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Citizens can also take responsibility for reducing their energy use by ensuring that privately owned buildings are insulated and that they have energy efficient products installed such as light bulbs and double glazing. Of course, progress has been made. The light bulbs are now mandatory and double glazing is becoming more common, but more could be done.
I conclude by saying that not only do Governments, local authorities, businesses and universities have a part to play, but each of us has a part to play to reduce our energy consumption to make this a better and safer planet.
Lord Judd: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Dubs, who is in every sense a friend of long standing. I am sure that I am not alone in wanting to thank him most warmly not only for the powerful report-I hope that the Government will take it extremely seriously, as it makes its case convincingly-but also for all the work that he does within the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. He is never one to take on responsibilities lightly and the way in which he has thrown himself into this task is a model for us all. His practical approach to life was illustrated in the postscript to his remarks. Like him, I always believe that one's most powerful position is to be able to say, "Do as we do", rather than, "Do as we say". This building should be a model of economy in the use of power. Although we have moved a long way forward, I am not sure that we are anywhere near where we should be.
I want to comment first on the Assembly. During my ministerial days in the 1970s, I paid a bilateral ministerial visit to Dublin. That wonderful character, Garret FitzGerald, was my host. It was a particularly happy, fruitful and useful visit, despite the troubles, difficulties and preoccupations that we had over security and all the rest. I came back thinking how sad it was that we were not more in conversation, creatively and imaginatively, with our friends just across the water. We have so many issues on which we have a lot to say to each other and on which, working together, we can achieve so much. It is tremendous that the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly exists and is getting on with the job of creating a positive and imaginative environment of co-operation.
I want secondly to draw on a matter that my noble friend has firmly covered. I always ask myself why energy is so necessary in our lives and that of our nation. Presumably, we want to have a society worth living in. If we are to have that, one of our richest assets is the unrivalled, wonderful scenery of Scotland, Ireland, north-west England, west England and Wales. I would like an absolutely firm assurance from my noble friend
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The third point that I want to raise is associated with the report rather than covered specifically in it. As we are moving forward on energy policy, we are giving a great deal of attention to nuclear policy. Presumably, that will have a relationship with the grid. If there can be a rationalisation of the power lines and so forth-the power being generated in west Cumbria going into a grid system that is taking aesthetic considerations very much into account-that will be good. However, I want an assurance from my noble friend that, with our good friends just across the water, we are having the fullest possible discussions about the implications of our proposals.
Nuclear waste in west Cumbria has implications not only for west Cumbria but for the Irish. We share the sea, the water, between us. Can my noble friend assure us that there are full discussions with the Irish about that issue? Can he also assure us that, on the proposals to develop perhaps as many as three nuclear generating stations in west Cumbria, there is full consultation with the Irish about the implications for them? It would be dreadfully sad if, as we take forward very important policies, we inadvertently and unnecessarily caused anxiety and distress to our Irish friends. I hope that my noble friend can give a convincing answer on those points tonight.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I and a number of my colleagues from these Benches, massed around me tonight, thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for bringing the report of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly to this House. It is not recognised enough in the work that we do. I congratulate him on his work and on having become chair of such a vital and important committee within that body.
I like in particular the issues raised slightly randomly in comparison with some reports that we read-and this report is very refreshing because of that. It mentions nuclear energy very quickly. Nuclear is a contentious subject and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned some of its aspects. When I was elected to the European Parliament in 1994, it was the first time that the Greens had been elected to represent Ireland. They were elected because of the nuclear issues-the scares connected with the Irish Sea and nuclear pollution in Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is very much a non-nuclear state-I am not sure about the views of the Northern Ireland Assembly-and Scotland is also very much so. England is the only proponent of nuclear power within this grouping.
Renewables is exactly the right subject for this grouping of legislators to discuss. The area which the domains cover has the highest potential for such sources-and not just wind power. I was pleased to see mention in the report of geothermal. That technology is beginning to be developed, there being two schemes in Cornwall. I am sure that both Benches on this side of the House are delighted by that and are looking forward to seeing where it goes. The potential for geothermal is greater within the Nordic Council area and in Scotland. Renewable energy from the oceans is another issue. We have examples not just in Cornwall but also Orkney, particularly where technology and research on wave and tidal power is starting to move forward. I am sure that that is also true in the Republic of Ireland.
