All 30 contributions to the Energy Act 2023 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Energy Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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2nd reading
Tuesday 19th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Energy Act 2023 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Energy Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I start by acknowledging the record temperatures that we have been experiencing over recent days. I hope your Lordships remain cool while in the Chamber—which is probably the best place to be at the moment, given the air conditioning—and of course while travelling to and from the Chamber. I recognise the wealth of knowledge on energy policy in your Lordships’ House, which will no doubt be on full display in today’s debate.

This landmark Bill comes at a critical time for our country. Record high gas prices, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the challenge of climate change all come together to highlight why we need to boost Britain’s energy independence and security. To protect households from the full impact of rising prices, we are acting now with a £37 billion package of financial support this year. This includes the expansion of the energy bills support scheme so that households will get £400 of support with their energy bills.

Secure, clean and affordable energy for the long term depends on the transformation of our energy system. That is why we are bringing forward this Bill, the most significant piece of primary legislation for energy since 2013, delivering key commitments from the energy security strategy, the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan and the net zero strategy. The Bill will help to drive an unprecedented £100 billion of private sector investment by 2030 into new British industries and will help to support around 480,000 clean jobs by the end of the decade.

I turn to the main elements of the Bill. It has 12 parts, which it will be helpful to consider under three key pillars. The first pillar leverages investment in new technologies, securing clean, homegrown industries that can help to reduce our exposure to volatile gas prices in the longer term. The Government have continually demonstrated our commitment to maintaining the security and resilience of our energy system. Investment in clean technologies is an essential part of the system transformation.

Deploying carbon capture, usage and storage—CCUS—and low-carbon hydrogen production will create new industries, helping to transform our former industrial heartlands. The Bill will introduce state-of-the-art business models for CCUS and for hydrogen. That includes provisions to establish an economic regulation and licensing framework for CO2 transport and storage, and a new levy to fund hydrogen production. These will attract private investment by providing long-term revenue certainty to investors, putting the country on a path to grow these new clean industries and reindustrialise our economy.

The Bill will enable the delivery of a large village hydrogen heating trial by 2025, providing crucial evidence to inform decisions in 2026 on the role of hydrogen in heat decarbonisation. Building on policies such as the £450 million boiler upgrade scheme, the Bill includes provisions to scale up heat-pump installation, providing the powers to establish a market-based mechanism for the low-carbon heat industry to help build the market for heat pumps to 600,000 installations per year by 2028. Through the Bill, we will also make the UK the first country to address fusion in regulation, providing clarity on the regulatory regime for fusion energy facilities.

The second pillar in the Bill will allow for the necessary reform of our energy system. It will protect consumers from unfair pricing and decarbonise our energy system. By reforming the system, we will help to scale up the installation of key clean technologies for the future, ensuring that the system is more efficient in order to enable innovation and reduce the UK’s dependency on global fossil fuel markets.

The Bill will enhance our network security by establishing a new independent system operator and planner, which will support system reform and boost energy system resilience. Working across the electricity and gas systems, the independent system operator and planner will also ensure efficient energy planning, enhance energy security, minimise cost to consumers and promote innovation.

The Bill will reform energy code governance, overhauling the way that the technical and commercial rules of the energy system are overseen and kept up to date. This will make the system more agile, enable innovation and gear our system toward net zero.

In line with our manifesto commitment, we are legislating to extend the existing energy price cap beyond 2023 if necessary. The cap is the best safety net for 22 million households, preventing suppliers over- charging consumers. The Bill also contains provisions to enable competition in onshore electricity networks, delivering up to £1 billion worth of savings for consumers on projects tendered over the next 10 years.

The provisions in the Bill about mergers of energy network enterprises will protect consumers from increasing network prices in the event of energy network company mergers. They will enable the Competition and Markets Authority to consider the impact on Ofgem’s ability to carry out its role when reviewing energy network company mergers. We estimate that this could save energy consumers up to £420 million over 10 years.

The Bill will protect consumers and the grid from cyber threats, with new powers to regulate energy smart appliances. Provisions in the Bill will support continued delivery of the smart meter rollout, which will enable consumers to manage their energy use and cut their bills to help with the cost of living.

We will introduce multipurpose interconnectors as a licensable activity. The provisions will reduce the number of cabling points, landing points and substations. This will reduce the impact on local communities and the environment. It will also support the Government’s ambition for 50 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, as well as providing certainty to investors in and developers of multipurpose-interconnector projects.

In line with the 2021 smart systems and flexibility plan, we are legislating to clarify electricity storage as a distinct subset of electricity generation in the Electricity Act 1989. This will facilitate the deployment of electricity storage, such as batteries and pumped hydro storage, and remove obstacles to innovation in this area.

As we committed to in the energy White Paper, we are legislating to enable the removal of obligation thresholds under the energy company obligation scheme, commonly referred to as the ECO scheme. We will do so without creating significant financial and administrative burdens for small suppliers by enabling the Government to establish a buy-out mechanism under the scheme for suppliers.

Through the Bill, we will kickstart the development of heat networks. By enabling heat network zoning in England, we will overcome barriers to deployment by identifying areas where they provide the lowest-cost solution to heating buildings. We will also ensure that families living on heat networks are better protected, by appointing Ofgem as the new regulator for heat networks in Great Britain.

The Bill will provide a replacement power to enable the UK Government to amend the EU-derived energy performance of premises regime. This will ensure that the regime is fit for purpose and reflects the UK’s ambitions on climate change.

The third pillar in the Bill is about ensuring the safety, security and resilience of the UK’s energy system. The Bill follows the British energy security strategy announced earlier this year and puts into law measures to boost long-term energy independence and security. We are clear that nuclear energy has a vital role to play in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and in our transition to net zero, as reconfirmed in the British energy security strategy. That is why this Bill will enable UK accession to the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. This will make greater compensation available to potential victims in the highly unlikely event of a nuclear incident and improve the investment climate for nuclear projects.

To build our nuclear future, we also need to clean up the past. Therefore, the Bill will facilitate the safe and cost-effective clean-up of the UK’s decommissioned nuclear sites. It will bring forward the final delicensing of nuclear sites, allowing more proportionate clean-up and earlier re-use of these sites. The Bill will also make it clear that geological disposal facilities located in or under the territorial sea require a licence and are regulated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. The Bill introduces measures to enable the Civil Nuclear Constabulary to utilise its expertise in deterrence and armed response to support the security of other critical infrastructure sites, helping to keep those sites safe.

The continuity of core fuel supplies and energy resilience has never been more important. As such, the Bill contains measures for downstream oil security, which will apply to facilities such as oil terminals and filling stations. These measures will prevent fuel supply disruption and reduce the risk of emergencies affecting fuel supplies, such as disruption from industrial action or malicious protest and emergencies resulting from wider national security risks.

As we all know, our oil and gas sector plays an important role in our transition to a cleaner energy system. The Bill will enable existing legislation to be updated, ensuring that the offshore oil and gas environmental regulatory regime maintains high standards in respect of habitat protection and pollution response. It is important that we ensure that the UK’s oil and gas and carbon storage infrastructure remains in the hands of companies with the best ability to operate it. Therefore, the Bill will allow the North Sea Transition Authority to identify and prevent a potentially undesirable change of control before it happens.

In line with the polluter pays principle, and in order to protect taxpayers, the Bill introduces a provision on charging schemes for offshore oil and gas decommissioning. This means that the Government will be able to recover the costs of these activities more fully from the industry.

I also share with the House three amendments that we intend to bring forward in Committee. To meet commitments made in the British energy security strategy we will look to amend the Bill to include measures on offshore wind habitats regulations assessment and an offshore wind environmental improvement package. This measure will help to reduce the time it takes to get planning consent for offshore wind projects from up to four years down to just one year. We will also look to include a provision on the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme, also known as ESOS. This measure will improve the quality of ESOS audits and provide powers to expand the scheme to include net-zero elements in audits and more businesses. Finally, we will look to amend the Bill to include provisions that will bring Nuclear Decommissioning Authority pensions in line with the majority of the rest of the public sector. The new scheme was agreed with unions, and includes provision for retirement on full pension before state pension age.

The Bill will benefit every part of the UK. Some measures of course touch on devolved matters. From the outset, the Government have sought to work closely with the devolved Administrations and are committed to the Sewel convention. Where the Government believe that the Bill is legislating in an area of devolved competence, they have, in good faith, highlighted these areas to the devolved Administrations ahead of their consideration of the Bill.

This is ambitious legislation and allows for the necessary reform of our energy system. We are charged with a great responsibility to ensure the security, affordability and decarbonisation of our energy supply for many generations to come. We are also presented with huge opportunities to leverage investments in new, clean technologies that will reinforce the UK’s position as a global leader in delivering net zero. I hope noble Lords will recognise the exciting opportunity that this Bill represents to facilitate the necessary reforms, boost investment in clean technologies and ensure the security of supply in the longer term. At the same time, it will stimulate economic growth and job creation in support of our levelling-up agenda. I beg to move.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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First, let me thank all noble Lords for their contributions to what I think has been an excellent, important and constructive debate. I will attempt to answer as many of the questions asked as possible, and of course, I look forward to debating many of these issues further as the Bill proceeds through Committee.

One of the most pressing issues facing many hard-working households and businesses today is the cost of living, particularly the cost of energy. Unsurprisingly, many noble Lords—including the noble Baronesses, Lady Blake and Lady Hayman, and my noble friend Lord Howell—asked how the Bill will address this issue. The Government are acting now to protect households from the full impact of rising prices with a package of financial support worth £37 billion.

However, the cost of living crisis is not just about providing support today. It is also about ensuring that we have an energy system that is affordable for many years to come. This Bill will create a more cost-efficient energy system by increasing innovation and competition, for example by introducing competition in onshore electricity networks and attracting investment in a strong, low-carbon energy sector. The Bill will also help to reduce our exposure to volatile gas prices.

My noble friends Lord Moylan and Lord Howell and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, touched on the important issue of energy security. It is an absolute priority for this Government. Thankfully, Britain benefits from highly diverse and flexible sources of gas supply and a diverse electricity energy mix, which ensures that households, businesses and heavy industry can get the energy they need. I am happy to confirm that the UK is in no way dependent on Russian gas. We have highly diverse sources of gas supply, providing us with one of the largest liquified natural gas import infrastructures in Europe, for which, I am happy to say, the EU is particularly grateful at the moment, as we support it. Natural gas has an important ongoing role to play in future as the UK decarbonises its energy system. However, how natural gas is used will need to change to eliminate the CO2 associated with burning it.

In response to my noble friend Lord Moylan, affordability is of course absolutely key to delivering on our energy strategy. The value for money of the measures that we introduce is completely critical.

As many noble Lords have noted, this is a wide-ranging Bill. I welcome the many questions that were asked in the debate about the wider energy sector; most of them do not necessarily relate to the Bill but I will nevertheless attempt to address them anyway.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Blake and Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Whitty, raised the knotty subject of energy efficiency, which we have debated long and hard in this House. Let me say at the start that huge progress is already being made on the energy efficiency of UK homes. We are investing more than £.6.6 billion over this Parliament to improve energy efficiency. However, cost of living pressures mean that now is not the right time to bring in additional requirements for home owners regarding further regulations on minimum energy efficiency standards. However, we will bring forward measures at a more appropriate time.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked if the Government will introduce windfall taxes back into the oil and gas industry. The energy profits levy will raise around £5 billion in its first 12 months, which will go towards supporting people with the new cost of living measures announced by the previous Chancellor.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked about the programme of policy statements and secondary legislation. To implement the commitments in this Bill we will of course publish policy statements for the Lords Committee stage, helping your Lordships to understand the intention of the regulation-making powers in the Bill and the next steps which will follow that.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, asked about onshore wind. On consultation, we are going to introduce a clear route which enables local communities and authorities to work together to signal their support for onshore wind and for onshore wind developers to respond quickly to this. On planning guidance, while we will not introduce wholesale changes to current planning regulations for onshore wind in England, we have committed to developing local partnerships for a limited number of supportive communities which wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for appropriate benefits, including, for example, lower energy bills.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh all spoke about community energy. Through the introduction of UK-wide growth funding schemes, the Government are enabling local areas to tackle net-zero goals in ways that best suit their particular community needs.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked if there would be enough electric vehicle charging points. We are committed to ensuring that an inclusively designed EV charging network is available that works for all consumers.

My noble friend Lord Moylan asked what will take up the slack when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, which is an important question. The Government’s long-term ambition is to increase our plans for the deployment of civil nuclear power up to 24 gigawatts by 2050, which would be around 25% of our projected 2050 electricity demand.

The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about the use of waste for energy. I can inform both that the forthcoming biomass strategy will consider evidence on the likely support for and sustainability of biomass feedstocks and the best use of biomass across the economy to help us achieve net zero.

I turn to some of the points made about measures in the Bill, starting with pillar 1. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, mentioned the cost and viability of heat pumps—a matter dear to my own heart. With the low-carbon heat scheme and other policies, we are confident that the instalment cost of heat pumps will come down significantly over the coming years as the market scales up, making heat pumps an increasingly attractive and affordable option for more and more UK households.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, also questioned whether hydrogen was the appropriate technology for heating homes. Indeed, that is a very good question to pose. It has the potential to make a contribution to fully decarbonising heat by offering consumers a future heating option that works in a very similar way to natural gas, but without the carbon emissions. However, it is important to point out that hydrogen for heat is not yet an established technology. Much further work is required to assess the feasibility, costs and potential benefits. As part of that, a neighbourhood trial will start next year, with a hydrogen village expected to go live in 2025. This is all part of the plan to work out the feasibility of the wide scale use of hydrogen for home heating.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, all questioned whether CCS was an appropriate technology for the UK. The Climate Change Committee has described carbon capture usage and storage—CCUS—as

“a necessity, not an option”

for the transition to net zero, which will enable the UK to deliver upon its global climate commitments. Contrary to what some noble Lords said, CCUS is a proven technology with CCUS projects operating safely globally, in countries such as Norway, the US and Canada. CO2 storage is a mature and safe technology.

The noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Whitty, spoke of the need to accelerate CCUS delivery and have a clear deployment plan. I agree with them; we remain committed to industrial decarbonisation across all nations and regions of the UK. As we work towards net zero, we are clear that CCUS will continue to play a key role in the process. In April 2022, the British Energy Security Strategy restated our commitment to support the deployment of four CCUS clusters by 2030. Following on from a process to select the first CCUS track 1 clusters to be deployed by the mid-2020s, we intend to bring forth further details on the outcome of phase 2 emitter projects in due course.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, asked about the hydrogen levy. The detailed design of the levy is ongoing, including decisions on where it will be placed in the energy value chain. The levy design will reflect wider government priorities and policies to ensure that consumer energy bills are, of course, affordable and that the costs are distributed fairly. We anticipate some public engagement on options for the detailed levy design in early 2023.

I move on to some points that were raised on pillar 2 of the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, and the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, for their positive stance on the independent system operator. We are also seeing that across the energy sector. I was asked about the timeline for implementation. BEIS and Ofgem are currently working with National Grid and the electricity system operator on the next steps. Depending on several factors, including the passage of legislation and continued discussion with key parties, the ISOP could be established by or in 2024.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked about the interaction with Ofgem and National Grid. The Bill actually provides a power to set out a strategy and policy statement for the ISOP; that is where the Secretary of State will set out their direction for Ofgem and ISOP. The Bill also provides for Ofgem to license and regulate the ISOP, overseeing its activities in its capacity as the independent regulator.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the important point about why heat network customers do not get protection equal to that of gas and electricity consumers. That is because heat networks typically buy their energy through commercial contracts, which are not covered by the existing default tariff price cap. However, I am pleased to confirm to my noble friend that the legislation provides the BEIS Secretary of State with powers to introduce a price cap, should it be necessary to protect consumers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blake, asked whether the Bill provides the overhaul needed for the heat networks sector. I very much believe that it does. To address her points on poor design and maintenance, about which I agree, the Bill will include minimum technical standards. It will also introduce powers to regulate decarbonisation; as mentioned, it will also enable powers to set price caps.

The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, asked whether zoning, which will of course be run by local authorities as the most appropriate bodies, can be extended beyond heat networks. Our strategic approach in the Heat and Buildings Strategy follows, in our view, the grain of the market. Our policy levers are aligned to certain points of action; for example, when people are replacing their heating systems. Extending zoning to other technologies in our view risks removing choice for households and businesses when consumer choice over heating technology will be best for the transition.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked about the effectiveness of the price cap. That is a valid question. The price cap remains, of course, a temporary measure until competition in the market improves. BEIS is currently considering what reforms are needed for energy retail market regulation to ensure that the market is resilient and sustainable and continues to protect consumers.

On the points raised that come under pillar 3 of the Bill, the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, asked for more detail on the nuclear decommissioning measures. The proposals do not result in any relaxation in the standards for public protection. Former nuclear sites will continue to be regulated by the relevant environmental agency and the Health and Safety Executive, rather than the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which will regulate health and safety at work activities. She also questioned the reach of the Bill’s core fuel resilience powers. These measures, also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, are intended to be used in a light-touch way to complement the additional voluntary approach. The Government will use these powers in a proportionate way, including providing for certain rights of appeal and consultation requirements.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, raised a question in relation to the disposal of nuclear waste. The Bill makes provision in relation to geological disposal facilities which will encapsulate and isolate radioactive waste at great depths. Nuclear Waste Services, the developer of the geological disposal facility, is confident it can meet the additional requirements from new nuclear as set out in the British Energy Security Strategy.

Moving to the point raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Jones, in their double act, about dumping radioactive waste in the sea, of course, disposal of radioactive waste in the sea is banned by international conventions and let me be absolutely clear that no part of a geological disposal facility will be in the sea. The waste will be isolated deep underground, within multiple barriers, to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity reach anywhere near the surface environment.

My noble friend Lord Howell and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, both asked about small modular reactors. Through the nuclear fund, we are providing funding to support research and development for a small modular reactor design and we are progressing plans to build an advanced modular reactor demonstration by the early 2030s at the latest.

The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, asked whether the Government could make sure that nuclear power is eligible for the renewable transport fuel obligation, including hydrogen produced from nuclear power. I know this is something we have had exchanges on in the past. We believe this would be complex and would require firmer, further evidence for industry to understand how exactly it might be compatible with wider RTFO eligibility criteria.

I welcome my noble friend Lord Moylan’s support for the promotion of nuclear fusion, and I also welcome the support from the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, for the continuation of North Sea oil and gas production. Perhaps he would like to have a word with his noble friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, about this important point, although I welcome her confirmation that she is now apparently in favour of gas as a continuity fuel. My point, which I keep making to the noble Baroness, is that since we produce only about 40% of our own gas in the North Sea and we still import considerable quantities of LNG to be used as a transition fuel, it makes eminent good sense, in my view, to obtain those reserves from our own resources in the North Sea, which of course is of much lower carbon intensity than LNG. I am sure we will continue to have these debates going forward.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
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Will the Minister address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, as well as by me, that the gas we produce in the North Sea no longer belongs to us? It is a global commodity and has to be traded as a global commodity.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It is produced by private sector companies under regulation, and there are interconnectors connecting us to the continent. I am sure that the noble Baroness would want us to support the EU in its time of need at the moment. With our energy terminals, those interconnectors play a crucial role in helping our EU friends with their current difficulties. It is of course a global commodity and the price is set globally. However, if the noble Baroness’s question is about carbon intensity, the carbon intensity of domestically produced resources is much lower than imported LNG. As I have pointed out a number of times before, I fail to see why it is, in her view, more sensible to import gas through LNG rather than getting it from our own North Sea resources. I am sure we will have that debate many times again in future.

