a 70 per cent reduction in carbon; they could also make millions of pounds of savings over a number of years in the amount they spend on energy.
The Minister raised the issue of planning, which is an issue. My small wind turbine is being built in Northumberland, not north London. I look forward to the day that I am allowed to stick up a large mast and wind turbine in my very small back garden. I used the example because I am in the middle of the planning process at the moment, and I very much hope that permission will come through. Objections are being raised because many people see wind turbines with a capacity of 1 gigawatt to 3 gigawatts rather than of 6.2 kilowatt. I have, therefore, had objections saying that it will cause television interference. That is plainly not the case as something so small would have no effect at all. But people raise such issues. Planning authorities need to be given as much guidance as possible to ensure that they do not stop the development of small renewables on the basis of erroneous information.
Many noble Lords have raised some of the issues behind the Bill. The right reverend Prelate raised the issue of a changing culture, which is one of the fundamental issues. As has often been said, far more energy could be saved if people actually switched off light bulbs. If everyone in the Chamber made the switch today to energy-saving light bulbs at homethey are incredibly cheap; £1.98 buys you one at Tescothere would be a significant saving. However, that will not always be the case.
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The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, said that this legislation is only scratching at the surface and will have no real effect. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised the issue of combined heat and power. I strongly believe that in future it will probably be mandatory to install combined heat and power boilers, just as it is now mandatory to install condensing gas boilers. The cost differential is coming down as we speak.
It seems very unfortunate that the only CHP boilers that we can buy in this country at the moment are from Whisper Tech. As those have to be shipped over from New Zealand, it obviously has carbon implications in transportation and boiler miles. However, there is a real possibility that such companies would build in this country if there were a large market. With an average of 2 million boilers being changed in this country each year, we have a massive market. If each boiler produced 1 kilowatt per hour, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of tonnes of carbon could be saved.
If every house in a new development was fitted with solar thermal, or every house that could be fitted was fitted, it would save millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and have a significant impact on meeting the Kyoto targets. Solar thermal is a form of renewable technology that takes the heat of the sun and drops it into the hot water tank.
Many other noble Lords raised other points, but I am conscious that the Minister answered many of them. I would put forward just this final thought. I understand that the Minister is moving forward and that a great many schemes are being undertaken by the DTI and Defra, many of which are innovative. However, we should not be under any misapprehension. The figures seem large, in the millions of pounds, but the problem that we are facing with global warming, as has been shown by the changing climate, could cost us tens of millions to billions of pounds. Therefore, we have to act quickly.
One of the real issues at the moment is that there is a perception that renewables are spreading everywhere, but that is not the reality. It is interesting that everyone talks about wind turbines in their backyard, but most people have never seen them. Last year a small by-election occurred in Hartlepool, which we came very close to winning. Enormous wind turbines can be seen along the Hartlepool skyline, which I think are very beautiful. At the time of the by-election I asked people in Hartlepool whether they were bothered by the wind turbines. The wind turbines overshadow the town but not one person that I asked cared about that. Hartlepool, of course, also has a nuclear power station on its doorstep. It appears that the perception of people complaining about wind turbines is very different from the reality of the view of wind turbines held by tens of thousands of people who live in Hartlepool. We need to act quickly on the matter for this industry to take off.
I wish to share with the noble Lord a simple calculation devised by someone who has tried to introduce renewable technology; that is, regulation over local government bureaucracy times the cost of renewables equals inertia. One of the major problems
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with regard to renewables is that people do not install them as it takes so much time and effort to do so. I very much hope that the Government's work on the subject will result in our discussing this subject on many occasions, even if by some small margin the Bill should fail to complete its passage through both Houses of Parliament, which I very much hope will not be the case. I hope that we shall return to this issue and that, like my noble friend Lady Miller and I, many more noble Lords will install renewables in their homes. I ask that the House give the Bill a Second Reading.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
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