Those technologies are very important and I am sure that a great deal of expertise and common practice can be brought together so as to share the great wealth of resource that is still relatively untapped, even in comparison with wind power that is still, in many ways, in its infancy. The challenge is to start to bring those technologies on in reaching the testing targets mentioned in the report-15 per cent of energy from renewables in the UK by 2020 and 16 per cent in the Irish Republic. Those are massive targets to meet and one of the ways that can happen is by collaboration. However, they will be met much more successfully if we are able not only to share research, technology and its application, but if we can join up the system. That is what I found particularly exciting about the report. I must admit that I had never heard of the Isles project or the Celtic supergrid, but it seems such an obvious way forward. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister the Government's view on how it can develop and be successful.
We often hear a great deal about energy security in our discussions, but one way to obtain energy security and the de-peaking of renewable sources is by joining them up and having a plentiful and varied supply of them in terms of technology, geography and timing. I would be particularly interested to hear from the Government how we move forward on that.
That is part of the larger scheme of the European supergrid. The last time I asked the Government whether they were looking rather more favourably on the European supergrid than they had previously, I think that I detected a gradual warming process. I hope that that is still the case; I will listen with interest on that. When we start to bring in Iceland, although it is half an ocean away-that is one of Iceland's great strategic plans, with fisheries, to move away from the financial services industry-and Scandinavia, where they have hydroelectricity, we will have a really exciting mix of renewable energies that can be used in north-western Europe.
Without wishing to repeat points too often this debate, there is grid access. In the south-west, we have a dilemma. We have extended areas of great countryside, areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks. We want both to have a green economy, a green energy supply, and to protect our visual environment. Access to the grid is key. For so much of what we want to happen, and certainly for us to meet the testing EU
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I conclude by saying that the report brings together three crucial areas: the fact that we need access; the fact that we have different technologies; and the fact that we need to bring them together. This is one area where there is real synergy in security, technology and experience.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for bringing forward this Question for Short Debate asking Her Majesty's Government how they intend to respond to the recommendations in the report of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly on Climate Change and Renewable Energy. I also thank the committee for its insightful report.
The Conservative Party fully supported the Northern Ireland Act 2006 in its passage through Parliament. Since the beginning of this leadership, my right honourable friend David Cameron, the leader of the Opposition in another place, has made it clear that moving Britain to a low-carbon economy will be a key task of a Conservative Government. That is important for environmental reasons, but also to ensure that Britain takes advantage of the potential for green jobs, for wealth creation and for industries which will grow in importance as the rest of the world reduces its dependent on fossil fuels and uses energy more efficiently. As well as being important to protect our energy security, moving to a low-carbon economy provides protection against fossil fuel price volatility at a time when, as we all know, household energy bills are in excess of £1,200 a year on average.
When Committee D of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly began its inquiry into climate change and renewable energy in November 2008 and took evidence in Edinburgh, London and Dublin, we were very interested in reading the recommendations in its report in 2009 and the Government's response to it. Tonight, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has given your Lordships' House the opportunity to put questions to the Government which, we hope, will urge forward more speedily their response to the recommendations.
I am certain that the Minister will agree that we need to work on the clarity of the message and present the case for change on what we all know is a very technical subject in a language that the majority of our people will be able to understand. I should like to ask a few questions. I am aware that I am the last to speak before the Minister, so if it is not possible to get notes from the Box in time, I should be only too happy to receive any written answers that he is able to give.