Finally, I will deal with the challenge from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, regarding smart meters. I can tell the noble Lord that we have now installed 27 million smart meters in the UK, and the vast majority of SMETS1 meters have now been upgraded with software upgrades to SMETS2 standards, so that they operate exactly the same as SMETS2 meters and provide full smart meter functionality. Only this morning, I met the DCC to review the progress on that upgrade and was told that the number of meters still to be migrated is tiny—a few tens of thousands of early meters that the DCC will continue to attempt to migrate; if that does not work, they eventually may be upgraded to full SMETS2 meters.

I have addressed most of the points raised by noble Lords. I am sure that noble Lords will say if I have not covered all their points, but we will debate these matters further in Committee. Many of the points made were things that noble Peers would like to see happen separately and outside the provisions in the Bill. However, I think that most of the measures received a wide degree of support in your Lordships’ House. I look forward to continuing this constructive engagement and detailed scrutiny as the Bill progresses through Committee.

Bill read a second time.

Energy Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Monday 5th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Energy Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 39-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (5 Sep 2022)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Energy Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet. I will speak very briefly to the amendments. I have amendments of my own later in the Bill on energy demand reduction and the regulator’s responsibilities.

I support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale. It is important that this Bill is specific about the implementation of the aspirations that we hear from government. We have not had enough detail about the plans to implement the strategies, and we have not had enough detail in the strategy. For that reason, I have some sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. He raises important issues about putting flesh on the bones of the aspirations, but I disagree with him about changing the timetable. I also disagree with the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, on the question of whether, because our contribution to global emissions is low, we should go ahead with the contribution we can make in innovation and leadership, which completely ratchets up the effect of this country’s own policies on a global scale.

One serious point I want to make about the noble Lord’s amendment is that I am extremely worried about the suggestion that the Secretary of State should commission and publish “an independent assessment” of the costs, the implementation dates and the risks of the net zero strategy. We have the Climate Change Committee, which is admired for its work throughout the world. It is an important and respected body and it is independent of government. It would be ridiculous to try to get different independent advice: if we go down that road, we are in “anyone’s view is the best view” territory. We have an independent adviser for government. We have the Office for Budget Responsibility; we have lots of people who can comment on the advice it gives, but it would be quite wrong to put in this legislation anything that undermined its position.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me say first what a pleasure it is to open for the Government in today’s discussions: I am sure we will have lots more as we go through the Bill. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Lennie, Lord Ravensdale and Lord West, the noble Baronesses, Lady Blake and Lady Worthington, and my noble friends Lord Frost, Lord Moylan and Lady McIntosh, for their amendments, which seek to address the purpose and strategic aims of the Bill and of course the Government’s energy policy more generally. That allowed us to have a debate with more of the flavour of a Second Reading debate, rather than addressing the specifics of the Bill, but that is understandable given the nature of the amendments.

I turn first to Amendments 1, 6 and 7 from the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord Ravensdale, the noble Baronesses, Lady Blake and Lady Worthington, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh. These amendments all seek to address the fundamental purpose of the Bill. While they are well-intentioned, it is my strong contention that these amendments are not necessary as the Bill already has a clear purpose. Provisions in the Bill as drafted not only have regard to the outcomes those noble Lords seek, but they are actually designed with those outcomes in mind. For example, a number of measures in the Bill will contribute to the resilience of the UK’s energy system—most obviously, those powers related to the ensuring the security of the core fuel sector. I am happy to give the assurance that my noble friend Lady McIntosh sought today: that energy security is of paramount importance to this Government.

Amendment 245 would give effect to Clause 1 once the Act is passed and, for the reasons I described, I do not believe that it is necessary. On Amendment 5, from my noble friends Lord Moylan and Lord Frost, and the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, relating to energy strategy statements, I reassure them that the Energy Bill is to a significant extent an expression of the Government’s strategic intent as set out in the 10-point plan, the energy White Paper, the net-zero strategy and the various sector-specific policy papers we have published. Furthermore, government policy evolves over time and strategies do not always neatly replace others. Some aspects may remain government policy, and some are updated in response to a changing landscape—of course, we have seen that very recently with the Ukrainian invasion. I submit that, rather than prescribing policy intent in primary legislation, it makes more sense to allow Ministers to exercise discretion in these matters and respond to a changing policy environment and international environment.

I move on to the requirement to publish a strategy

“for managing intermittency of electricity supply”.

Intermittency is an important issue, but the National Grid Electricity System Operator is responsible for balancing electricity supply and demand, because while production is intermittent, so is demand. The Government remain confident that they have all the tools needed to operate the electricity system reliably. We can call on a wide range of technology types to do this, some of which were mentioned in the debate today, including emergency gas-fired generation, interconnectors and, crucially, demand-side responses such as insulation, retrofit measures, et cetera.

The capacity market is the Government’s main mechanism for ensuring the security of electricity supply. It has done a great job and we have already secured the majority of Great Britain’s capacity needs to meet future peak electricity demand out to 2025-26. The Government have also committed to ensuring a flexible system which involves the use of a wide range of technologies—again, a number of them were mentioned in the debate today—including battery storage and pumped storage, which I was really interested to hear my noble friend Lord Howell talk about. In my electrical engineering degree many years ago, we studied that particular development; for those who have not been able to see it, it is an incredible feat of engineering.

This amendment also has a requirement to commission assessments of the 10-point plan and of the costs of achieving net zero. My noble friend Lord Moylan raised concerns that progressing towards net zero is a “constraint” to achieving affordable and abundant energy in the UK. I reassure him that, as we transform the energy system, the Government are committed to pursuing the most cost-effective solutions, which, at the moment, are offshore and onshore wind. Ensuring security of supply and decarbonisation, and affordability to the consumer and the Exchequer, are of critical importance. While there will be costs, the costs of inaction in this sector, as we have seen through the invasion of Ukraine, are much greater. Had we not acted over the last decade or so to secure the second-largest supply of offshore wind in the world, the costs we would be facing now would be much greater and our security of supply would be at much greater peril.

As set out in the Net Zero Strategy, we estimate that the net cost to achieving net zero, excluding air quality and emissions-savings benefits, will be the equivalent of 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050. That strategy was informed by the Treasury’s 2021 Net Zero Review, which looked at the potential costs and benefits to businesses and consumers of the transition to a net-zero economy.

Furthermore, several mechanisms already exist to analyse the path towards net zero, as mentioned by my noble friend. For example, the Government’s approach to net zero is already subject to independent scrutiny by the Climate Change Committee, whose 2022 progress report included an analysis of the economic impact of decarbonisation. Much of this work already takes place.

I turn to Amendments 2, 3 and 4, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, and the noble Lord, Lord Lennie. The Energy Act 2013 introduced the power for the designation of a strategy and policy statement that sets out the Government’s strategic priorities for energy policy, the roles and responsibilities of those implementing such a policy and the policy outcomes to be achieved. The Government have committed to laying a strategy and policy statement for energy policy later this year and a statement at the earliest appropriate time. Designation of a strategy and policy statement will ultimately be a decision for Parliament, not the Secretary of State. Therefore, I submit that these amendments are duplicative and unnecessary.

I thank my noble friend Lord Moylan for submitting Amendment 231. He raises an important point; splitting the wholesale market into two—namely, creating one market for variable renewables and another for firm generation—is already being considered as part of the review of electricity market arrangements, or REMA. An initial consultation, which included exactly this proposal, was published in July. Splitting the market is one of many options being considered within REMA. My department is currently assessing the viability of implementing a split market and the potential costs and benefits associated with doing so.

Based on stakeholder responses to the consultation and based on further policy developments, we will publish a second consultation in 2023 to set out any feasible options in more detail. Legislative proposals on how to implement recommended reforms will then follow. Adding a clause into the Bill that commits the Secretary of State to publishing legislative proposals on splitting the market by a specific point in time would, I submit, prejudge the outcomes of both the consultation and the review.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, did I hear my noble friend say 2023? Did I hear that correctly?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Yes, it is a complicated area that requires proper and detailed policy analysis, but that work is under way, and we will do so.

Splitting the wholesale market would a necessitate a fundamental and irreversible design of our electricity market arrangements, and without the appropriate consideration of the potential costs and any potential benefits and without sufficient stakeholder input, it could well lead to higher bills for consumers, and it would create an investment hiatus which would jeopardise our ambitions for decarbonising the power sector by 2035—which is exactly the point I was making to my noble friend. So, this is an important issue, but it is one that needs to be looked at thoroughly, properly and professionally. I hope that my noble friend is assured that the issue is being closely examined and will therefore feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
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My Lords, would the Minister care to comment on the fact that—and this has been mooted as a potential solution in the short term during these unprecedented times where we see such high prices and so many people suffering—there is surely a logic to take a power now, to use it in extremis and then to continue with the longer-term conversation? I think the nation wants to see some action quite quickly and we have an Energy Bill.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not think it is important to do that at this stage; we have published the consultation, we are closely analysing responses, as the noble Baroness will understand. It is a difficult area, it is a complicated area, there are a number of potential ramifications, and we think it is worthy of consideration. If we took a power now, that might have a very destabilising effect on the market and on the amount of investment that is flowing into many of the sectors, so the Government’s position at the moment is that we do not think that is necessary or desirable.

I reassure noble Lords that the addition of electrification to the Energy Bill is also unnecessary. The net-zero strategy sets out the Government’s view on how electrification can enable cost-effective decarbonisation in transport, in heating and in industry—to that extent, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, and the points that she made—along with our approach to deliver reliable, affordable and low-carbon power. The energy security strategy accelerated, as I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, our ambitions for the deployment of renewables for nuclear and for hydrogen. I can assure noble Lords that the Government will never compromise our security of supply: that remains our primary consideration. But our understanding of what the future energy system will look like and the level of the demand that we will need to meet through electrification will essentially and inevitably evolve over time. So, we are not targeting a particular solution, but we rely on competition to spur investment in the different technologies and new ways of working, and new technologies such as more efficient batteries et cetera are coming onstream every day. We will closely take all these matters under consideration. We take the view that the Government’s role is to ensure the market framework is there and that encourages effective competition and, at the same time, delivers a secure and reliable system.

Finally, let me thank the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Teverson, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Hayman, for their valuable contributions to the debate. I assure my noble friend Lord Howell that we are working internationally with the US, with the EU and with our other partners to produce a secure and reliable energy system together. In response to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, I am sure he will be pleased to hear that through the £385 million advanced nuclear funds, we are providing funding to support research and development for precisely the small modular reactor designs that the noble Viscount wishes to see, and we are progressing plans to build an advanced modular reactor demonstration by the early 2030s at the latest. Therefore, with the reassurances that I have been able to provide, I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I apologise for not thanking the Minister for meeting us earlier today; that was helpful. To answer one or two points, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, asked about what Boris Johnson said when he was Prime Minister—up to yesterday, or today. He raised questions about power stations being built and the figure of one a year for however many years necessary, and not being sure what power stations there were. The PM was never really good on detail and I think this proves that point. That does require some clarification.

The bigger point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the Minister was in relation to the preambles. They asked: why these preambles? They are a combination, if you like, of the preambles to the climate change and sustainability Act and the Energy Act 2013, as the Minister pointed out. They seek to give some definition, some guidance, to what the Bill is intended to achieve, as opposed to its rather rambling, ongoing, imprecise nature. It is not so much that the Bill is objectionable; it is just not adequate to achieve what it intends.

We will look at this before Report. With those few comments, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendments 11,12 and 13 in my name would all strengthen the relationship between Ministers and the economic regulator by insisting that the Secretary of State and the economic regulator are bound by the listed regulatory principles and the need to contribute to achieving sustainable development rather than just having regard to them. Further, they would oblige a Minister to be bound by their duties as a Minister, as opposed to just having regard for them. They would also require the economic regulator to be bound by the need to assist the Secretary of State, compliant with its duties and targets. It is not sufficient to have regard to these matters; it is important to be bound by them. Can the Minister say what “have regard to” means if not to be bound by them?

Amendments 15 and 16 espouse that the Bill does not specifically include carbon capture usage. To add to the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, in January 2021, the major US oil company Chevron announced that it had made investments in the San Jose-based corporation Blue Planet Systems—then a start-up—which manufactures and develops carbon aggregates and carbon capture technology intended to reduce the carbon intensity of industrial operations. Blue Planet Systems manufactures carbon-based building aggregate from flue-gas-captured CO2. These amendments aim to encourage the use of captured carbon as opposed to its storage.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has contributed to this short debate. Addressing the amendments in turn, I will start with Amendment 8, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who is very conciliatory today—I am suspicious; something has happened to him over the summer, but I am sure that we will get the old noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, back before we get much further into the debate.

This amendment seeks to amend the principal objective applying to the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority in respect of consumer protections. Under the current drafting of this principal objective, it is for the Secretary of State or the economic regulator to protect the interests of consumers who they consider may be affected by regulatory decisions. This drafting is intended to ensure that the economic regulator and Secretary of State have discretion as to the consumer impacts that are taken into account. While the noble Lord’s and the noble Baroness’s amendment is intended to ensure that only actual or likely impacts are taken into account, we consider that the existing drafting already provides for this. Therefore, I submit that the amendment is unnecessary.

I turn next to Amendment 9, which is also in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, joined on this occasion by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. The amendment as drafted would place an additional principal objective on the Secretary of State and the economic regulator to assist in the delivery of the net-zero objective. I know that we have had this discussion on a number of Bills, but I will reiterate that, under the Climate Change Act 2008, the Secretary of State is already bound by law to ensure that the targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are met.

Under Clause 1(6), the economic regulator is required to have regard to the need to assist the Secretary of State in complying with his duties to achieve carbon emissions reduction targets and to have regard to these targets in each of the devolved Administrations. I therefore submit that the economic regulator is already required to take these net-zero targets into account in its regulatory determinations.

Next, I turn to Amendment 10, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. This amendment seeks to ensure that cross-subsidy of carbon dioxide transport and storage activities, from users of other networks, is avoided. Clause 1 of the Bill establishes the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority as the economic regulator of carbon dioxide transport and storage. It also establishes the principal objectives and general duties for the Secretary of State and the economic regulator in the exercise of their respective functions in relation to the economic regulation of carbon dioxide transport and storage.

The principal objectives in Clause 1 include protecting the interests of current and future users of the network and those of consumers. In relation to the regulation of gas and electricity, the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority remain bound by the principal objectives to, respectively, protect the interests of current and future consumers in relation to gas conveyed through pipes, and in relation to electricity conveyed by distribution systems. Different principal objectives are appropriate to reflect that the objectives for carbon dioxide transport and storage networks are different from those of the gas and electricity networks.

Under the provisions in the Bill, the economic regulator should be able to take into account, in its decision-making in relation to CO2 transport and storage activities, any impacts on users of gas and electricity networks that may arise from those decisions. I hope that the noble Lord is sufficiently reassured on this point.

I move on to Amendment 11, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. This seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority are bound by the principles of regulatory best practice and the need to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Clause 1 sets out the principal objectives and general duties of the Secretary of State and the economic regulator. The principal objectives are complemented by statutory duties on the Secretary of State and the economic regulator to have regard to certain matters. This includes having regard to principles of regulatory best practice and the need to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. To have regard to these matters means that the Secretary of State or the economic regulator, as the case may be, must give genuine attention and thought to these matters.

In a complex sector with varying objectives that can sometimes conflict, it is important that the regulator’s duties strike the right balance between setting out all relevant issues and considerations, while giving some necessary discretion to the regulator to balance those considerations in its decision-making process and to have sufficient authority and independence in that decision-making. I hope that explains the point for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie.

The formulation of the statutory duty as proposed by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness in our view risks compromising what is quite a delicate balance. The greater the number of statutory duties, and the more binding their nature, the more difficult the act of balancing the different, possibly conflicting, duties becomes. I hope that provides sufficient reassurance.

Amendments 12 and 13, again from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, also seek to amend the statutory duties applying to the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority to ensure that the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 are a binding consideration in regulatory determinations. In relation to Amendment 12, as I have already set out, under the Climate Change Act the Secretary of State is already bound by law to ensure that the targets to reduce emissions are met. We therefore do not consider that this amendment is necessary.

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Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
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I have a point of clarification. Are the definitions different because regulation over transportation is not needed or is the Minister saying, “We have picked a winner. It is going to be storage through this mechanism and we are not interested in the innovation that is coming through in these other sources of permanent storage.”? If it is the latter, I would find that very hard to understand in a Bill that is seeking to support new technologies.

I think it is the case—the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, mentioned it—that there is a company in the UK already doing this, with limited support from government. It can scale. It is not a silver bullet by any means but there is not a single operational carbon capture and storage facility in the UK apart from that one, and yet the Bill does not seem interested in supporting it. I would like to understand: if the Government is interested in supporting new technologies, can we make that as broad as possible?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The Bill is intended to establish an economic means of support for geological formation. Of course, I commend the company referred to by the noble Baroness, which is managing to find ways of—I hope—permanently storing carbon dioxide in a form other than geological formation; indeed, there are other potential support mechanisms that could be deployed towards that. There is lots of research and development funding through UKRI and there is a whole range of other advanced technologies that we are supporting. In this case, in relation to economic regulation, the market mechanism that we want to set up on CCUS is dedicated principally towards geological long-term storage; we think that is the area that needs support under this system. That would provide the vast majority of storage that we can envisage at the moment but, of course, we are always willing to consider other methods. If this company is proving to be a success, that is great and I would be very happy to look at alternative ways of supporting it.

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Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to contribute on this set of amendments. I add my admiration and support for my noble friend Lord Foulkes, who has stepped into the breach admirably in the unfortunate absence of my noble friend Lady Liddell. I very much look forward to her return. I also add my thanks to the Minister for giving us time today to discuss this very important Bill; I think all of us recognise its significance at this time. Without reopening the debate from Second Reading, it is clear to us all that there are gaps. We need to take the opportunity to fill those gaps, given the state of crisis that the country is entering.

I want to speak to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Lennie, starting with Amendments 21 and 22. They seek to make it clear that a licence can be granted for transportation or storage, or both if wanted, but that a licence need not be granted for everything. The activities that Clause 7 relates to are

“(a) operating a site for the disposal of carbon dioxide by way of geological storage; (b) providing a service of transporting carbon dioxide by a licensable means of transportation”.

We have to acknowledge the importance of this section of the Bill. Indeed, the Climate Change Committee has referred to all of this area as a necessity, not an option, particularly as we move forward and technologies improve. As drafted, the Bill provides a single licence for both but, given that they are separate activities, we see no reason why individual licences could not be provided for each activity—even if it may be the case that most of the persons carrying out these activities carry out both.

A broad portfolio of technologies is needed to achieve deep emissions reductions, practically and cost effectively; carbon capture and storage is just one of them. In the International Energy Agency’s sustainable development scenario, in which

“global CO2 emissions from the energy sector fall to zero on a net basis by 2070”

carbon capture and storage

“accounts for nearly 15% of the cumulative reduction in emissions, compared with the Stated Policies Scenario. The contribution grows over time as the technology improves, costs fall and cheaper abatement options in some sectors are exhausted. In 2070, 10.4 Gt of CO2 is captured from across the energy sector”.

This would provide more flexibility for a developing market, with the intention of driving down price within it.

