May 27th 2010
In the debate on the Queen's Speech, Alan Whitehead pressed the government on their commitment to tackling climate change and fuel poverty.
Alan pressed the government to ensure the government's words on greening our energy economy were backed up with a real financial commitment.
He particularly highlighted the need for a clear commitment on:
- rolling out smart meters for all homes;
- decentralising the national energy grid to support renewable energy generation;
- supporting 'pay as you save' and other energy efficiency measures;
- ensuring 'pay as you save' incentives apply to microgeneration devices like solar panels, and not just energy efficiency measures like cavity wall insulation
- ensuring all new homes are zero carbon by 2016;
We must face up to the fact that those changes will cost a large amount of money to introduce. It is up to the incoming Government to express early their commitment to the idea that those changes essentially involve front-line services as far as the future energy economy is concerned. The lights must stay on, but our economy must be on a much lower-carbon footing. The question we need to pose for the new Government at this early stage is this: is there a commitment to funding, underwriting, and ensuring the success of those new ways of delivering energy for our economy?
Dr Whitehead also pressed the government on two areas lacking from their Energy & Climate Change statement: their commitment to heat generated through renewable measures, and on nuclear power.
On renewable heat, Alan said:
My eyebrows were raised by the statement in the coalition document about a full roll-out of a feed-in tariff in electricity. That might have been a mistake, but if it was deliberate, the suggestion is that there is no commitment on renewable heat, which is a way in which to ensure that renewable energy moves forward rapidly in the domestic sector. I hope that it is not the Government's intention to change or resile from renewable heat arrangements and underwriting, and that the finance and commitment is in place. I hope that I am told later that my suspicions about what the document includes will not be borne out.
And on nuclear power, Alan said:
I have considerable sympathy for the position in which the Energy and Climate Change Secretary finds himself, because I too do not think that new nuclear power is a good idea for the future, as I have said in the Chamber on a number of occasions. However, I am clear that should there be a new nuclear programme and that will need to be planned, because it is no longer good enough simply to leave the replacement of aged energy supply and the development of new energy to the market. Left to its own devices, the market will probably ensure that we have a new generation of gas-fired power stations, which will ensure that we go way off our climate change targets. If the sole contribution of the Secretary of State to the nuclear debate is simply to say, "Well, someone may come along and build a nuclear power station," they may well not do so. Without other plans, we will simply get a new generation of gas-fired power stations, which would be catastrophic for our approach to climate change.
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