Can the Minister let us know of any progress that has been made on developing an all-Ireland energy island? How much low-carbon energy generation does he envisage will be produced by Ireland in the next 10 years? Can he reveal how barriers such as political and organisational complexities will be addressed in order to kick-start the implementation of the supergrid? Will he confirm that he will work with the Irish Government to raise the profile of marine renewables as an emerging and viable renewable energy resource
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Carbon emissions from the Government's civil estate have risen since the baseline year of 1999-2000. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, raised the question of energy use in this building, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to "doing as we do and not doing as we say". The energy efficiency of government buildings has fallen by 18 per cent between 2006-07 and 2007-08, so there is a way to go there if we are to set an example.
The report is tremendously important, and I am sure that the Government, following some of the disappointment of Copenhagen, will want to get the wind in their sails again. Their response here will be a very good place to start.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Dubs for this opportunity to debate the findings of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly's report on climate change and renewable energy, and I congratulate him on his distinguished chairmanship of two committees of the assembly and on driving forward this inquiry and report. I also thank the other speakers in this debate, all of whom, as I am sure he will have been delighted to hear, have supported the recommendations of the BIPA report with great enthusiasm.
As the noble Baroness just said, last December's Copenhagen accord has reinforced the need for strong domestic action on climate change to be taken across the world. A rapid expansion in the supply of renewably generated energy is central to enabling us to cut the greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change, as well as strengthening our security of energy supply.
We are delighted that the BIPA has chosen to undertake an inquiry into this critically important area of policy, which has considerable relevance to all its jurisdictions. Before I deal with the report, I would like to say how much the Government recognise the valuable contribution that BIPA has made, since its inception in 1990, to promoting mutual understanding among the countries that it represents, and I have every confidence that it will continue to do so. If I am allowed a brief personal reminiscence, I remember when BIPA was founded as the British-Irish Parliamentary Body under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, for which I was working as an adviser to help to organise the IPU's centenary conference back in 1989-that seems a very long time ago now.
To tackle the twin challenges of climate change and energy security effectively, it is essential to work across borders, and bodies such as BIPA provide an important function in promoting this collaborative approach. The co-chair of BIPA, my right honourable friend Paul Murphy MP, has written to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, seeking his comments on its report on climate change and renewable energy before the assembly meets at the end of February. A full government response will be provided.
In advance of the Secretary of State's comments, I can say that the Government welcome BIPA's report, which has been informed by a breadth of sources from the public and the private sectors. I wholeheartedly agree with its core message that renewable energy has a central part to play in mitigating climate change and strengthening security of supply and that government, businesses and citizens must take responsibility to ensure that this happens.
Collaboration between the members of BIPA is of major value in helping us to make progress against our demanding renewable energy targets. That is why the Government are an active participant in the British-Irish Council's work streams on the closely related themes of electricity grid infrastructure and marine renewable energy. The BIC energy work streams were launched last year and are at a fairly early stage, but we are confident that they will have a positive and significant impact.
The UK Government are leading on the BIC work stream on electricity grid infrastructure, which will take stock of the work on grid development that is under way in each jurisdiction and go on to propose possible areas for collaboration. Collaborative work in this area, in an EU context, could assist in developing a common British Isles position for influencing EU energy policy and securing funding. The work stream could also be used to join up bodies, such as regulators, grid companies and research bodies, that could help achieve the aims agreed by BIC Ministers.
We are also playing an active part in the marine renewable energy element of the BIC energy work stream, to which the noble Baroness referred. It is being led by the Scottish Executive. It will focus on wave and tidal energy generation. It will share updates and policy development on areas, including marine spatial planning, and progress on research and development and issues relating to grid access, capacity and investment. BIC members are also proposing to collaborate by preparing papers across a range of issues, including the development of strategic environmental assessment and marine legislation and identifying strengths and gaps in academic research and related activity.
The Government are a strong supporter of marine energy technologies. Our £60 million funding programme to support wave and tidal technologies includes investments in our already world-leading marine energy testing infrastructure: £10 million to build new onshore testing equipment at the New and Renewable Energy Centre in the north-east; £9.5 million for Wave Hub in the south-west of England; and £8 million to expand the existing marine energy testing facilities at the European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkney islands. The UK is planning to host a ministerial meeting in
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I should also add that Ministers and officials engage with the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on energy and climate change matters, particularly where there are implications for devolved policy or to ensure the co-ordination and alignment of reserved matters with devolved policy.