We have already heard just how expensive carbon capture is and how, despite its importance for achieving clean energy, it has been rather slow to take off. According to the IEA, there were only around 20 commercial operations worldwide midway through last year. Commentators often cite carbon capture as being too expensive and unable to compete with wind and solar, given their falling costs over the last decade, but to dismiss the technology on cost grounds would be to ignore its unique strengths, its competitiveness in key sectors and its potential to enter the mainstream of low-carbon solutions. I am pleased that the Government have not done this. However, as we have made clear, we feel that not enough attention has been given to solar and onshore wind, in particular. It is important that we take whatever steps we can to make the market as attractive as possible and encourage licensing from fit and proper persons.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, has already spoken to the next set of amendments, particularly Amendment 23. We feel that the phrase “fit and proper”, having already had a usage in the National Security and Investment Act, is something that we should take very seriously. The aim of these amendments is to put the responsibility on the Secretary of State to personally deem the individual fit and proper.

Perhaps the greatest concern that we have to acknowledge is the environmental risk associated with long-term storage of captured CO2, as any gradual or catastrophic leakage would likely negate the initial environmental benefits of capturing and storing CO2 emissions. It is worth itemising those key risks, just so that we have them on record. First, there are technical hazards: we know that the construction of plants needed to capture and process CO2 can be complex. Whether for new facilities or retrofitting and enabling the separation of CO2 from other gases, there are inherent technical exposures in the CO2 separation process relating to the compression and cooling of gases flying through pipes and the use of chemical solvents, for instance.

Secondly, on fire and explosion, as we know, there are lifting, handling and accidental damage risks at carbon capture plants, as is the case at any construction site. When carbon-capture technology is retrofitted to operate in industrial plants or facilities in typically high-hazard locations such as power stations, the risk of accidental damage and subsequent fire and explosion risks to existing assets might be enhanced. As I have stated, the risk of leakage must clearly be the subject of much consideration as we go forward.

Business interruption is another risk that we have to acknowledge in the failure to meet the carbon goals as they are laid out. Pure carbon dioxide gas can be compressed so that it reaches its dense and supercritical phase. In some cases, it can instead be cooled, which transforms it into a liquid state. Mechanical failures or breakdowns affecting this stage of the process could lead to lengthy business interruptions for clients. If the captured CO2 cannot be transported, this may affect the emissions targets and carbon credits committed to by clients. Therefore, the need to look at all proper precautions is absolutely vital, and the persons tasked with doing this need to have the confidence of the whole sector.

Amendment 24, in the name of my noble friend Lord Lennie, would make regulations related to carbon dioxide transport and storage licence applications subject to the affirmative procedure. Surely it is sensible that Parliament has a full say in any regulations to ensure that licensing is done both to encourage carbon capture and storage and to ensure that it is properly safeguarded.

We have to see this in the context of an enormous possibility to create significant numbers of jobs—the estimate is 50,000 by as soon as 2030—across industry, power, transport and storage networks. It is absolutely essential that the confidence is there and that all the people who will be engaged in the work we intend to do are properly protected wherever possible.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, this group of amendments considers the licensing of carbon dioxide transport and storage, and I thank everyone for their contributions. I will speak to Amendment 25, in my name, which relates to the definition of “decommissioning costs”. Carbon dioxide transport and storage licence holders will be expected to establish decommissioning funds for each of their transport and storage networks. These funds will accrue money over the operational life of the network to pay for the expected offshore decommissioning and post-closure costs associated with the network.

As originally drafted, the Bill enables the Secretary of State to make regulations about the provision of security for decommissioning in relation to carbon storage installations. This is to ensure that regulations could require relevant persons to provide security for costs that reflect the full range of decommissioning obligations that arise in relation to carbon transportation and storage activities.

Regulations will provide the framework for how the decommissioning funds are to ensure that the funding is secure and available when it is required to pay for the decommissioning and post-closure obligations. The costs are likely to be those associated with the obligations that the licence holder will have under the permit, which could include costs associated with preparatory works between closure and the commencement of decommissioning activities and post-closure monitoring.

As noble Lords will be aware, a series of amendments has been tabled relating to the financing of the decommissioning of carbon storage assets, and I look forward to the forthcoming debate on those amendments. Should our amendments be accepted to apply these decommissioning fund powers to the new defined term “decommissioning costs”, explained in Amendment 70, the previous definition of “decommissioning and legacy costs” becomes redundant and should therefore be omitted from Clause 11.

I will move on to the amendments tabled by noble Lords in this group. Amendment 17, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, seeks to amend the scope of the prohibition on operating a CO2 transport and storage network without an economically regulated licence. Although there is an existing framework for the licensing of carbon dioxide storage activities, established under the Energy Act 2008, that Act provides for technical regulation to ensure the secure geological storage of carbon dioxide. It therefore does not provide any powers in relation to economic regulation.

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Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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Perhaps I may come back to Amendment 27 and the associated amendments about a “fit and proper person”. Throughout his response, the Minister referred to the granting and awarding of licences at the initial point. However, Amendment 27 is concerned in particular with the transferring of licences. I drew a parallel with our water companies. Most of those have been through multiple ownerships, including hedge funds and companies based in overseas tax havens, et cetera. These companies have a similar nature and have been operated through continual financial transactions and financialisation. Could the Minister comment, either now or in writing, on how the Government see that ongoing process? Okay, you have checked out the person and granted a licence, but then, in a year or two’s time, the company might be bought by someone else and then again by someone else, including companies that may be very unclear. How will the Government keep control?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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If the licence is transferred to another body, it will also have to be approved under the same process. You cannot just wake up in the morning and decide to transfer your legal obligations to somebody else who is not an appropriate, fit and proper person. So, of course, that will be taken into consideration.

I must say that the noble Baroness is wrong to provide the parallel with the existing water companies. I do not think that anybody is arguing that people who hold those licences are not fit and proper to do the job. There is a legitimate argument about levels of investment and how that money is being spent, et cetera. However, no one is arguing about their competence; the noble Baroness is trying to draw a very bad parallel there.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I hope the Minister will forgive me for not understanding some of this, because it has raised a number of questions in my mind. If the CO2 is put, say, under the sea—as we have been talking about—who actually owns the CO2 once it has gone there? Who is liable for it and who has the legal right to the storage area itself? Given that most of these are created from the oil and gas that has been extracted, does that belong to the lease of the fossil fuel company that extracted them and does that last for ever? I do not understand how this works and where the liabilities land.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said, if an organisation says, “I don’t want to do this any more”, there is no obligation for anybody else to take it on—so there will be a legal limbo. Perhaps the Minister could explain how this licensing works within that context. It seems to me that the Crown Estate will come into this somewhere, but maybe the Minister could enlighten me. I apologise again, because I should know the answer to all of these questions.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to confirm the legal detail of the system to the noble Lord in writing, but my understanding is that the operator of the site would bear the responsibility. That is precisely why we have built in the relative decommissioning costs. The fund will have to be established and the operator will have to show that the ability is there to decommission the relevant pipe work, et cetera. I assume that that assurance and other long-term effects will also be built into that condition, but I will be very happy to confirm that in writing to the noble Lord.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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That would be very useful.

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Moved by
25: Clause 11, page 12, line 39, leave out “and legacy”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 72, line 25.
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord will know that I hate to disappoint him on any occasion, so I shall say something unprecedented, which, as far as I am aware, has never been said in this House before: on this specific and limited occasion, the noble Lord is right on this point. I can say with the full force of the Government behind me that we are prepared to accept his Amendment 28, and I thank the noble Lord for pointing out this typographical error.

I move on to the noble Lord’s more substantial amendments, Amendment 29 to 31 and 37, for which I thank him and the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell. These amendments aim to set out further detail on the economic licence for the transport and storage of carbon dioxide. In particular, they concern the protection of a licence holder’s commercially sensitive information from certain disclosure requirements contained in Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill. These provisions, as drafted, enable the Secretary of State and the economic regulator to access information that is necessary for the conduct of their functions. It may be appropriate in some cases for the economic regulator to provide such information to relevant regulatory bodies or entities on which powers or duties have been conferred by legislation, such as the counterparty to the emitter contracts, or to obtain relevant information from those entities to ensure that decision-making is robust and takes into account all relevant considerations. Meanwhile, provision has been made in Clauses 26 and 27 to confirm that appropriate data protection requirements would continue to apply.

The noble Lord can be reassured, I hope, that these provisions were not drafted to facilitate any widespread publication of commercially sensitive information but to enable robust, informed decision-making. Further, the powers limit information requests to those which the economic regulator or Secretary of State consider necessary to facilitate the proper exercise of their functions.

Amendment 32, again tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, seeks to ensure that the economic regulator must reasonably consider whether the urgency of a matter makes it impracticable or inappropriate to carry out and publish an impact assessment for major proposals, or to make a statement as to why it is unnecessary for it to do so. Under current drafting of the Bill, it is where the economic regulator is minded to pursue a proposal which could have a significant impact on licence holders, persons engaged in activities associated with licensable activities, or on the general public or the environment. In such instances, the economic regulator is required to carry out and publish an assessment of the likely impact of implementing the proposal, or to confirm that it considers it unnecessary to carry out an assessment, with the reasons being given for this conclusion. This requirement does not apply if it appears to the economic regulator that it would be impractical or inappropriate, given the urgency of the matter to which the proposal relates.

In some situations, the urgency of the proposal would make it impractical for the economic regulator either to conduct the impact assessment before implementing a proposal or to publish a statement explaining why an assessment would be unnecessary. We think that it is important that the economic regulator is empowered to act swiftly without the need to produce such documentation in the unlikely event that that need arises.

I hope that I have been able to offer sufficient reassurance to the noble Lord in respect of the requirement for the economic regulator to conduct an impact assessment where required before implementing a major proposal, except in the limited situation of potential urgency or emergency. Therefore, with the reassurances that I have provided him, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw or not press all his amendments, except for Amendment 28, which we accept.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for accepting and agreeing to Amendment 28. I can assure him that I will not let that go to my head, but I will keep on trying with other amendments. I listened carefully to his explanation in relation to the other amendments. I understand what he is saying and I think it is right, so I will not pursue them.

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Moved by
33: Clause 32, page 30, line 25, leave out from beginning to “provision” and insert “Schedule (Enforcement of obligations of licence holders) makes”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment, the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 30, line 28, and New Schedule (Enforcement of obligations of licence holders) provide for the enforcement of obligations of licence holders and accordingly omit the powers in clause 32 to make corresponding provision by regulations.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in moving Amendment 33 I will also speak to Amendments 34 and 36 standing in my name. These amendments seek to amend Clause 32, concerning the enforcement of obligations of licence holders in the carbon dioxide transport and storage sector.

Clause 32, as drafted at introduction, establishes a delegated power for the Secretary of State to make, by regulations, the conditions of a carbon dioxide transport and storage licence enforceable by the economic regulator. In particular, this clause as originally drafted stipulates that regulations may provide that both the conditions within licences and notices served on the licence holder to provide information to the economic regulator may be enforced in the manner provided for in Section 25 of the Electricity Act 1989. However, Amendments 33, 34 and 36 would instead provide for the necessary enforcement measures in the Bill.

The powers available to the economic regulator to enforce licensable carbon dioxide transport and storage activities are intended to align broadly with enforcement powers in the gas and electricity sectors. However, in our view, setting out these powers in the primary legislation, which establishes the new economic regulation and licensing framework for carbon dioxide transport and storage, provides greater clarity for both the regulator and those who are to be regulated. This will remove any potential for debate regarding the different principal objectives and general duties that the economic regulator would be subject to when exercising these powers and the territorial extent of such powers.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that this further clarity and separation will serve to effectively enable the economic regulator to take appropriate action against any breach of the CO2 transport and storage licence conditions and in the event of non-compliance with information requests. Appropriate enforcement powers are essential to ensure that the licensing framework operates as intended, to ensure that licence conditions are adhered to and to prevent anti-competitive behaviour. This amendment to provide the economic regulator with complete powers for enforcement would therefore further secure its ability to support the establishment of the UK’s CCUS industry. I beg to move.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the government amendments appear to correct an oversight in the Bill. If noble Lords are confused then so am I. I am not entirely sure what the Minister was saying, but it appears to me that there was a stage missing in the original drafting of this Bill and the attempt now is to put in that stage—which is, in effect, a final warning to licence holders to act in specific ways in order to become compliant. If that is right, then I understand it and I do not oppose it, but I want to make sure that I understand correctly what the Government are trying to do. If I am right then, other than to point out the original omission, we do not oppose these measures; we just want clarification of what is being put into the Bill.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to provide the reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, asks for. It was simply a matter where, originally, we intended to take a power to do this through secondary legislation but, as we got to a later stage of drafting on the Bill, we thought that it would be more appropriate to put it in primary legislation. That is normally something that the House asks us to do. We were, on this occasion, trying to pre-empt some of the points that may be made by Peers to say that we should not do so much under powers and secondary legislation and should put it in the Bill—that is in fact what we are doing.

With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on resourcing, it is very early days—we have not even set up the regulator yet—so I cannot give him any specific figures on what resourcing the regulator will have. The Treasury will no doubt want to have considerable input into this, but we will want to make sure that it is appropriately resourced and that we have the appropriate technical abilities, technical inspectors and so on to make sure that this activity is appropriately licensed and enforced and, of course, is safe for operators, personnel and the public.

Amendment 33 agreed.
Moved by
34: Clause 32, page 30, line 28, leave out subsections (2) and (3)
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 30, line 25.
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Moved by
36: Before Schedule 3, insert the following new Schedule—
“ScheduleEnforcement of obligations of licence holdersOrders for securing compliance with certain provisions
(1) Where the economic regulator is satisfied that a licence holder is contravening, or is likely to contravene, any relevant condition or requirement, the economic regulator must make an order (a “final order”) containing such provision as appears to the economic regulator to be necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with that condition or requirement (but this sub-paragraph does not apply if the economic regulator is required to by sub-paragraph (2) to make a provisional order in respect of the contravention or likely contravention).(2) Where it appears to the economic regulator—(a) that a licence holder is contravening, or is likely to contravene, any relevant condition or requirement, and(b) that it is appropriate to make an order under this sub-paragraph,the economic regulator must (instead of taking steps towards the making of final order) make an order (a “provisional order”) containing such provision as appears to the economic regulator to be necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with that condition or requirement.(3) In determining for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(b) whether it is appropriate to make a provisional order, the economic regulator must have regard, in particular, to the extent to which any person is likely to sustain loss or damage in consequence of anything that is likely to be done (or omitted to be done) in contravention of the relevant condition or requirement before a final order may be made.(4) The economic regulator must confirm a provisional order, with or without modifications, if—(a) the economic regulator is satisfied that the licence holder is contravening, or is likely to contravene, any relevant condition or requirement, and(b) the provision made by the order (with any modifications) is necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with that condition or requirement.(5) If a provisional order is not previously confirmed under sub-paragraph (4), it is to cease to have effect at the end of such period (not exceeding three months) as is determined by or under the order.(6) Sub-paragraphs (1) to (4) are subject to sub-paragraphs (7) to (9) and paragraph 2. (7) The economic regulator—(a) must, before making a final order or making or confirming a provisional order, consider whether it would be more appropriate to proceed under the Competition Act 1998 (see section 37);(b) must not make a final order, or make or confirm a provisional order, if the economic regulator considers that it would be more appropriate to proceed under that Act.(8) The economic regulator may not make a final order or make or confirm a provisional order if the economic regulator is satisfied that the duties imposed on the economic regulator by section 1 preclude the making or, as the case may be, the confirmation of the order.(9) The economic regulator is not required to make a final order or make or confirm a provisional order if it is satisfied—(a) that the licence holder has agreed to take and is taking all such steps as appear to the economic regulator to be for the time being appropriate for the purpose of securing or facilitating compliance with the condition or requirement in question, or(b) that the contraventions were, or the apprehended contraventions are, of a trivial nature.(10) Where the economic regulator decides that it would be more appropriate to proceed under the Competition Act 1998 or is satisfied as mentioned in sub-paragraphs (8) and (9), the economic regulator must—(a) give notice to the licence holder that the economic regulator has so decided or is so satisfied, and(b) publish a copy of the notice in such manner as the economic regulator considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the matters to which the notice relates to the attention of persons likely to be affected by them.(11) A final or provisional order—(a) must require the licence holder (according to the circumstances of the case) to do, or not to do, such things as are specified in the order or are of a description so specified,(b) must take effect at such time as is determined by or under the order, which must be the earliest practicable time, and(c) may be revoked at any time by the economic regulator.(12) In this Schedule—“final order” means an order under sub-paragraph (1);“provisional order” means an order under sub-paragraph (2);“relevant condition” , in relation to a licence holder, means any condition of any licence (as defined in section 7) held by that person;“relevant requirement” , in relation to a licence holder, means any requirement imposed on the licence holder by or under this Part.Procedural requirements
2 (1) Before making a final order or confirming a provisional order, the economic regulator must give notice—(a) stating that the economic regulator proposes to make or confirm the order and setting out its effect,(b) stating—(i) the relevant condition or requirement,(ii) the acts or omissions which, in the economic regulator’s opinion, constitute or would constitute contraventions of it, and (iii) the other facts which, in the economic regulator’s opinion, justify the making or confirmation of the order, and(c) specifying the time (which must not be less than 21 days from the date of publication of the notice) within which representations or objections to the proposed order or confirmation of the order may be made,and must consider any representations or objections which are duly made and not withdrawn.(2) A notice under sub-paragraph (1) is given—(a) by publishing the notice in such manner as the economic regulator considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the matters to which the notice relates to the attention of persons likely to be affected by them, and(b) by sending a copy of the notice, and a copy of the proposed order or of the order proposed to be confirmed, to the licence holder.(3) The economic regulator must not make a final order with modifications, or confirm a provisional order with modifications, except with the consent of the licence holder or after complying with the requirements of sub-paragraph (4).(4) The requirements are that the economic regulator must—(a) give to the licence holder such notice as the economic regulator considers necessary of the economic regulator’s proposal to make or confirm the order with modifications,(b) specify the time (which must not be less than 21 days from the date of the service of the notice) within which representations or objections to the proposed modifications may be made, and(c) consider any representations or objections which are duly made and not withdrawn.(5) Where the economic regulator decides to proceed under the Competition Act 1998 in a case falling within paragraph 1(7)(b), the economic regulator must—(a) inform the licence holder concerned of that decision, and(b) publish the notice in a manner that the economic regulator thinks appropriate for bringing the notice to the attention of persons likely to be affected by the decision.(6) Before revoking a final order or a provisional order which has been confirmed, the economic regulator must give notice—(a) stating that the economic regulator proposes to revoke the order and setting out its effect, and(b) specifying the time (which must not be less than 28 days) from the date of publication of the notice within which representations or objections to the proposed revocation may be made,and must consider any representations or objections which are duly made and not withdrawn.(7) A notice under sub-paragraph (6) is given—(a) by publishing the notice in such manner as the economic regulator considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the matters to which the notice relates to the attention of persons likely to be affected by them, and(b) by sending a copy of the notice to the licence holder.(8) As soon as practicable after a final order is made or a provisional order is made or confirmed, the economic regulator must— (a) serve a copy of the order on the licence holder, and(b) publish such a copy in such manner as the economic regulator considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the order to the attention of persons likely to be affected by it.Validity and effect of orders
(1) If the licence holder is aggrieved by a final or provisional order and wishes to question its validity on the ground that the making or confirmation of it was not within the powers of paragraph 1, or that any of the requirements of paragraph 2 have not been complied with in relation to it, the licence holder may within 42 days from the date of service on the licence holder of a copy of the order make an application to the court under this paragraph.(2) On any such application the court, if satisfied that the making or confirmation of the order was not within those powers or that the interests of the licence holder have been substantially prejudiced by a failure to comply with those requirements, may quash the order or any provision of the order.(3) Except as provided by this paragraph, the validity of a final or provisional order may not be questioned by any legal proceedings whatever.(4) The obligation to comply with a final or provisional order is a duty owed to any person who may be affected by a contravention of it.(5) Where a duty is owed by virtue of sub-paragraph (4) to any person any breach of the duty which causes that person to sustain loss or damage is to be actionable at the suit or instance of that person.(6) In any proceedings brought against any person in pursuance of sub-paragraph (5), it is a defence for the person to prove that they took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid contravening the order.(7) Without prejudice to any right which any person may have by virtue of sub-paragraph (5) to bring civil proceedings in respect of any contravention or apprehended contravention of a final or provisional order, compliance with any such order is to be enforceable by civil proceedings by the economic regulator for an injunction or interdict or for any other appropriate relief.(8) In this paragraph “the court” means—(a) in relation to England and Wales and Northern Ireland, the High Court;(b) in relation to Scotland, the Court of Session.Penalties
(1) Where the economic regulator is satisfied that a licence holder has contravened or is contravening any relevant condition or requirement, the economic regulator may, subject to paragraph 6, impose on the licence holder a penalty of such amount as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.(2) Before imposing a penalty on a licence holder under sub-paragraph (1), the economic regulator must consider whether it would be more appropriate to proceed under the Competition Act 1998.(3) The economic regulator must not impose a penalty on a licence holder under sub-paragraph (1) if it considers that it would be more appropriate to proceed under the Competition Act 1998.(4) Before imposing a penalty on a licence holder under sub-paragraph (1) the economic regulator must give notice—(a) stating that it proposes to impose a penalty and the amount of the penalty proposed to be imposed,(b) setting out the relevant condition or requirement, (c) specifying the acts or omissions which, in the opinion of the economic regulator, constitute the contravention in question and the other facts which, in the opinion of the economic regulator, justify the imposition of a penalty and the amount of the penalty proposed, and(d) specifying the period (which must not be less than 21 days from the date of publication of the notice) within which representations or objections with respect to the proposed penalty may be made,and must consider any representations or objections which are duly made and not withdrawn.(5) Before varying any proposal stated in a notice under sub-paragraph (4)(a) the economic regulator must give notice—(a) setting out the proposed variation and the reasons for it, and(b) specifying the period (which must be at least 21 days from the date of publication of the notice) within which representations or objections with respect to the proposed variation may be made,and must consider any representations or objections which are duly made and not withdrawn.(6) As soon as practicable after imposing a penalty, the economic regulator must give notice—(a) stating that it has imposed a penalty on the licence holder and its amount,(b) setting out the relevant condition or requirement in question,(c) specifying the acts or omissions which, in the opinion of the economic regulator, constitute the contravention in question and the other facts which, in the opinion of the economic regulator, justify the imposition of the penalty and its amount, and(d) specifying a date, no earlier than the end of the period of 42 days from the date of service of the notice on the licence holder, by which the penalty is required to be paid.(7) The licence holder may, within 21 days of the date of service on the licence holder of a notice under sub-paragraph (6), make an application to the economic regulator for it to specify different dates by which different portions of the penalty are to be paid.(8) Any notice required to be given under this paragraph must be given—(a) by publishing the notice in such manner as the economic regulator considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the matters to which the notice relates to the attention of persons likely to be affected by them, and(b) by serving a copy of the notice on the licence holder.(9) This paragraph is subject to paragraph 10 (maximum amount of penalty that may be imposed).(10) Any sums received by the economic regulator by way of penalty under this paragraph must be paid into the Consolidated Fund.Statement of policy with respect to penalties
5 (1) The economic regulator must prepare and publish a statement of policy with respect to the imposition of penalties and the determination of their amount.(2) In deciding whether to impose a penalty, and in determining the amount of any penalty, in respect of a contravention the economic regulator must have regard to its statement of policy most recently published at the time when the contravention occurred. (3) The economic regulator may revise its statement of policy and where it does so must publish the revised statement.(4) Publication under this paragraph must be in such manner as the economic regulator considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the matters contained in the statement of policy to the attention of persons likely to be affected by them.(5) The economic regulator must undertake such consultation as it considers appropriate when preparing or revising its statement of policy.Time limits on the imposition of penalties
6 (1) Where no final or provisional order has been made in relation to a contravention, the economic regulator may not impose a penalty in respect of the contravention later than the end of the period of five years from the time of the contravention, unless before the end of that period—(a) the notice under paragraph 4(4) relating to the penalty is served on the licence holder under paragraph 4(8), or(b) a notice under section 29(2)(b) is served on the licence holder which specifies that the notice is served in connection with a concern on the part of the economic regulator that the licence holder may be contravening, or may have contravened, a relevant condition or requirement.(2) Where a final or provisional order has been made in relation to a contravention, the economic regulator may not impose a penalty in respect of the contravention unless the notice relating to the penalty under paragraph 4(4) was served on the licence holder under paragraph 4(8)—(a) within three months from the confirmation of the provisional order or the making of the final order, or(b) where the provisional order is not confirmed, within six months from the making of the provisional order.Interest and payment of instalments
7 (1) If the whole or any part of a penalty is not paid by the date by which it is required to be paid, the unpaid balance from time to time is to carry interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838.(2) If an application is made under paragraph 4(7) in relation to a penalty, the penalty is not required to be paid until the application has been determined.(3) If the economic regulator grants an application under that sub-paragraph in relation to a penalty but any portion of the penalty is not paid by the date specified in relation to it by the economic regulator under that sub-paragraph, the economic regulator may where it considers it appropriate require so much of the penalty as has not already been paid to be paid immediately.Appeals against penalties
8 (1) If the licence holder on whom a penalty is imposed is aggrieved by—(a) the imposition of the penalty,(b) the amount of the penalty, or(c) the date by which the penalty is required to be paid, or the different dates by which different portions of the penalty are required to be paid,the licence holder may make an application to the court under this paragraph.(2) An application under sub-paragraph (1) must be made— (a) within 42 days from the date of service on the licence holder of a notice under paragraph 4(6), or(b) where the application relates to a decision of the economic regulator on an application by the licence holder under paragraph 4(7), within 42 days from the date the licence holder is notified of the decision.(3) On any such application, where the court considers it appropriate to do so in all the circumstances of the case and is satisfied of one or more of the grounds falling within sub-paragraph (4), the court—(a) may quash the penalty,(b) may substitute a penalty of such lesser amount as the court considers appropriate in all the circumstances of the case, or(c) in the case of an application under sub-paragraph (1)(c), may substitute for the date or dates imposed by the economic regulator an alternative date or dates.(4) The grounds falling within this sub-paragraph are—(a) that the imposition of the penalty was not within the power of the economic regulator under paragraph 4,(b) that any of the requirements of sub-paragraphs (4) to (6) or (8) of paragraph 4 have not been complied with in relation to the imposition of the penalty and the interests of the licence holder have been substantially prejudiced by the non-compliance, or(c) that it was unreasonable of the economic regulator to require the penalty imposed, or any portion of it, to be paid by the date or dates by which it was required to be paid.(5) If an application is made under this paragraph in relation to a penalty, the penalty is not required to be paid until the application has been determined.(6) Where the court substitutes a penalty of a lesser amount it may require the payment of interest on the substituted penalty at such rate, and from such date, as it considers just and equitable.(7) Where the court specifies, as a date by which the penalty or a portion of the penalty is to be paid, a date before the determination of the application under this paragraph it may require the payment of interest on the penalty, or portion, from that date at such rate as it considers just and equitable.(8) Except as provided by this paragraph, the validity of a penalty is not to be questioned by any legal proceedings whatever.(9) In this paragraph “the court” means—(a) in relation to England and Wales or Northern Ireland, the High Court, and(b) in relation to Scotland, the Court of Session.Recovery of penalties
9 Where a penalty imposed under paragraph 4(1), or any portion of it, has not been paid by the date on which it is required to be paid and—(a) no application relating to the penalty has been made under paragraph 8 during the period within which such an application can be made, or(b) an application has been made under that paragraph and determined,the economic regulator may recover from the licence holder, as a civil debt due to it, any of the penalty and any interest which has not been paid.Maximum amount of penalty
10 (1) The maximum amount of penalty that may be imposed on a licence holder in respect of a contravention may not exceed 10 per cent of the licence holder's turnover.(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for how a person's turnover is to be determined for the purposes of this paragraph.(3) Regulations under sub-paragraph (2) are subject to the affirmative procedure.(4) In this paragraph “penalty” means a penalty imposed on a licence holder under paragraph 4.”Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 30, line 25.
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Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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I do not have an enormous amount to add to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I highlight again the significance of linking strategy and policy: that is crucial. We will discuss in future debates the issues around the role of the ISOP and its independence, and, particularly in the context of this afternoon’s debate, look at long-term thinking, making sure that we get all the checks and balances in place. We are in a very fast-moving environment and need to make sure that we are absolutely on top of all the changes that are taking place. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, highlighted the risk of lack of coherence: we need to make sure that everything is nailed down, line by line, and I am sure we will have further discussion on these areas as we go through different aspects of the Bill. I look forward to the Minister’s conclusions on this group of amendments.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his amendments, beginning with Amendments 38 and 112. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State may designate a CCUS strategy and policy statement to set out the strategic priorities of the Government in formulating their CCUS policy. This would also need to take account of any statement designated under Section 131 of the Energy Act 2013. The Secretary of State must carry out their functions under this part in the manner they consider is best to further deliver the policy outcomes set out in the statement. In addition, parliamentarians will have the opportunity to consider any draft CCUS strategy and policy statement before it can be designated, as is provided for by Clause 91(10). Setting out in a strategic policy statement possible scenarios for policy change would start to introduce considerable uncertainty for both investors and the regulator which would, in my view, hamper the stability of the sector.

Amendment 120 to Clause 98 would require that, when making regulations establishing or adjusting a low-carbon heat scheme, the Secretary of State must publish a statement demonstrating how the scheme would deliver in line with both the carbon capture usage and storage strategy and policy statement and any overall strategy and policy statement provided for by the Energy Act 2013. Of course, I agree with the noble Lord in his principle that policy-making should be aligned with the broader strategy and the latest science: that is why all policy on heat and building decarbonisation is and will continue to be developed in line with wider government energy and decarbonisation strategy. As we said in a recent government response to a consultation, the plan to introduce, for instance, the market-based low-carbon heat scheme is aligned with the aim to expand the deployment of heat pumps towards 600,000 installations per year by 2028. I am afraid I do not agree with the noble Lord, and therefore do not believe that requiring another series of publications each time new regulations are made is ultimately necessary. I therefore hope he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Turning to Amendment 128, Clauses 108 and 109 will enable the safe and effective delivery of a village-scale hydrogen heating trial to gather vital evidence to help make decisions on the potential role of hydrogen in heat decarbonisation. I reassure the noble Lord that trial development is already following the latest science. This amendment would delay the introduction of new regulations which are focused on the protection of consumers until two strategy and policy statements are published. The exact contents of these documents would also need to be properly consulted on before they are issued.

Energy Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage
Wednesday 7th September 2022

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Lords Chamber
Energy Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 39-II(a) Amendments for Committee (Supplementary to the Second Marshalled List) - (7 Sep 2022)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Energy Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his kind invitation to address noble Lords on this subject, and I thank others who have contributed to the debate.

Let me start with Amendment 40, tabled by the formidable Scottish duo of the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. He is sadly not with us today, which is a shame: he always adds to the jollity of the proceedings, but I am sure he will be back with us soon. This amendment seeks to ensure that the conferral of functions on persons by revenue support regulations is appropriately delegated.

Clause 57 sets out the Secretary of State’s power to make provision in regulations about revenue support contracts, including the funding of liabilities and costs in relation to such contracts. These are referred to as, as has been said, as the revenue support regulations. Clause 57(7) states that

“revenue support regulations may confer any function on any person.”

This is intended to enable persons other than a revenue support counterparty, allocation body or a hydrogen levy administrator to take on a role in the delivery of revenue support contracts and related funding. As with revenue support regulations, such functions would be limited to those about revenue support contracts, including the funding of liabilities and costs in relation to such contracts.

Let me make it clear to the House that Clause 57(7) absolutely does not provide the Secretary of State with a general power to confer any function on any person, outside of the scope of revenue support regulations. It is also worth noting that the selection by the Government of any person to undertake such functions would be subject to principles of public decision-making. The Government are, of course, duty bound to take only relevant considerations into account when making a decision.

I move on to Amendments 42, 44 and 64, from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Baroness Blake, and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. These amendments seek to ensure propriety when conducting the designation exercise and when transferring any relevant property, rights and liabilities. Of course, it goes without saying that I too support ensuring the upmost standards for those wishing to fulfil the role of hydrogen production counter- party.

The Government anticipate that the Low Carbon Contracts Company Ltd, or LCCC, which is the existing counterparty for contracts for difference and the planned counterparty for the dispatchable power agreement, will in fact be the counterparty for the low-carbon hydrogen agreement, subject of course to successful completion of administrative and legislative arrangements. That is also the case for the industrial carbon capture contracts. In taking the decision to proceed with the LCCC as the counterparty to the low-carbon hydrogen agreement, the Secretary of State considered, among other things, its ability to deliver the required functions and experience and track record in contract management. These considerations would of course be made on any future decisions, which would also be subject, as I have said, to the normal principles of public decision-making.

It is worth pointing out—I suppose that this is the Government declaring an interest—that the LCCC is wholly owned by the Secretary of State for BEIS and is governed by its articles of association and a framework document setting out the relationship with the Secretary of State and its guiding principle.

The justification of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for the inclusion of “fit and proper” was its apparent precedent in what was the National Security and Investment Bill, yet this phrasing does not in fact appear in the Act as made. Therefore, with the reassurances and information that I have been able to provide to noble Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Portrait Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke (Lab)
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Given that explanation, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Geddes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes) (Con)
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We come to Amendment 41. Lord Callanan?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Moved formally. No! I will speak to it.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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You just can’t get the Whips to support you properly nowadays, can you?

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am only joking. My noble friend is brilliant at the job.

Amendment 41

Moved by
41: Clause 57, page 52, line 21, at end insert “or (Enforcement).”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment provides for regulations under new clause (Enforcement) to be subject to the affirmative procedure.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will speak to government Amendments 41 and 63 standing in my name. Amendment 63 will enable the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority and the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation to enforce hydrogen levy requirements imposed on relevant Great Britain and Northern Ireland market participants respectively.

The existing enforcement provisions in the Bill enable regulations to make provision for the levy administrator to, for example, issue notices and charge interest on late payments in respect of market participants who default on levy payments. Amendment 63 complements the existing enforcement provisions. Crucially, it ensures that regulations can make provisions for more robust forms of enforcement and enables enforcement under the terms of the licences held by market participants obliged to pay the levy, such as the possibility of licence revocation. It is critical that the levy is supported by a suite of enforcement measures. This will help reduce the risk of defaults on levy payments and help ensure that the levy administrator can collect the money required to fund the hydrogen business model and cover related costs.

Amendment 41 ensures that regulations made under this new clause will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, to ensure sufficient parliamentary scrutiny of these more robust enforcement arrangements. Therefore, I hope they will be acceptable to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, these government amendments are evidence of the rather chaotic state of the Bill as it has come to us. It is long—300-plus pages, 13 parts, et cetera—and missing this from the original drafting is an oversight by the Government that needs some explanation. Having said that, the amendments allow for an enforcement provision under the new regulations and for these to be subject to the affirmative procedure. We welcome that scrutiny and the ability to enforce regulations that are made. These amendments will also allow revenue support regulators to make provision for the relevant requirements found in the pre-existing enforcement regimes win the Gas Act 1986 and the Electricity Act 1989, as well as, as the Minister said, regulations regarding Northern Ireland. I would be interested to know when the existence of these pre-existing requirements was discovered. I look forward to his response.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct that a lot of drafting work went in. There is always limited OPC drafting time in government. It is regrettable that these clauses have had to be added, but I hope that I have provided sufficient explanation for them. The detailed levy design is pending, of course, but they include the enforcement arrangements for the levy. It is crucial that we allow for regulations to make provision for a range of enforcement measures. This provision simply allows regulations to enable the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority and the utility regulator to use their existing enforcement powers to ensure that relevant market participants comply with the obligation to pay the levy. Participants in the energy market are already very familiar with these arrangements.

Amendment 41 agreed.
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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, which relates to resilience. We are very bad at spending money on resilience. The Treasury hates to spend money on resilience, as I know from my time as a Minister.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It hates to spend money full stop.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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Well, yes, it hates to spend money full stop, but especially on resilience. Whether it is the loss of our GPS system and how we would counter that or PNT, there is a whole raft of areas where it is really unwilling to move and spend money even though these things are crucial. In this case, it is extremely important that we have the ability to store gas as we move into the future. I agree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, that the amount we have to store may vary quite dramatically.

Earlier, the Minister spoke about how we have infrastructure built to bring LNG into this country. We certainly do—I was heavily involved in ensuring that we got the right ships from the North Dome in Qatar to Milford Haven and setting up the infrastructure there. It was meant to provide 15% to 30% of our LNG. That was fine when people were not outbidding us for that LNG. That is the problem now; we cannot guarantee that that LNG will come to us, so we need some form of resilience. I believe that resilience should be our having some gas storage capability.

I have to get a naval thing in. It is interesting that, between the two wars, we forced the Treasury to ensure that our then 850-ship Navy—it is a bit smaller now—had sufficient fuel stored in this country to fight at war rates for six months. Someone in government had calculated it. We have to have a calculation; 25% might be wrong, but there is a requirement for some storage. We need to think very hard and the Government need to come up with a view from their experts on how much that should be. It may dwindle in time, but we certainly need it in the near term as quickly as possible. I very strongly support Amendment 225.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Oates, are very welcome and they plug a gap in the Energy Bill. Amendment 50 facilitates the changes proposed by allowing the Secretary of State to

“designate the person to be a counterparty for long duration energy storage revenue support contracts.”

Amendment 51 introduces a new clause which allows the Secretary of State to

“direct a long duration energy storage counterparty to offer to contract with an eligible person”.

Clauses 59, 61 and 63 already allow designation of counterparties for transport and storage, hydrogen production and carbon capture revenue support contracts, and Amendment 50 simply replicates this for long duration energy storage. Similarly, Clauses 60, 62 and 64 already allow the Secretary of State to direct counterparties to offer to contract, and Amendment 51 replicates this for long duration energy storage.

The amendments define long-duration energy storage revenue support contracts as being

“between a long duration energy storage counterparty and the holder of a licence under section 7”

and, as ones

“entered into by a long duration energy storage counterparty in pursuance of a direction given to it under section 60(1).”

This fills a big gap for long-duration energy storage. According to the Government, longer-duration storage—access across days, weeks and months—could help to reduce the cost of meeting net zero by storing excess low-carbon generation for longer periods of time, thereby helping to manage variation in generation, such as extended periods of low wind. This in turn could reduce the amount of fossil-fuel and low-carbon generation that would otherwise be needed to optimise the energy output from renewables.

Long-duration energy storage includes pumped storage as well as a range of innovative new technologies that can store electricity for four hours to supply firm, flexible and fast energy that is valuable for managing high-renewables systems. Introducing long-duration energy storage in large quantities in Britain by 2035 can reduce carbon emissions by 10 megatonnes of CO2 per annum, reduce systems costs by £1.13 billion per annum and reduce reliance on gas by 50 TWh per annum. That seems to me worth consideration in this Bill.