The BIPA report calls for the Government to review grid access charges to ensure that no disincentives are applied to producers of renewable energy-a number of speakers in tonight's debate referred to that. The Government agree that grid access is a crucial factor in enabling the supply of renewable energy from producer to consumer. We consulted on improving grid access in the latter half of last year and last week announced our intention to take forward a reform model that will ensure that all new generators can get access to the grid in a reasonable timeframe.
Ultimately, investment in new networks is the real solution to connecting renewable and other essential low-carbon generation. The March 2009 Electricity Networks Strategy Group report, which was chaired by DECC and Ofgem, sets out the potential transmission grid investments needed. Yesterday, Ofgem announced the first stage of funding needed to take forward those investments, amounting to £319 million.
I also note with interest that BIPA's report supports the proposal of a future European supergrid. The Secretary of State has already used powers granted by the Energy Act 2004 to establish an innovative regulatory regime to connect offshore wind projects in UK waters to the Great Britain onshore grid in the most cost-effective way. This regime allows for the construction and ownership of cables connecting offshore generation projects to the onshore grid to be undertaken by means of a competitive exercise. Ofgem has already commenced tendering for nine offshore generation project connections and expects to grant the first offshore transmission licences for these connections from summer this year.
The concept of an offshore supergrid potentially connecting offshore wind projects in UK waters to those in other EU member states' waters, including Ireland, or using such connections to interconnect to mainland Europe, could further support the Government's aims of developing offshore wind and other renewables and promoting more interconnection between European electricity markets. However, it raises a range of regulatory, financial and technical issues that we are considering with the European Commission and other member states. Last month, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and eight other Ministers launched an initiative to co-operate on the development of offshore wind infrastructure in the North Sea and the Irish Sea, which should help achieve our longer-term objective. We also fully support greater interconnection between neighbouring countries because of the benefits market integration can bring. We are particularly pleased that the Irish system operator EirGrid will this year start to build an interconnector between Ireland and the United Kingdom. When it is completed in 2012, it will connect the Irish and British electricity systems for the first time.
The report's recommendation that innovation in renewable energy should be promoted by BIPA member countries is very much shared by the Government. We have a comprehensive strategy in place to take forward the best innovative ideas in renewable and low-carbon technologies as quickly as possible to help us meet our greenhouse gas and renewable energy targets, as well as to secure economic benefit to the UK. This includes: a strong long-term policy framework that provides clear signals to the market on our long-term priorities, and greater investor confidence in the future prospects for UK business sectors; direct support for innovation to address the main market barriers, including the £400 million Environmental Transformation Fund over the CSR period, plus an extra £405 million, which was announced in Budget 2009; and the development of a road map to 2050 that will provide a vision of what the energy system will look like in 2050.
It is vital, as the BIPA report recommends, that the Government take a lead by ensuring that emissions from government departments are subject to emissions reduction targets. I am very pleased that my noble friend Lord Dubs referred to this, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox. As part of the sustainable operations on the government estate targets, government departments must reduce carbon emissions from their offices by 12.5 per cent by 2010-11 from 1999-2000 levels. Some progress has been made. The Government reduced emissions from across their estate by 10 per cent in 2008-09, from the 1999-2000 baseline, and plans are in place to reduce emissions by nearly 18 per cent by 2010-11. The question of energy saving in this building is not a matter for me or for the Government, but I am sure that the House authorities will take note of what has been said in this debate tonight.
I also note the BIPA report's remarks on the need for the planning system to be sensitive to environmental and ecological concerns in the treatment of planning applications for renewable energy generators-a point which my noble friend Lord Judd made with great force. The Government have made it clear that renewable energy developments should be located in appropriate places and that local concerns should be listened to. We recognise the need to ensure that all renewable energy developments take place within the formal planning procedure, which allows all relevant stakeholders, including members of the public, to put forward their views on the likely impact of any proposal on the environment and the local community.
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