Amendment 225 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, which has general support around the House, requires the Government to produce a strategy for the storage of gas for domestic consumption. This would see the construction and operation of gas storage facilities capable of holding 25%, although it could be more—it could be 100%—of forecast domestic consumption each year beyond 2025. While agreeing that UK gas storage is currently small, which may have left us exposed to higher prices and shortages thus far, is it the solution to the long-term energy supply problems that we may face? It may well be that we need an immediate expansion of gas, but whether it is the long-term solution to our energy supply is open to some question. The UK currently stores enough gas to meet demand over four or five winter days, which is clearly not enough. But the new Chancellor said, when he was the Business Secretary, that the answer to mitigating a quadrupling of the gas price in four months was to get more diverse sources of supply, and more diverse sources of electricity, through non-carbon sources. So there is some doubt about the long-term viability of increasing gas storage.

Amendment 240 from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, would establish a new clause to store energy generated by solar panels in the list of energy-saving materials that are subject to zero-rate VAT. He had the example of his friend in the south-west. Modelling from Cornwall Insight’s view of the GB power market out to 2030 has shown that between 2025 and 2030 the Government must spend almost one-fifth of their total energy technologies investment, which includes solar, wind, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, on energy storage batteries, if we are to meet renewable targets and stabilise the energy market. Latest data estimates that almost 10% of grid capacity will be provided by battery storage by 2030, at an estimated cost of £20 billion. So, considering both the need and the cost of this, the amendment seems a sensible proposal to encourage the market to take up some of the burden.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for participating in what has been a fascinating debate on an important subject, very much building on the discussion that we had earlier this afternoon. I shall come on to the issue of gas storage—a popular topic of the day—a bit later.

I start with Amendments 50 and 51, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Oates. Long-duration energy storage covers a wide range of technologies, and the Government are looking at the need for revenue support for these separately, as they all face different challenges and solve different problems. While I commend the noble Lord’s intentions, I put it to him that these amendments are premature at this stage.

In the case of electricity storage, I reassure the noble Lord that we are committed to developing policy enabling investment for large-scale, long-duration electricity storage by 2024, as we have set out in our response to the call for evidence. As noted by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, we recognise that these technologies face significant barriers to deployment under the current market framework, due to their long build times, the high upfront costs, and the lack of forecastable revenue streams. Similarly, in the case of hydrogen storage, the 2021 UK hydrogen strategy set out our ambitions in this area.

More recently, and in recognition of the important role that hydrogen storage is expected to play in the hydrogen economy, we committed in the 2022 British energy security strategy to design hydrogen transport and storage business models by 2025. Indeed, we published a consultation on these matters in August. It is my contention that adding these clauses to the Bill now would prejudge the outcomes of the policy development which, as I hope noble Lords recognise, is already well under way.

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Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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That is moving back from what I understood. I understood there had been an agreement, or is it just that the facility has been licensed? Is that how far it has got, and so a commercial agreement has still to be made? Is that where we are?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said at OQs this afternoon, licences have been granted by Ofgem, by the regulatory bodies, because the safety and security of the facility is important. Centrica has taken a commercial decision to open part of the storage facility for this winter, and it has submitted other plans for our consideration, which we are doing. I apologise to the noble Lord, but I can go no further than that at the moment. As soon I have further information, and we expect progress in the near future, I will inform the noble Lord and the rest of the Committee.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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I thank the Minister for that information, but it sounds to me like Centrica is conducting a very hard negotiation with the Government, maybe at the security expense of the country—I do not know.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will leave that as a comment; there is nothing I can reply to on it. When I have further information, I will update the Committee.

The commitment proposed by my noble friend Lord Moylan to have in storage gas equivalent to 25% of forecast domestic consumption by 2025 is extremely ambitious. It is also horrendously expensive to do and, I submit to the Committee, unnecessary. The Government fully recognise the importance of gas storage, as I said, and officials continue to work on the future role that it can play in the clean energy landscape, particularly as gas production, as a number of noble Lords have said, can start to decline. But, of course, the fact that we get 45% of our production from our own continental shelf is, in effect, a giant gas storage facility and that is why we have traditionally had much less than continental countries which do not have those advantages. There is an integrated market—that is correct—and both sides benefit from it. As I said, the interconnectors over this year have been operating massively in the direction of the rest of continental Europe from the UK.

I think I have answered all the questions that were raised about gas storage facilities.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I am sure it is on the departmental website, but do we know how much gas is supplied by interconnectors from Norway, and how much is supplied by tankers from Dubai and other countries in the overall scheme of things?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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When my noble friend says “tankers”, I take it she means LNG tankers. I forget the exact figure, but we get 45% from our own domestic capacity and about 3% to 4% through interconnectors, so I guess the rest will be made up from LNG shipments. We have three LNG gasification terminals in the UK. Those figures are off the top of my head; I will correct them if they are not right.

Turning to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, I am sure he expects the reply that he is going to get. As he will be well aware, changes to tax policy are considered as part of the Budget process. As Treasury officials are always very keen to tell me whenever I put forward such proposals, they have lots of proposals from people for exemptions from various taxes but not many proposals for how to make up the revenue that would be lost from them. I am sure that the Chancellor will want to take that fully into consideration in the context of the Government’s wider fiscal position. I fully take on board the points that the noble Lord made. The Government keep all taxes under review and always, the Treasury tells me, welcome representations to help inform future decisions on tax policy.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
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In case there are any Treasury officials listening or, indeed, reading Hansard, I suggest that one form of new tax would be on the trading of fossil fuel commodities. This is a huge source of revenue to the suppliers of fossil fuels into the market, and the commodity trading markets is a very good place to look for taxation revenue.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her suggestion. The Treasury is not normally shy in coming forward with proposals for extra taxes if it thinks it can get away with it. Of course, we have already imposed the excess profits levy on a number of producers in the UK; indeed, those producers already pay increased rates of corporation tax. We must be careful that we do not disincentivise investment. Putting aside the wider politics of it, which we all understand, I am sure that everybody is aware that we need tens of billions of pounds of investment into existing oil and gas facilities. I welcome the support of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for the continued production of UK gas; it is an important transition fuel and I hope he will manage to convince some of his Liberal Democrat colleagues to support us in this. We do need gas in the short term, but many of those same companies are investing many billions of pounds also in offshore wind and other renewable energy infrastructure, so we want to be careful not to disincentive them too much from that. I am sure the Treasury will want to take into account all these helpful considerations as to how it can increase its tax base.

In conclusion, I am grateful to noble Lords for their amendments on these topics. I hope I have been able to provide at least some reassurance to some people on their amendments and that they will therefore feel able not to press them.

Lord Oates Portrait Lord Oates (LD)
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I thank the Minister for his reply. On the tax treatment of batteries for solar power, I heard the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Questions today say on a number of occasions, “What I am about is cutting tax”, so perhaps he could suggest to her that this is one of the first tax cuts she could make.

On long-duration storage, the Minister made the point that there is a wide range of technologies, some of which are innovative, and the Government need to consider them. As I said in moving my amendment, that is acknowledged, but there are some that are not innovative: they are proven and effective and we need to get on with them. I hope the Minister can find a way of addressing this, because we will come back to it. The Government need to find a way, whether it is through specific pathfinder pilots or whatever it is, to get on with some of the things that need to happen now. The Minister said that it was premature at this stage to come forward with this stuff. If he talked to the project managers of Coire Glas, I think they would tell him it is not premature at all; in fact, it is desperately needed. They have a project ready to go, but they have no revenue model. We know we need it, the Government acknowledge in their consultation on long-duration storage that we need to massively ramp this up, so we really need to get on with it. I am afraid the Minister did not really address that.

I have one final question for the Minister. He said we will have the solution “by 2024”. Can he confirm that that means we will have the revenue models by 1 January 2024? There is a big difference between “by 2024” and during 2024. The industry is very worried that, when it has pressed the department on this, it has been given no assurance that it actually means “by 2024” and that it could be by the end of 2024. Can the Minister clarify that, in writing perhaps, to me and other Members of the Committee? These are critical things. We just have to get on with doing the things that we know how to do. There are lots of things that we do not know how to do. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I think we are all trying to achieve the same thing here. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, said, maybe we need to take this forward as a way to do it. The cost to consumers is absolutely central at the moment, and this is not a short-term thing—it is at least medium term. Later we will come to an amendment which says we should repeal the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act, which was all about raising costs to consumers in the short term and has nothing to do with nuclear power otherwise.

In my amendment, I am trying to do something very similar to what has already been debated: if we are going to accept this levy—we know levies are always very contentious when implemented in terms of who has to pay for them and who gets the benefits from them, which leads to a lot of argument—it is quite clear that for hydrogen there is only a very limited sector of organisations, people and population who will actually benefit from it. In its own way, my amendment seeks to prevent other consumers who are not benefiting from hydrogen having to pay for that investment.

It is very much in line with other Members’ amendments and it is absolutely fundamental to the messages that we as a Parliament, and the Government, are putting out at the moment to consumers and company users of energy. Let us make sure that, if we have this levy, it is kept to those who benefit from hydrogen rather than those outside who do not.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Worthington and Lady Blake, for their amendments relating to the hydrogen levy provision. Before turning to the amendments, let me make the general point that these provisions in the Energy Bill will not, as all noble Lords are aware, immediately introduce this levy; they will only enable government to introduce the levy later through secondary legislation.

I will start with Amendments 52, 54 and 62 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. Amendments 52 and 54 seek to limit the energy market participants that could be obliged to pay any future hydrogen levy to gas shippers only. The Government intend that the levy would initially be placed on energy suppliers, and it will operate in a similar way to the existing levy schemes, where revenue support is funded through energy supplier obligations, such as the supplier obligation that funds the current contracts for difference regime. That is because these funding mechanisms are well understood by the private sector and have been extremely successful. The Government consider that establishing a similar levy would provide investors and developers with confidence to invest in low-carbon hydrogen production projects.

The option to levy gas shippers has been included with the intention to allow for a greater range of options for future levy design. The Government anticipate that the costs of any future levy on gas shippers would be passed through the energy supply chain and ultimately on to energy users, in a similar way to existing supplier obligations. It is unlikely therefore that these amendments would have the effect of preventing costs associated with the levy being passed on to households.

I turn to Amendment 62, which seeks to guarantee the return of overpayments of the levy to energy customers. The Government’s intention, and our expectation, would be that, in the event of overpayment by relevant market participants, those sums would be returned to market participants, who in turn should then pass them on to their customers.

Amendment 53, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, seeks to ensure than an obligation to pay a hydrogen levy would, where possible, be placed only on those who would directly benefit from the low-carbon hydrogen production funded by the levy. Low-carbon hydrogen could support decarbonisation across the economy, which could benefit gas and electricity customers generally.

The powers that we have in the Bill provide options for where a hydrogen levy might be placed in the energy value chain, enabling future regulations to make provisions requiring one or more descriptions of gas suppliers, electricity suppliers and/or gas shippers to pay the levy. The Government have not yet reached a decision regarding which types of market participants will be obliged to pay the levy. That decision will be taken in due course and will no doubt be discussed in our Lordships’ House during the course of the secondary legislation that would be required to implement it. The decision will take into account a wide range of considerations, including but not limited to considerations related to fairness, which I know are the focus of the amendments tabled by the noble Lords. Given the Government’s approach to policy development on this levy, I hope that noble Lords recognise the amendment is unnecessary.

I turn to Amendments 55, 56 and 57, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. Amendment 55 seeks to ensure that an obligation to pay a hydrogen levy administrator could not be placed on electricity suppliers. I would contend that it is crucial that the provisions in the Bill allow for a range of options for where the levy might be placed to help enable the Government to future-proof the levy over the longer term and accommodate changes to the wider energy market.

As I alluded to earlier, we expect low-carbon hydrogen to play an important role in decarbonising the electricity sector. This provides support to the case for including electricity suppliers as a possible point of obligation for the levy. I understand the concern expressed by the noble Baroness and, if she will allow me, I will take this away and possibly revisit it at Report, but I hope she will not press her amendment.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
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I am grateful for the Minister’s response. I have no doubt that hydrogen will have a role to play, but it is more likely to go into fertiliser production or long-distance fuels for shipping and aviation. The provisions being taken here do not allow for it to be applied to the sectors that consume fossil fuels—gas obviously covers fertilised gas. This needs to be thought through in relation to where hydrogen will most likely be needed. It will play a tiny role in decarbonising electricity, if at all, because there are so many other ways of doing it more cheaply and more efficiently.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I understand the point made by the noble Baroness. I have also seen the models of where it is most likely that hydrogen would be used, and I have considerable sympathy for many of the points that she made. As to the where it will be used, it will clearly be in industrial processes and heavy-goods transportation. These would be more likely uses than home heating or decarbonisation, but it would possibly play a role. Nevertheless, as I said, I have taken note of what has been said in the Committee and understand the points that have been made. If the noble Baroness allows me, I will take them away to look at, and possibly revisit them at Report.

Amendment 56 seeks to impose restrictions on when the hydrogen levy can be introduced to fund the hydrogen business model. This will help to unlock potentially billions of pounds worth of investment in hydrogen that we need across the UK. The Government are committed to ensuring that long-term funding is provided through the hydrogen business model, and the provisions in the Bill do not require the Government to introduce the levy by a particular date. We do not expect the levy to be introduced any time before 2025, and so we do not expect it to have any impact on consumer bills before then, at the earliest. Decisions regarding when to introduce the levy will take into account wider government policies and priorities, including considerations related to energy bill affordability, which is always at the forefront of our considerations.

The first set of regulations under Clause 66, establishing the levy, will also be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so we would fully expect Parliament to exercise its role, and particularly your Lordships’ House to scrutinise how the Government intend to exercise those powers.

Amendment 56 would, in my view, introduce restrictions that are unnecessary, given the Government’s approach to decisions related to when to introduce the levy and the parliamentary scrutiny requirements that would be associated with any relevant secondary legislation.

Amendment 57 seeks to protect consumers by introducing a requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a specific consumer impact report before making regulations under Clause 66, establishing a hydrogen levy. As I mentioned, the parliamentary procedure for the first set of regulations that establish the levy will help ensure that the levy receives sufficient scrutiny from Parliament. Crucially, I can tell the Committee that it is already the Government’s intention to publish an impact assessment alongside the draft regulations made under Clause 66. I hope noble Lords will recognise that the amendment is unnecessary and feel able to not press their amendments.

Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord for his comments and welcome, as we all do, the commitment to revisit one of the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. We look forward with interest to that. However, on some of the other aspects, there will be conversations between now and Report, and I am fairly confident that we will come back to discuss what is, in our view, a really important area. With those comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
63: After Clause 77, insert the following new Clause—
“Enforcement
Enforcement(1) Revenue support regulations may make provision—(a) for requirements imposed under the regulations on—(i) a gas supplier who holds a licence under section 7A(1) of the Gas Act 1986, or(ii) a person who holds a licence under section 7A(2) of that Act (gas shipper),to be enforceable by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority as if they were relevant requirements within the meaning of sections 28 to 30O of that Act;(b) for requirements imposed under the regulations on an electricity supplier who holds a licence under section 6(1)(d) of the Electricity Act 1989 to be enforceable by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority as if they were relevant requirements within the meaning of Part 1 of that Act;(c) for requirements imposed under the regulations on—(i) an electricity supplier who holds a licence under Article 10(1)(c) of the Electricity (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 (S.I. 1992/231 (N.I. 1)), or(ii) a gas supplier who holds a licence under Article 8(1)(c) of the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (S.I. 1996/275 (N.I. 2)),to be enforceable by the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation as if they were relevant requirements within the meaning of Part 6 of the Energy (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 (S.I. 2003/419 (N.I. 6)).(2) References in subsection (1) to enforcement include enforcement under the terms of a licence mentioned in any of paragraphs (a) to (c) of that subsection.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment enables revenue support regulations to make provision about the enforcement of requirements imposed by the regulations.
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Moved by
65: After Clause 81, insert the following new Clause—
Modifications of licences etc
(1) The Secretary of State may modify—
(a) a condition of a particular licence under section 6(1)(b) of the Electricity Act 1989 (transmission licences);
(b) the standard conditions incorporated in licences under section 6(1)(b) of the Electricity Act 1989 by virtue of section 8A of that Act;
(c) a document maintained in accordance with the conditions of licences under section 6(1)(b) of the Electricity Act 1989, or an agreement that gives effect to a document so maintained.
(2) The Secretary of State may modify—
(a) a condition of a particular licence under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986 (licensing of gas transporters);
(b) the standard conditions incorporated in licences under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986 by virtue of section 8 of that Act;
(c) a document maintained in accordance with the conditions of licences under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986, or an agreement that gives effect to a document so maintained.
(3) The Secretary of State may modify—
(a) a condition of a particular licence under Article 10(1)(b), (bb) or (d) of the Electricity (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 (S.I. 1992/231 (N.I. 1)) (transmission, distribution or SEM operator licences);
(b) the standard conditions of licences under Article 10(1)(b), (bb) or (d) of that Order;
(c) a document maintained in accordance with the conditions of licences under Article 10(1)(b), (bb) or (d) of that Order, or an agreement that gives effect to a document so maintained.
(4) The Secretary of State may modify—
(a) a condition of a particular licence under Article 8(1)(a) of the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (S.I. 1996/275 (N.I. 2)) (licences to convey gas);
(b) the standard conditions of licences under Article 8(1)(a) of that Order;
(c) a document maintained in accordance with the conditions of licences under Article 8(1)(a) of that Order, or an agreement that gives effect to a document so maintained.
(5) The powers conferred by subsections (1) to (4) may be exercised only for the purpose of facilitating or supporting enforcement of, and administration in connection with, obligations under regulations within section 66 (including facilitation and support by way of allowing or requiring the provision of services).
(6) Provision included in a licence, or in a document or agreement relating to licences, by virtue of any power under subsections (1) to (4) may in particular include provision of a kind that may be included in revenue support regulations.
(7) If under subsection (1) or (2) the Secretary of State makes modifications of the standard conditions of a licence, the GEMA must—
(a) make the same modification of those standard conditions for the purposes of their incorporation in licences of that type granted after that time, and
(b) publish the modification.
(8) If under subsection (3) or (4) the Secretary of State makes modifications of the standard conditions of a licence, the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation must—
(a) make the same modification of those standard conditions for the purposes of their incorporation in licences of that type granted after that time, and
(b) publish the modification.
(9) Before making a modification under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) the holder of any licence being modified, and
(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to consult.
(10) Subsection (9) may be satisfied by consultation before, as well as by consultation after, the passing of this Act.
Member’s explanatory statement
This new clause and new clause (Section (Modifications of licences etc): supplementary) confer power to modify certain licence conditions, industry codes etc for purposes related to the enforcement of the hydrogen levy.
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 65 I shall speak also to Amendments 66, 147, 149 and 190 standing in my name. These amendments will allow the Secretary of State to modify the licences of certain gas and electricity market participants in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They will also allow the Secretary of State to modify documents maintained in accordance with these licences, such as industry codes, or agreements that give effect to such documents. The Secretary of State will be able to make such modifications only for the purpose of facilitating or supporting enforcement of, and administration in connection with, hydrogen levy obligations.

As I have said, decisions on the detailed design of the levy are pending. However, it is likely that persons other than the levy administrator will need to perform functions, provide services, and/or provide information and advice that support and facilitate the administration and enforcement of the levy. This power is required in order that the Secretary of State can modify relevant licences and codes to support and facilitate the administration and enforcement of the levy. In particular, it is required so that the Secretary of State may make modifications to support or facilitate persons who are parties to relevant industry codes to take on roles related to the levy’s administration and enforcement.

I can tell the Committee that there is precedent for this type of provision, with similar powers contained in the Energy Act 2013 and the recent Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act 2022. Provisions in the Energy Act 2013 were used to make licence and code modifications in relation to the contracts for difference regime. This power will help future-proof the levy, enabling the Secretary of State to implement licence or code modifications in order to accommodate any future changes to the levy design.

I can reassure your Lordships that these amendments of course include a requirement for the Secretary of State to consult the holder of any licence being modified and such other persons as the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to consult before making any modification. This will help ensure that relevant bodies are engaged in any potential modifications.

In addition, before making modifications under this power, the Secretary of State must lay a draft of the modifications before Parliament, where they will be subject to a procedure analogous to the draft negative resolution procedure used for statutory instruments. This also allows for additional scrutiny for any proposed modifications under this power. I beg to move.

Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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Briefly, I thank the Minister for that explanation. I am sure, looking back at comments made earlier this afternoon, that the team opposite cannot be happy with the number of government amendments that are coming through on the Bill at this stage—I hope that will be taken up on a serious note on this and other Bills that have come forward.

The only slight question I have is that we talk about consultation as though everyone understands exactly how it happens and everyone is happy with the way it is done. Is it possible to be slightly more specific about who else might be consulted apart from the owner of the licence? I would also like some reassurance around the openness and transparency of a process to make sure that all parties are aware of any changes made in the future.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am happy to reassure the noble Baroness that the relevant consultations will of course take place on any changes made.

Amendment 65 agreed.
Moved by
66: After Clause 81, insert the following new Clause—
“Section (Modifications of licences etc): supplementary(1) In this section “relevant power” means a power conferred by any of subsections (1) to (4) of section (Modifications of licences etc).(2) Before making modifications under a relevant power, the Secretary of State must lay a draft of the modifications before Parliament.(3) If, within the 40-day period, either House of Parliament resolves not to approve the draft, the Secretary of State may not take any further steps in relation to the proposed modifications.(4) If no such resolution is made within that period, the Secretary of State may make the modifications in the form of the draft.(5) Subsection (3) does not prevent a new draft of proposed modifications being laid before Parliament.(6) In this section “40-day period”, in relation to a draft of proposed modifications, means the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the draft is laid before Parliament (or, if it is not laid before each House of Parliament on the same day, the later of the 2 days on which it is laid).(7) For the purposes of calculating the 40-day period, no account is to be taken of any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than 4 days.(8) A relevant power—(a) may be exercised generally, only in relation to specified cases or subject to exceptions (including provision for a case to be excepted only so long as specified conditions are satisfied);(b) may be exercised differently in different cases or circumstances;(c) includes a power to make incidental, supplementary, consequential or transitional modifications.(9) Provision included in a licence, or in a document or agreement relating to licences, by virtue of a relevant power—(a) may make different provision for different cases;(b) need not relate to the activities authorised by the licence.(10) The Secretary of State must publish details of any modifications made under a relevant power as soon as reasonably practicable after they are made.(11) A modification made under a relevant power of part of a standard condition of a licence does not prevent any other part of the condition from continuing to be regarded as a standard condition for the purposes of Part 1 of the Gas Act 1986, Part 1 of the Electricity Act 1989, the Electricity (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 or the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. (12) The power conferred by a relevant power to “modify” (in relation to licence conditions or a document) includes a power to amend, add to or remove, and references to modifications are to be construed accordingly.(13) In section 81 of the Utilities Act 2000 (standard conditions of gas licences), in subsection (2), after “Smart Meters Act 2018” insert “or under section (Modifications of licences etc) or sections 193 to 195 of the Energy Act 2022”.(14) In section 137 of the Energy Act 2004 (new standard conditions for transmission licences), in subsection (3)—(a) omit the “or” after paragraph (f);(b) after paragraph (g) insert—“(h) under section (Modifications of licences etc) of the Energy Act 2022,”Member's explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for new clause (Modifications of licences etc).
--- Later in debate ---
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Moved formally.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am one group ahead.

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Don’t worry, Martin—we’re counting it against you.

Amendment 67

Moved by
67: Clause 82, page 71, line 22, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for requiring relevant persons to provide security for the performance of obligations relating to the future abandonment or decommissioning of carbon dioxide-related sites, pipelines or installations.(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) an installation, site or pipeline is “carbon dioxide-related” if it is, or is to be, used for a purpose related to the geological storage, or transportation, of carbon dioxide.(1B) In this section references to an installation, site or pipeline include one that is located in, under or over—(a) the territorial sea adjacent to the United Kingdom, or(b) waters in a Gas Importation and Storage Zone (within the meaning given by section 1 of the Energy Act 2008).”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendments in the name of Lord Callanan at page 71, line 34 and page 71, line 38 revise the scope of the power in subsection (1) so that it is defined in terms of the provision of security for the performance of certain obligations, rather than by reference to the provision of security in respect of specific kinds of costs.
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise to the House for the delay. It is typical that I should do that when the new Leader has just arrived and when my possible reappointment is still under consideration.

Amendment 67 ensures that regulations requiring provision of security for decommissioning can capture obligations relating to “carbon dioxide related” installations, sites and pipelines. It also clarifies that the power extends to both onshore and offshore assets.

Amendment 69 expands the class of people who may be required to provide security in respect of their carbon capture usage and storage decommissioning obligations. This includes an economic licence holder under Clause 7, or someone to whom a notice has been, or may be, given for the preparation of an abandonment programme under the Petroleum Act 1998. Amendment 68 amends the label to “relevant person” so it is more consistent with this revised definition. Amendments 73, 77 and 85 are consequential to those amendments.

Amendment 70 introduces a broader definition of decommissioning costs. This is to ensure that the regulations requiring provision of security reflect the full range of decommissioning obligations. These obligations include such things as the decommissioning of infrastructure and the post-closure monitoring obligations as set out in the Government’s 2021 consultation. Amendments 71, 72, 74, 83 and 89 are consequential.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I should also be interested to know that. First, may I say to the new Leader of the House that I would strongly recommend the reappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Callanan. That probably does him no favours at all, but that is just how it is. Secondly, I was going to set out a hypothetical situation about an oil and gas plant—

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If I may, I should like to say that I said earlier in the House that I would value good relations across the House, but the noble Lord must not take it too far by damning my Ministers with praise from the Labour Party.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Okay, do not reappoint him. What can I say? I was going to set out a hypothetical situation about an oil and gas plant that had been decommissioned, but not fully, and was to be recommissioned and transferred to CCUS usage. I do not know whether that will never be possible, but who knows? It is a complicated situation and I wanted to know where the Minister thought responsibility would lie. However, I am pleased to say that he has pointed us towards the 1998 Act, the 2008 Act and some other Acts, so somewhere in there lies an answer. It would seem sensible to draw together whatever is the answer to the question and put it in the Bill, to update it. The Minister can come back on that and to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, about whether that will ever be the situation.

As for the other government amendments to the Bill, I have again to make the point that this Bill of 350-plus pages, three parts and however many clauses is surely sufficient to cover the energy circumstance. As I said in my introduction yesterday, the Bill is a mix of all sorts of things without a coherent theme. If it had a coherent theme, it might well have covered these matters in the first place, but that is really for then, not for now.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords, and let me apologise to the Committee for the number of government amendments. They are quite technical, and the Bill is obviously very large. It was drafted at pace, and it was not possible with the resource we had available to get all the details finalised, which is why there are a number of technical amendments.

The answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which is a very good one at first sight, is that, of course, when the storage facilities are full, the storage facilities themselves are not decommissioned. They are used, but all the storage infrastructure—pipework and all the associated engineering, platforms, injection facilities, et cetera—will need to be decommissioned. I am sure the Liberal Democrats fully support the “polluter pays” principle, whereby someone who has benefited from a facility should be made to bear the costs of decommissioning it, which is why we are setting up a fund to do that. I reassure him that we do not decommission the actual sites—as he said, it would be quite difficult to extract the carbon dioxide from them to put it somewhere else—but they require monitoring, and the associated infrastructure will need to be decommissioned, which is why the fund is being established.

Amendment 67 agreed.
Moved by
68: Clause 82, page 71, line 28, leave out “licence holder” and insert “person”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 71, line 29 enable regulations under clause 81(1) to apply to a person falling within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (3).
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Moved by
82: Clause 82, page 73, line 7, leave out “under or”
Member's explanatory statement
See the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 72, line 42.
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Moved by
85: Clause 83, page 73, line 34, leave out “licence holders” and insert “persons”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 71, line 28.
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Moved by
87: Clause 83, page 74, line 29, leave out “licence holder” and insert “person”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 71, line 28.
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Moved by
89: Clause 84, page 75, line 25, leave out “and legacy”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 71, line 34.

Energy Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Monday 12th December 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
Energy Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 39-IV Fourth marshalled list for Grand Committee - (12 Dec 2022)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Energy Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved by
90: Clause 84, page 75, line 30, leave out “and legacy”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 75, line 31 are consequential on the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 71, line 34.
Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be back in Committee once again, debating the Energy Bill. I thank noble Lords for their patience during the interregnum. Noble Lords will recall that the Bill was necessarily paused following the death of Her Majesty the Queen. However, we have always been clear that the Bill represents a landmark piece of legislation to provide for a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system that is fit for the future, so I am very happy to be debating it again.

Clause 84 makes changes to Section 30 of the Energy Act 2008, which in turn enables modifications to Part IV of the Petroleum Act 1998. Amendments 90 and 91 make consequential changes to definitions in Clause 84 in response to government Amendment 70.

The next set of amendments relate to Clause 85. Amendments 92, 93, 101 and 102 update the heading, labels and definitions in Section 30A of the Energy Act 2008, as amended by this Bill, to avoid inconsistencies with existing definitions in the 2008 Act. Amendment 103 makes a consequential change due to the changes in definitions.

Moving to Amendments 94 and 95, the existing Section 30A of the Energy Act 2008 includes a carve-out in subsections (2) and (3). This prevents the Secretary of State designating an installation as eligible for change of use relief if it is to be used as part of a CCUS project that is in Scotland or is licensed by Scottish Ministers. However, the Scottish Parliament is also unable to legislate to confer such a designation power on Scottish Ministers because oil and gas is a reserved matter. It is important that change of use relief is available to oil and gas assets in Scottish territorial waters to create a consistent application of this policy. Amendment 94 removes this carve-out from Section 30A of the Energy Act 2008. Amendment 95 then updates a cross reference as a result of the proposed Amendment 94.

The process for issuing change of use relief first requires that an asset is designated as eligible. Only after this can the asset then qualify for that relief. Amendment 97 makes clear what conditions must be satisfied for an installation already designated as eligible for change of use relief by the Secretary of State actually to qualify for that relief. The first condition is that the Secretary of State has issued a carbon capture and storage-related abandonment notice under Section 29 of the Petroleum Act 1998 on a person for that installation. The second is that the trigger event has been satisfied.

Amendment 98 describes the trigger event that must occur for the relief to take effect. The trigger event requires that, first, a decommissioning fund must have been established for the relevant asset. Secondly, an appropriate amount must have been paid into this fund to reflect the decommissioning liability that the previous owner is being relieved of. This amendment would also give the Secretary of State power to make regulations on the required amount that must be paid into the decommissioning fund, and who may make such a payment, to qualify for change of use relief.

The Secretary of State must also approve that the amount paid into the fund is sufficient. Amendment 96 imposes a requirement on the Secretary of State to consult the Oil and Gas Authority before certifying that the amount is sufficient. Amendment 104 makes consequential changes to defined terms in Clause 85 as a result of Amendment 97.

I now turn to the other amendments tabled by noble Lords in this group. Amendments 99 and 100, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, seek to enable the Secretary of State to accept financial security from the previous owner, rather than requiring the amount to be paid in cash into the decommissioning fund. The Government acknowledge the point made by noble Lords regarding the value-for-money considerations when requesting funds to be set aside for decommissioning. The costs of decommissioning a repurposed asset are likely to be incurred at the end of the carbon storage asset’s life, which may be many years after the establishment of the decommissioning fund. However, the purpose of this trigger event for the issuance of change of use relief is to help protect the taxpayer from the decommissioning liability by having funds available to decommission repurposed assets. The requirement for a cash deposit looks to ensure that funds are available should the carbon storage asset close early and decommissioning of the existing infrastructure is required. This reduces the risk that the burden of decommissioning is left completely to the taxpayer. It is also intended that decommissioning funds will be invested to allow the fund to retain its value over time until decommissioning is required. This is another reason why it is important for the previous oil and gas owner to contribute money into the decommissioning fund.

More generally, the policy intent of change of use relief is to provide previous oil and gas owners with greater certainty over their liabilities, to incentivise the repurposing of assets. In return, however, the taxpayer should equally expect assurance that the oil and gas owners’ liability will be met, in accordance with the obligations that the owners agreed to undertake on commencement of their oil and gas activities. The Government judge that this can be provided only through a cash deposit, and not through a promise of funding, potentially decades into the future. This is the principle on which the policy was proposed in the Government’s consultation in August 2021 and with which, at the time, respondents broadly agreed. Therefore, I beg to move the amendment in my name and ask the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, not to move their amendments.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I welcome the Bill’s return to Committee; I am very pleased that that is the case. I have no comments to make on the amendments, but I note that during that interregnum, as the Minister described it, the Government gave planning permission for a coal mine. Although we are not going to debate it here today, that is a hugely retrograde decision which flies in the face of the Bill and the general way in which it looks forward. However, I have no comments on the amendments that the Minister has tabled.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am also delighted to be debating the Energy Bill again. I am delighted that the noble Lord is still the Minister so that we at least have continuity on the Bill; it remains much the same as it was before we left it some three months ago.

As the Minister said, the amendments refer to Clauses 84 and 85 of Chapter 2 of Part 2 on “Decommissioning of carbon storage installations”. This gives the Secretary of State a power to make regulations regarding the financing and provision of security for decommissioning and legacy costs associated with carbon capture utilisation and storage. The decommissioning of offshore installations and pipelines used for carbon dioxide storage purposes is modified by Section 30 of the Energy Act 2008, which modified Part 4 of the Petroleum Act. Clause 84 enables further modifications to the modified Part 4 in relation to the definition of carbon storage installation, and the establishment of decommissioning funds and legacy costs as set out in Clause 82, “Financing of costs of decommissioning etc”.

Clause 85 relates to Sections 30A and 30B of the Energy Act 2008, which make provision for a person to qualify for change of use relief on installations and submarine pipelines converted for CCS demonstration projects—as defined by Energy Act 2010. This relief removes the ability for the Secretary of State, in some circumstances, to take steps under the modified Part 4. This clause makes amendments to Section 30A of the Energy Act 2008 by broadening the scope of change of use relief so that it applies to eligible carbon storage installations more generally, amending the trigger point to qualify for such relief.

Amendments 99 and 100, which the Minister referred to, were tabled by my noble friend Lady Liddell, who unfortunately cannot be here and therefore will not be able to move them. They reflect value-for-money considerations in the decision-making process, meaning that the Secretary of State could accept provision of security in respect of amounts to be contributed on account of decommissioning costs—costs likely to be incurred, as the Minister said, many years after the establishment of the fund—rather than requiring such amounts to be paid simply in cash.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for their comments, but I do not think there were any points for me to address, so I will leave it there.

Amendment 90 agreed.
Moved by
91: Clause 84, page 75, line 31, leave out “82(5)” and insert “82(4)”
Member's explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 75, line 30.
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Moved by
92: Clause 85, page 75, line 36, leave out “carbon storage” and insert “certain”
Member's explanatory statement
See the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 76, line 1.
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Moved by
98: Clause 85, page 76, line 33, leave out from beginning to end of line 7 on page 77 and insert—
“(5) The trigger event occurs in relation to an eligible CCS installation when—(a) a decommissioning fund (as defined in section 82(6)) has been established for providing security for the discharge of liabilities in respect of decommissioning costs in relation to the installation, and(b) the Secretary of State certifies by notice in writing (an “approval notice”) that one or more relevant persons have paid into the fund an amount or amounts the total of which is not less than the required amount.(5A) In subsection (5)—(a) “relevant person” means a person of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State;(b) “the required amount” means an amount determined by the Secretary of State in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment amends the conditions for qualifying for change of use relief under section 30A of the Energy Act 2008.
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Moved by
101: Clause 85, page 77, line 9, leave out “carbon storage” and insert “CCS”
Member's explanatory statement
See amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 76, line 1.
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Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I was getting ahead of myself on the last group, and I apologise to the Grand Committee for that. I would have thought that the Government would like to accept this amendment, as they are likely to be in opposition in five years’ time. I wait to hear from the Minister.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord Teverson, for their concern about whoever might be the Official Opposition at the time. I suppose we will see. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, did not want to ask for the fourth-placed political party in Parliament to be a statutory consultee as well.

These amendments seek to clarify those who must be consulted as part of the process of designating a CCUS strategy and policy statement. Amendment 113 was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—who, sadly for us all, is unable to be with us. This amendment seeks to require the Official Opposition to be consulted as part of the strategy process. I reassure noble Lords that parliamentarians will have the opportunity to consider any draft CCUS strategy and policy statement, which must be approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before it can be designated, as is provided for by Clause 91(10). So, of course, whoever is the Official Opposition at the time, and whoever is the fourth-placed political party at the time, will have a full opportunity to contribute to the debate on this matter.

As the Bill sets out, any CCUS strategy and policy statement that has been designated will be required to be reviewed every five years, although, in the specified circumstances set out in the Bill, a review could take place sooner than five years. When the outcome of a review is that the Secretary of State considers that the statement should be amended, the Bill provides for a statutory consultation process, including consultation with the economic regulator and relevant Ministers in the devolved Administrations. An amended statement would also be required to be approved by a resolution of each House, and would therefore be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and approval before it could be designated.

The process for designating the CCUS strategy and policy statement mirrors the process set out in the Energy Act 2013 for an energy strategy and policy statement. When the outcome of a review is that the Secretary of State considers that the statement does not require amendment, or should be withdrawn, this also requires consultation with the economic regulator and Ministers in the devolved Administrations. This is to ensure that any impact that this decision would have on the conduct of the regulator’s functions, or in relation to the important matter of devolved policy, is taken into account in the decision-making process. It is also the case, of course, that the Secretary of State can update Parliament on the plans for, and outcome of, any review, as part of the normal process of parliamentary business.

On Amendment 114, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, Clause 91 provides for the Secretary of State to consult whomever he or she considers appropriate, in addition to certain specified persons, in the process of developing a strategy and policy statement. This formulation enables the Secretary of State to consult ahead of laying a statement before Parliament. As I have set out, it is for Parliament to consider and approve any new or amended statement.

Although I thank noble Lords for their concern about whoever ends up being the Official Opposition at the time, and for their interest in this topic, I hope that the reassurances I have been able to provide on these points mean that they will not press their amendments.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not think that is the case. As a Minister, I have issued many consultations. In my experience there is never a problem with anybody contributing who wishes to, even if they are not statutorily listed in the legislation. They are normally public consultations in any case, with a large number of stakeholders. The advice from officials and others is always to extend the scope of consultation to be as wide as possible because you then minimise any potential legal challenges as a result. I understand the noble Lord’s concern but I do not think it is warranted on this issue.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the amendment that seeks to include the Opposition as part of the formal consultation would avoid what we get in Parliament, which is the “ayes and noes” and the “take it or leave it” approaches to policy development. This is an area where we have pretty much a common interest. It seems a sensible approach to throw open the consultation at least to the Opposition—who knows, maybe even to the fourth party—but to make it as wide as possible to avoid that prospect of Parliament rejecting or accepting in total whatever is put before it. It is about buy-in. As the Minister said, there are plenty of examples where buy-in has been part of the Government’s approach to consultation. It seems strange that this is not one of them. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise in support of Amendments 117, 118 and 122. If we are to move towards cleaning up heat, we really need to get on with it and put sensible deadlines in place rather than leaving it open-ended, as it currently stands in the Bill.

Amendment 118 tightens up what needs to happen by when and makes some very sensible suggestions on timeframes for

“the banning of the installation of unabated gas boilers in new properties from March 2025 … the banning of the sale and installation of unabated gas boilers in all properties after March 2035.”

We need to get on with this. I support the amendment wholeheartedly.

Likewise, Amendment 122 would introduce a deadline

“to include the number of heat pumps in the latest figures on recommendations from the CCC.”

On Amendment 121, like the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, I add my note of caution about reliance on hydrogen. It is an unproven technology. There are ample studies and research that point to there being substantial barriers before it can be delivered at a low enough cost. Not least, there are technical difficulties: we know that the existing pipelines will not be suitable. So it will not be a straightforward case of replacing a natural gas boiler with a hydrogen or blend boiler. There are far greater changes that need to be made to the whole infrastructure before deployment.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will start with my Amendments 123 and 124. Amendment 123 seeks to provide additional clarity to Clause 100. Clause 100(1) provides examples of how targets for a low-carbon heat scheme may be set. The amendment’s addition of proposed new subsection (2A) clarifies that an average appliance efficiency or emissions intensity target could apply to all of a given manufacturer’s heating appliances sold in the UK, whether or not they were sold or installed by the manufacturer itself. This had been explicit in one of the examples in the list in subsection (1) but not in others. The Government believe that it is prudent to make this explicit and it provides additional clarity.

The Government have tabled Amendment 124 purely to correct a minor drafting error in Clause 100(4), replacing “activity” with “appliance” so that the subsection has its intended meaning.

Moving on to the amendments tabled by other noble Lords, I will start with Amendment 117 from the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. The Government have always been clear that they intend to introduce the low-carbon heat scheme provided for by this chapter in very short order; namely, from 2024. However, it is the Government’s view that it would not be appropriate to incorporate a timeline into the Bill. If the noble Baroness will take my word for it, we intend to get on with this fairly quickly. It is important that the legislation retains the opportunity, if necessary, to respond to any unforeseen changes in market conditions, et cetera, and to ensure that the necessary administrative and enforcement systems are established. We are indeed looking at the appropriate enforcement mechanism at the moment.

I turn to Amendment 118, the first of four in this group in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, for her contribution. This amendment would require there to be a link between the introduction of a low-carbon heat scheme and a ban on the installation of gas boilers in new-build and existing properties respectively.

Noble Lords will be aware that the Government will introduce a future homes standard in 2025, which will effectively require that new properties are equipped with low-carbon heating and high energy efficiency, avoiding the need for future retrofitting. New properties would be taken care of in that respect. It would be premature to decide exactly what policy approaches will be best suited to implement the phase-out of natural gas boilers in existing properties.

I do not believe that it is helpful to create a dependency between the ability to launch a scheme on the one hand and a particular, separate measure such as an appliance ban, as the amendment proposes, on the other. That would risk delaying the introduction of such a scheme altogether.

On Amendment 119, the Government have been clear that a range of low-carbon technologies are likely to play a role in decarbonising heating. District heat networks have an important role to play in all future heating scenarios, as do electric heat pumps. Work is ongoing with industry, regulators and others to assess the feasibility, costs and benefits of converting gas networks to supply 100% hydrogen for heating. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, said, it is indeed a considerable challenge, but we need to do the studies to work out whether it is feasible. Of course, other technologies may also play a supporting role.

To establish whether or not it is a feasible technology, the Government have an extensive programme of work already under way to develop the strategic and policy options for all these technologies and for different building segments. Another plan, seeking restrictively to prescribe the right solution for all properties now and out to 2050, is not particularly necessary or helpful.

I thank my noble friend Lord Naseby for his contribution on Amendment 121. This amendment would expand the potential set of low-carbon heating appliances that could be supported by a scheme established under the power in this chapter. However, I emphasise that the set of potential relevant low-carbon heating appliances established in this clause is solely for the purposes of a scheme under this power. It does not in any way serve as a comprehensive statement of all potential low-carbon heating appliances, and it has no wider bearing on what could be considered low-carbon heating appliances in any other policies, schemes or legislation.

The Government recognise that low-carbon hydrogen could be one of a few key options for decarbonising heat in buildings. To that end, the Government are working to enable strategic decisions in 2026 on the role of hydrogen in heat decarbonisation; I note the scepticism of a number of noble Members about this. The Government will bring forward the necessary policies and schemes to support the deployment of hydrogen heating, depending on the outcome of these decisions. We will also shortly consult on the option of requiring that all domestic gas boilers are hydrogen-ready from 2026. Since the scheme provided for by this measure would not be suitable or necessary to support the rollout of hydrogen-using or hydrogen-ready heating appliances, it would not be helpful to expand the scope of the power in this way.

Finally, Amendment 122 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, would require that three specific targets be incorporated into regulations for a low-carbon heat scheme. Again, the Government believe that targets are best set and adjusted in the scheme regulations, based on an assessment of the market conditions at the time, rather than in the enabling legislation in advance.

I turn to the specific targets that the noble Lord proposed. I have said a number of times that the Government’s ambition is to develop the market towards 600,000 heat pump installations per year in 2028. That is what we assess to be a scale necessary for and compatible with all strategic scenarios for decarbonising heating by 2050. Although the Government have clear plans to support industry to build a thriving manufacturing sector for heat pumps in the UK, we do not believe that a production quota is an appropriate way to achieve this.

In the light of what I have been able to say, particularly on the consultation, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, will agree to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I wanted to give the Minister the opportunity to introduce his amendments, but I will say a couple of things about this because low-carbon heating is a key issue. As he will know, 40% of UK emissions, more or less, are from heating. One of the big gaps in the Bill is part of the solution to that: home efficiency, which does not really appear in the Bill at all but should have.

I would like to ask the Minister specifically about energy from waste. Clause 98(4) has a list of fossil fuels, but energy from waste is not there. It is sort of a hybrid of being one and not. Over the last decade or so, one of the issues has been that when we have had energy-from-waste plants there has been a big emphasis on them being compatible with using the excess heat for commercial or domestic heating purposes, but hardly any of them do that. They get the planning permission but hardly anything happens. There are one or two in south London where it works, but generally it is not the case. Where do energy from waste and the high carbon emissions from disposing waste fit into this? Do the Government have any appetite—I do not really see it in this section of the Bill—to repair that past omission and make sure that excess heat from those facilities is used far more effectively, and perhaps compulsorily, in future?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord makes a good point. Before he corrected himself, I was about to contradict him and say that a number of energy-from-waste plants are already supplying district heating networks—as he said, there is a particularly big one in south London, which I have visited. It is doing so, because the Government supported it. It received grant money to enable it to do that. There are a number of others around the country, so we already have existing powers and support funds to support heat networks.

We are very supportive of energy-from-waste plants using the waste heat to connect into district heating networks. However, it is a difficult area, because it depends on a number of factors. You have to have the energy-from-waste plant in the first place, and office blocks, apartments, et cetera have to be available to take the waste heat. The noble Lord will know that later in the Bill we will discuss the zoning power for heat networks that local authorities will have, which hopefully will enable them to utilise those powers and take heat networks forward; there are a number that are very keen to do so. I would certainly envisage that a number of energy-from-waste plants—those in inner cities, in particular—will be able to take part in those initiatives.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his response. I am somewhat reassured by the timetable that these regulations will be pursued against. I would like to mention that it is not unusual for government to announce things and for there to then be quite a long delay. Energy-efficiency standards reaching EPC C by 2035 was first announced in 2017, but we still have not seen that make it through. If we had, we would be in a far better position now as we face this winter, where we have shortages of gas, and we should have more efficient homes. There is a reason why we are pressing on this timescale.

I support the Government’s amendments as introduced and the Minister’s statement that it is not helpful to expand this particular scheme at the moment any further than it is already defined. It is important to have clarity. The nearest corollary to this legislation is the ZEV mandate, which we will probably discuss in relation to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. It is better to have clarity of purpose that gives manufacturers and industry time to adapt and build an industry. It is clear in my mind that electrification of heat is probably 90% of the answer, if not the full answer. Therefore, getting it right, keeping it tight and giving confidence for investment would be the fastest way for us to get off volatile, expensive and unhealthy fossil fuels. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Moved by
123: Clause 100, page 92, line 26, at end insert—
“(2A) In the case of a low-carbon heat target that is imposed by virtue of subsection (1)(c) or (d) on a scheme participant who manufactures heating appliances, the target may be set by reference to heating appliances that are supplied or installed (whether or not by the scheme participant).”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment makes it clear that a low-carbon heat target set by virtue of Clause 100(1)(c) or (d) may be set, in the case of a manufacturer, by reference to heating appliances of the manufacturer that are supplied or installed, whether by the manufacturer or someone else.
--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this short debate. I knew that I would provoke a debate by specifically mentioning hydrogen—and that was my intention. I wanted to tease out the Government’s views. I thank the Minister for her response, but it was light on detail as, I fear, the whole of the Government’s policy is.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on her view of the Government. I fear that the Government have been so self-obsessed for the past two or three years that there is a policy vacuum in all sorts of places, and transport is one of them. I also agree with her that we need to rely very much more on public transport but, of course, the vast majority of public transport is provided by buses, which are heavy vehicles. Electricity is fine in towns and cities but it is not yet the answer for long distances in rural areas or for long-distance buses. Of course, not enough of our electricity is green and comes from renewable resources. Despite the ingenious plans for the national grid, we have a crisis of capacity, which will face us very soon if we all rely on electric vehicles.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, referred to aviation. I remind noble Lords about the Government’s jet zero strategy, which is a triumph of optimism over reality.

My noble friend Lady Sheehan made a very important point about batteries. It is important to emphasise that we are well behind in the international race for developing gigafactory capacity. Very soon, rules of origin will be a problem for those wishing to export.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not know what the noble Baroness is doing; she is supposed to be deciding whether she will withdraw her amendment, not responding to a debate. This is not a debate on general activity relating to hydrogen. She should say whether she wants to withdraw her amendment—that is the question.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in Grand Committee it is normal to allow people the courtesy to respond to well-made points from noble Lords. I want to make it absolutely clear that the intention of my amendment was to provoke debate. I am disappointed that the Government’s response has been so limited. The amounts of money announced by the Minister are attractive and worth while, but they need to be multiplied by at least 10 to have any impact at all.

I will withdraw the amendment, of course, but I remind noble Lords of the words of the United Nations Secretary-General:

“We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing”—


we need a sense of urgency. I withdraw my amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
For most households, the low-carbon heat scheme, and primarily heat pumps, would be a far preferable option. Our Amendment 127 would therefore ensure that no household would be forced to take part in the trial. Instead, households would be given an alternative heating solution by the gas transporter, the DNO. This approach also fits in with our Amendment 119, which would require the Secretary of State to provide a plan for low-carbon heating in homes where it is uneconomic or unfeasible to have a heat pump. These are homes where we would support hydrogen grid conversion. Therefore, we do not stand against the trials entirely.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will start with Amendments 125 to 127; I thank the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, for their contributions and for promoting them. The amendments relate to Clause 109, which, alongside Clause 108, will ensure the safe and effective delivery of a village-scale hydrogen heating trial. This trial will gather evidence to enable the Government to make strategic decisions on the role of hydrogen in heat decarbonisation. I know that there are very strongly held opinions on whether hydrogen is the correct solution, but we will never know unless we do the appropriate research and trials.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me finish, then the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, will be able to come back.

I will start with Amendments 125 and 126. With Amendment 125, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, calls for an adequate level of information to be provided to consumers in the trial area concerning safety, long-run bill impacts and opting out of the trial. I agree that these are important issues. Support from local people will be crucial to the success of the trial, and gas transporters are already working closely with communities in the potential trial locations. In fact, the relevant Members of Parliament have already been in touch with me, and I already have meetings in my diary to talk with them and residents from the local areas about this.

Steps have already been taken to ensure that people have all the information required to make an informed choice about whether they wish to participate. Both gas transporters have opened demonstration centres in the two shortlisted local communities to raise awareness of what the trial would involve.

Clause 109 provides the Secretary of State with the power to require the gas transporter running the trial to take specific steps to make sure that consumers are properly informed about the trial. In meeting their responsibilities to inform consumers, we fully expect gas transporters to provide clear information about each of the important topics listed in the noble Lord’s amendment.

I turn to Amendment 126. The Government have been very clear that no consumer in the trial location should be financially disadvantaged due to taking part in the trial. Last year, the Government published a framework of consumer protections that will underpin the trial. Consumers in the trial location will not be expected to pay more for their heating than they would if they had remained on natural gas or to pay for the installation and maintenance of hydrogen-capable appliances.

The village trial will be paid for through a combination of government and Ofgem funding and contributions from the private sector. All gas consumers pay a very small amount towards Ofgem’s net-zero funding for network companies, which supports projects to decarbonise the energy sector; that includes this trial. All gas consumers will benefit from well-informed strategic decisions on how to decarbonise the way we heat our homes.

I hope that I have been able to reassure the noble Lord that the important issues he has raised, about which I agree with him, are already effectively addressed by the Bill, and therefore that he feels able not to press his amendments.

I move on to Amendment 127 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. As I have said, local support will be crucial to the success of the trial. Gas transporters are already working closely with communities in the potential trial locations to develop an attractive offer for people who want to convert to hydrogen. However, we understand that not everyone will want or be able to connect to hydrogen, and the Government are clear that nobody will be forced to do so. The gas transporter running the trial will have to provide alternative heating solutions and appliances for people who do not take part in the trial. In May 2022, this requirement was clearly set out in a joint letter from BEIS and Ofgem to the gas transporters, alongside the other requirements that must be met before any funding is provided for the next stages of the trial. The gas transporters will need to demonstrate that they have a viable plan for providing alternatives to hydrogen. There is already an effective way to ensure that they provide alternatives to hydrogen, through the Government’s funding requirements.

We therefore do not believe that this amendment is necessary. I fully appreciate the noble Lord’s intention—which I share—to ensure that the trial is conducted properly, with alternative heating systems offered to people who do not take part. With that information, I hope he feels reassured that there are already steps in place to ensure this and will therefore feel able not to move the amendment.

I will say a few words about the stand part notices on Clauses 108 and 109. I know that the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Worthington, and my noble friend Lord Moylan, who is not here now, have registered their intention to vote against these clauses. I have already established that the overall intent of these clauses is to support a safe and effective trial for hydrogen heating.

Clause 108 allows the Secretary of State to designate a hydrogen grid conversion trial, ensuring that both this clause and Clause 109 are narrow in scope and would apply only for the purposes of such a trial. Importantly, the clause expands the duty to participants of the gas transporter running the trial to undertake the required work without charge. It also makes certain modifications to the Gas Act 1986 to build on existing provisions concerning powers of entry. This will ensure that the gas transporter running the trial has clear grounds to enter private properties to: carry out any essential works, including replacing appliances and installing and testing safety valves; undertake inspections and tests for the trial, such as safety checks; and safely disconnect the gas supply in a property.

It is important to emphasise that gas transporters already have powers of entry into properties through the Gas Act. We are merely extending these powers in a very limited way to conduct the necessary work to set up and deliver the trial. Gas transporters will only ever use these extended powers as a very last resort once all other attempts to contact property owners and reach an agreement are exhausted. The existing rules on powers of entry requiring a gas transporter to obtain a warrant from a magistrates’ court will continue to apply, of course. I reiterate once again that nobody will be forced to use hydrogen. I have already covered the plans for alternative arrangements in my comments on the amendment earlier.

Finally, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that the majority of responses to the public consultation the department ran last year on facilitating a hydrogen village trial were broadly supportive of our proposals to change legislation in this way. I therefore urge that Clause 108 stands part of the Bill.

Clause 109 provides the Government with the powers to establish consumer protections for people taking part in this world-leading hydrogen village trial. It will do this by giving the Secretary of State two delegated powers to make regulations which require the gas transporter running the trial to follow specific processes to engage and inform consumers about the trial, and ensure that consumers are protected before, during and after the trial.

The department is of course working closely with the gas transporters as they develop their plans for consumer engagement and protection. It is worth saying that there is quite a bit of support in these communities for the trial. The council leaders in the areas concerned have expressed their support and one MP in particular is actively campaigning for their area to take part in the trial. Opinion is obviously mixed in both communities, but we want to make sure that it has the maximum level of support required. I have already highlighted the importance of consumer engagement and support in my earlier comments. Regulations made under this clause will ensure that people will have all the information required to make an informed choice about whether they wish to participate.

The second power in this clause, to introduce regulations for consumer protections, will work alongside existing protections such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Gas (Standards of Performance) Regulations 2005. This recognises that it is a first-of-its-kind trial and will allow the Government to introduce additional protections for consumers in the trial area. These might include regulations to ensure that consumers are not financially disadvantaged by taking part in the trial.

I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that these provisions, which—as I said, again—were well received by stakeholders when we consulted on them last year, are crucial to ensure the fair treatment and protection of people in the selected trial area.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said that no one would be forced to take part in the trial. I appreciate that but, first, it seems like the place for that statement to be made is within the Energy Bill. Secondly, will they be given an alternative low-carbon solution?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The answer to both of those questions is yes. No one will be forced to take part in the trial. If they do not take part in the trial, they will of course be given an alternative low-carbon solution.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister clarify what areas are being looked at? I have seen Redcar, Whitby and Fife being looked at as potential areas. Are those agreed? Is the number roughly three and when are those locations likely to be confirmed?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is already a small-scale trial in Fife in Scotland. There are two shortlisted villages, Redcar and Whitby—on the west coast, not Whitby on the east coast. They have been shortlisted for the trial and we will make a decision on the basis of submissions from both communities in the new year.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I respond on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on the stand part notice that we have both signed. I thank the Minister for his response. To be honest, because I am so clear that this should not form part of the Bill, I have not gone through all the detailed provisions in these two clauses. The Minister seems to be saying that there is an absolute right of refusal, but my reading of both clauses is that the emphasis is that required information must be provided. There might be protections from financial penalties—that is implied when it talks about protecting consumers—but I cannot see it written down anywhere that the regulations will enshrine the consumers’ right of refusal.

I would be grateful if the Minister would undertake to write to us on this because this seems like a scheme where the fox is being put in charge of the henhouse. The gas transporters are the interlocuters between the poor people living in these villages who are going to be told that this is the great answer to their climate change concerns. Will they provide adequate information about safety? You are at least four times more likely to have an accident with hydrogen; it has been verified.

I take issue with the Minister’s characterisation of this as being a matter of opinion where “some people think this” and “some people think that”. It is not true. This is clear physics and chemistry. It is more likely. You may get slightly more frequent accidents at a lower explosion rate, but that does not reassure me in the slightest. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have taken place and we do not live isolated from the rest of the world. Other countries have tried this. There have been countless trials and there have even been studies in this country. This is not a safe way of proceeding. It needs to be made categorically clear that independent advice should be given to these villages, not advice given by the gas transporters which, of course, have a huge, vested interest in this going ahead.

I am afraid that I am in no way assured by the responses I have received. I certainly would not want to be living in one of these villages. I would not want hydrogen anywhere near my home. I will continue to advocate on that basis. I will not press my objection to this clause at this stage, but I am sure that we will return to this on Report. This is going to get—and needs—a lot more scrutiny. A lot more independence needs putting into the process, and it needs a rethink.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me just respond to the noble Baroness’s point and reiterate once again that nobody will be forced to take part in these trials. There is extensive information available. As I said, there are campaigns in some communities which want to take part in the trials. At least one MP in one of the areas is campaigning for it, and both council leaders have been contacted by officials and are supportive of it. Obviously, people want reassurance and more information; that will happen.

The noble Baroness’s other point about health and safety is crucial. I actually agree with her that, potentially, hydrogen is dangerous. Natural gas is also potentially dangerous, but we have mitigated the safety concerns of that. We will want to make sure that the HSE is involved in studies as well, and we will not do anything to put anybody at risk or do anything that will prejudice their safety. That goes without saying, and there are extensive studies taking place.

I also have some scepticism about the potential use of hydrogen for home heating, but I believe that we should do the trials to assure ourselves one way or the other where the truth lies, and whether the existing network can be repurposed easily, simply and cheaply for hydrogen. We do not actually know the answers to those questions until we do the studies, and that involves doing a trial to find that out.

With those reassurances, once again, let me reassure noble Lords that nobody will be forced to take part in these trials. Everybody will be provided with the appropriate information, and nobody will suffer any financial loss because of it, but I believe that it is worth pushing ahead with these trials.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Would the Minister point to where in the Bill it states that there is a right to refusal and consumers can object? It should be stated up front in the legislation so that the regulations are clear.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am giving the noble Baroness that assurance now, and it will be in the regulations. I am happy to put it in writing, if she wishes. It is not in the Bill, because that is not the place for secondary regulations. The Bill provides the principles and the powers for the Secretary of State. Of course, when we make the regulations, there will be further potential for that to be discussed both in this House and in the House of Commons, and I am sure that it will be.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister mentioned having meetings. Has he actually met scientists, who know more about this than do people involved in financing the scheme?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I have met a lot of people to discuss these schemes.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has her very passionate views, but there are lots of alternative views out there as well. We are saying that it needs to be properly looked at and studied on the basis of evidence—I know that the Greens are sometimes not big on evidence, but we believe that policy should be properly evidenced and studied. That is why we think that it is important that we should do these trials.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With a Bill of this magnitude, if we are saying that it is a principle that there is a right to refuse, that principle should be in the primary legislation. That is where you put principles—and then the details can be worked out. Nothing in the Bill says that consumers have the right to refuse. I am sure that we are going to revisit this, as it is fundamentally important that principles are enshrined in primary legislation.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I completely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, on this—but could I ask the Minister a separate point about how the trials will be carried out? The Minister said they were going to provide evidence. I want to ask how long the trials will last. One of the issues with hydrogen, if I understand it, is its impact on the pipes that carry the gas to the boilers, et cetera. Those pipes perish in time, because the hydrogen makes them brittle in a way that natural gas does not. Of course, that will lead to cracks and leakages. Will the trial take place over a long enough period to see whether that is indeed the case and what the jeopardy from those pipes might be?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me reiterate once again. Noble Lords are getting involved in the detail of what these trials will comprise—timescales, consumer protections, et cetera. This Bill is about giving the Secretary of State the powers to make the regulations, which will then come back this House, when I am sure that we will have a massively long and involved discussion about all these precise and important details—but this Bill is not the place.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In defence of my noble friend, I think it is reasonable to ask the Minister to come back and give us an indication of the length of the trials. He must know that, and that would be a very useful bit of information.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The initial intention is for them to last two years, but we will want to come back and look at all these details on the basis of proper scientific evidence.

Clause 108 agreed.

Energy Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Monday 19th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Grand Committee
Energy Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 39-V Fifth marshalled list for Grand Committee - (15 Dec 2022)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Energy Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved by
161AA: Clause 165, page 139, line 32, at end insert “(and includes any appliance the main purpose of which is to heat or cool the liquid or gas)”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment amends the definition of “heat network” to include any appliance connected to a heat network where the main purpose of that appliance is to provide heating or cooling for the network.
Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Committee will note the large number of amendments tabled in my name on heat networks. These amendments are needed to ensure that Ofgem can operate effectively as the heat networks regulator. A large proportion of them ensure that Ofgem’s enforcement powers will replicate those that it has as gas and electricity regulator. These amendments also ensure that the Bill reflects the approach to regulation which the Government committed to in their response to the heat networks market framework public consultation. The majority of these amendments are minor and technical in nature. Some are a little more substantial, and I will address those first.

Amendments 162C and 162YYI will ensure that any price cap introduced through regulations in future can apply to non-domestic as well as domestic heat network consumers. They also widen the scope of the regulator’s power to conduct pricing investigations into instances where non-domestic heat network consumers are receiving disproportionately high prices.

The Government are committed to introducing consumer protection rules that ensure that heat network consumers receive a fair price for their heating. Regulations under the Bill will provide Ofgem with powers to investigate and intervene where consumer prices appear disproportionate, compared with heat networks with similar characteristics or compared with alternative and comparable heating systems.

Non-domestic heat network consumers, particularly micro-businesses, can be vulnerable to receiving disproportionately high prices from heat suppliers. We therefore consider it appropriate to make this amendment so that the regulator’s price investigation powers extend to non-domestic consumers, in addition to domestic consumers. The Bill also provides the Secretary of State with powers to introduce various forms of price regulation, including a price cap, should it be necessary to protect consumers while growing and decarbonising the market.

The Government have committed to using any future powers to set price caps cautiously to avoid undermining investment in this nascent sector and putting at risk the supply of heating to consumers. Should a price cap be appropriate in future, we want to ensure that it could apply to both domestic and non-domestic consumers. In particular, we found in our public consultation in 2020 that micro-businesses supplied by heat networks share similar characteristics with domestic consumers. We therefore consider that these two consumer groups should have similar protections. This amendment would enable any future price cap to also apply to non-domestic consumers such as micro-businesses.

Amendments 162YYV to 162YYY serve to ensure that the full extent of heat network regulatory activities performed by Ofgem in Great Britain, the Utility Regulator in Northern Ireland, consumer advocacy bodies and other entities are funded by heat networks and holders of gas or electricity licences. Last year, the Government ran a public consultation on a mechanism for recovering the costs of heat network regulation. The nascent state of the sector and small consumer base means that recovering these costs solely from heat networks would amount to an extra £10 or more on each heat network consumer bill per year. This would be too high and create risks to the competitiveness of the market and, of course, issues of affordability for heat network consumers.

The Government consulted on heat network, gas and electricity regulatory costs being spread evenly across heat network, gas and electricity consumers in Great Britain. The Government have estimated that this approach would amount to less than £2 added to each heat network consumer bill per year, and an additional 10p per gas and electricity consumer bill per year. Most consultation respondents agreed that this approach was the fairest and crucial to supporting the growth of the heat networks sector. The Northern Ireland Executive conducted an equivalent public consultation for cost recovery in Northern Ireland and determined this a desirable approach.

This amendment sets out for transparency purposes the full extent of the regulatory activities in scope of this approach to cost recovery. The amendment also includes Ofgem’s role as a licensing authority under the Heat Networks (Scotland) Act 2021 in the cost-recovery regime. The Scottish Government passed this Act to introduce their own heat networks regulatory framework. By ensuring a funding route for Ofgem to perform this role, the Government are helping to ensure that Scottish heat network consumers receive robust protections and that heat networks regulation is coherent across Great Britain.

The remaining amendments are minor and technical, so I will not detain your Lordships for too long with them. In summary, these amendments, first, ensure that the provisions relating to heat networks regulation are accurate; secondly, allow for regulations and authorisation conditions to be made about the connection of premises to a heat network; and, thirdly, relate to Ofgem and the Utility Regulator in their role as heat networks regulator in Great Britain and Northern Ireland respectively.

I hope, therefore, that noble Lords will agree that these amendments are necessary to enable a fair and consistent heat network market across the United Kingdom. The one non-government amendment in this group is in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. I thank her for her thoughtful contributions—actually, I should do that at the end, after she has spoken. Oh, she is not here. I beg to move Amendment 161AA.

Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, first, I declare my interests as a project director working in the energy industry for Atkins and as a director of Peers for the Planet. I will speak to Amendment 162 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, who cannot be here today.

To give some context to this amendment, I welcome paragraph 14(3) of Schedule 15, in that it provides for all the conditions which may be attached to a heat network authorisation. All of this is welcome—in particular, paragraph 14(3)(f) refers to

“conditions about limiting emissions of targeted greenhouse gases in relation to relevant heat networks”.

However, it is noteworthy that the schedule does not include any conditions about the actual heat source for the emissions, and that is what Amendment 162 focuses on. It is a probing amendment, seeking to determine whether the Secretary of State or Ofgem already have the power to control the heat source using the heat networks and whether they are minded to use them.

There are some fuels which it may be in the public interest to restrict using in a heat network. For example, the UK Government are currently establishing carefully controlled trials for hydrogen for heating. Presumably, the Government would not want to be powerless to prevent a heat network provider using green hydrogen for heating if they had concerns about, for example, safety or the cost effectiveness of hydrogen as a power source. If the hydrogen trials are not taken forward, the Government may not want someone to use hydrogen in a heat network without effective oversight from Ofgem.

In another example, it may be appropriate to restrict the use of biomass, which is ostensibly low or zero-carbon. However, the Minister will have heard concerns from the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and other Peers last week, and there are concerns about whether the Government would have the powers to restrict biomass for local heat networks to the sustainable practices the Minister outlined in his response to that question. Can the Minister confirm in his summing up whether the Government have powers to restrict the source of heat input as applied to heat networks? If so, where? If not, would he consider taking these powers?

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister and others who have spoken in this brief debate for bringing forward these amendments, as they represent necessary but foreseeable conditions for what is already a doorstep of a Bill. As the Minister said in his introductory statement, these amendments collectively show why and how heat networks and heat zones will be regulated and established.

In response to the noble Lord’s query, my understanding is that there are currently 14,000 heat networks, which represent 480,000 customers—about 2% of the total energy network. However, that percentage is predicted to rise to just under 20% by 2050. They will be a huge and significant part of the future energy market, and thus crucial in meeting net zero as they can unlock otherwise unobtainable and inaccessible large-scale renewable and recovered heat sources, such as waste heat. They are especially important for built-up areas, as they are the most effective way of accessing waste heat from industry and heat from rivers and mines.

There are currently no specific protections for customers of heat networks. A recent Competition and Markets Authority report said that while the majority of heat networks customers received a service comparable to that for other traditional customers, a significant minority did not. Higher prices and more frequent outages were just a couple of the highlighted issues. The CMA recommended regulating the sector, with Ofgem announced as the regulator and Citizens Advice and the energy ombudsman named as alternative dispute resolution bodies.

I have some questions for the Minister. First, on non-domestic customers, what steps do the Government envisage will be taken to draw the line between which of them will receive these protections and which will not? Secondly, while protecting these provisions, why have they come to us so late and to what extent were Scottish heat network customers not receiving equivalent protections under the initial drafting of the Bill? Finally, does this come into play only in a case where the powers in Clause 171 to designate GEMA as the licensing authority in Scotland are used?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this brief debate. I acknowledge the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson: it will be difficult for me to ask him in future to limit the number of Liberal Democrat amendments after tabling all these. I quite take his point there; all I will say is that I flagged up to noble Lords at Second Reading that these amendments would be coming forward. There will be more on other subjects, as I also flagged up at Second Reading, which are still being drafted and will be tabled as soon as possible.

I first remind noble Lords, in acknowledging the point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas, that heat networks will play a crucial role in the UK reaching its net-zero targets, as they are one of the most cost-effective ways of decarbonising heating, particularly in built-up areas, where it would be more difficult to have individual property solutions. Noble Lords will probably be aware that the Climate Change Committee estimated that around 18% of UK heat will potentially come from heat networks by 2050—up from around 2% currently—to support the cost-effective delivery of our carbon targets. However, the sector is currently unregulated.

The Bill will provide regulation for that sector and give Ministers a power to introduce, among other things, consumer protection rules and carbon emission limits on heat networks. The majority of heat networks are performing perfectly well and often run by local authorities, housing associations and others, but one or two small, private networks are abusing their customers. Of course, once you are connected to it, that is effectively a monopoly. You have no choice but to take your business elsewhere, so regulation is required in the sector.

I will now talk to Amendment 162. The Bill already allows the Government to control heating sources by providing for authorisation conditions to contain emissions limits; this is contained in paragraph 14(3)(f) of Schedule 15. By gradually lowering emissions limits, authorisation conditions will drive changes in the types of fuels and technologies used to power various heat networks.

Using emission limits allows for dynamic, ongoing regulation. I submit that mandating specific heat sources is a more limited approach that risks the Government and this House picking winners. The exact approach for implementing emission limits will of course be subject to further consultation with industry and stakeholders. Settling on a pathway ahead of that consultation would, at this stage, be unwise.

Removing whole fuel types risks ignoring other factors that will come into play, such as technological improvements, system efficiencies, varying fuel costs, the replacement cycle of generation assets, and the need for flexibility in a system to provide separately for back-up or peak demand.

The Government are of course committed to net zero by 2050, and we see heat networks playing a vital role in this. The Government wish for the Bill and its secondary legislation to ensure that the heat network sector thrives and expands and is not held back in this goal. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, will feel able not to press the amendment.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
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My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend is so optimistic and shares the Climate Change Committee’s optimism about the future of heat networks. Will he therefore encourage his colleagues to support deep geothermal which, if we are to need that volume of energy, must be a serious contender as it is on the continent. However, in this country, since we have not had the exploration, there is a lot of uncertainty about whether the particular strata will behave in a way that allows heat extraction. It would be a real help to that industry if the Government were to take an interest in how to reduce that first well risk, so that we can get going in the way that the Netherlands and Germany have to take advantage of the deep heat that we all believe—or the British Geological Survey at least believes—is down there and available.

Similarly, is my noble friend content that the regulations governing tidal rivers—such as the one just outside—are such that we can use those as a source of heat for heat networks?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes some good points. There is tremendous potential from deep geothermal, and we are funding some exploratory projects. However, the performance is mixed: some projects have drilled and not found any rocks hot enough to power the network. What is perhaps more viable, particularly in mining areas, is the use of waste mine water for powering heat networks. There are a number of exciting schemes that I have visited, particularly in the north-east of England, where they can extract the warm water from existing mine workings, put it through heat exchangers and use it for heat networks. There are a lot of promising developments in this area.

I will get a more detailed answer for my noble friend on his question about tidal waters, but I know that there are some concerns in the industry about over-regulation from the Environment Agency in some of these areas—they have been flagged up to me. I wrote to Defra about a year ago on this subject but, to be honest, I cannot remember what reply I got—if any—at the time. I will write to him on that subject.

Amendment 161AA agreed.
Moved by
161AB: Clause 165, page 139, line 34, leave out “district”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment (together with the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 139, line 35) widens the provision made by Clause 165(3) about the treatment of heat pumps so that it applies in relation to communal heat networks (as well as district heat networks).
--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to address the amendments in this group. My noble friend Lord Whitty outlined clearly the reasons for his amendments. I will speak to Amendment 161CA in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Lennie. At this stage, it is appropriate for me to declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association because it comes up in subsequent groups.

I want to refer to my experience when I was the leader of Leeds Council. Leeds PIPES is one of the most successful district heating schemes in the country and is expanding. It aims to take more than 16,000 tonnes of carbon out per year. It is already securing reductions in fuel bills of between 10% and 25%. The other element, which we have not addressed, is that, by working locally through these schemes, we have been able to bring training and employment to the local community. Indeed, 60% of the project spend is by local businesses in the community, making it a win-win scenario.

Social housing and council housing are not the only beneficiaries of the schemes, although they are an important aspect as there are more than 2,000 such homes already on the system. The system has started to be installed and expanded into the city centre, including in council buildings, ensuring that it is a sustainable project. I look forward with interest to the Minister’s response to the specific concerns raised by my noble friend Lord Whitty about consumer protection. The third amendment in his name, on the contribution to net zero, is valuable; it highlights how these networks need to be taken seriously. We need to make sure that they are sustainable and that their future is secure on behalf of the consumers that they supply.

Amendment 161CA in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Lennie refers specifically to ensuring

“that regulation covers systems that are operational but are operating inefficiently to the detriment of customers.”

As one of the heat network providers, Switch2, explains, a 2018 study by the CMA found that,

“although heat networks provide customers with a cost effective, efficient supply of heat compared to alternatives, some customers experience poorer outcomes in terms of price and service.”

That provider has contributed to the thinking on why heat network efficiency is so important. It says:

“The efficiency of your heat network is the crux of effective operation. Before the energy crisis and regulatory requirements, heat network efficiency was often seen by operators as a ‘nice to have’, rather than a necessity, despite significant cost saving benefits to both residents and operators.”


I think we have moved forward a great deal on that consideration.

Although we are focused on the incredibly high cost of gas at the moment, I hope that we can do everything in our power to improve efficiency and take this issue forward. It is clear that the Government are aware of this issue and are acting on it to a degree. Would it not be sensible to ensure that the regulatory remit also covers inefficiencies and that consumers are protected from the issue, rather than just requiring operators to apply for grants voluntarily?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, for their comments and amendments. As I said on the previous group, the Government are committed to introducing protections for heat network consumers that ensure that they receive a fair price and a reliable supply of heat, and are not disadvantaged compared to other consumers. Ensuring that heat network consumers receive comparable protections to gas and electricity consumers is the primary reason for agreeing to the CMA’s recommendation to regulate heat networks.

We also recognise the vital contribution that heat networks will ultimately make in decarbonising heat in buildings. I highlight to the noble Lord that the Bill already provides for the heat networks regulator to prioritise protection of consumers and the decarbonisation of the sector. The Bill provides for Ofgem to be the heat networks regulator in Great Britain, with the Utility Regulator taking on the equivalent role in Northern Ireland.

Schedule 15 to the Bill provides for regulations making provision about the objectives of the regulator. This includes its principal objective to protect the interests of existing and future heat network consumers. This is equivalent to Ofgem’s principal objectives to protect the interests of existing and future gas and electricity consumers. We intend for this principal objective to be set out in the regulations.

Schedule 15 also provides for regulations specifying the interests of existing and future heat network consumers that are to be protected. This includes consumers’ interests in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions generated by heat networks. Schedule 15 also provides for the introduction of carbon emissions limits on heat networks in England and Northern Ireland. We intend again for this to be provided for in the regulations.

The regulations will also give Ofgem powers to investigate and intervene on networks where prices for consumers appear to be disproportionate compared to systems with similar characteristics or if prices are significantly higher than those consumers would expect to pay if they were served by an alternative, comparable heating system. Ofgem will also be able to set rules and guidance on how heat networks recover their costs through their heat tariffs.

Amendment 161CA tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, is on ensuring the efficiency of existing heat networks. I thank them for highlighting the importance of ensuring that regulation facilitates the improvement of technical standards on heat networks. This will ensure efficient heat networks that provide fair prices and reliable heat to consumers at the same time.

I reassure noble Lords that the Bill, more specifically paragraph 14(3)(d) of Schedule 15, already provides measures for ensuring heat network efficiency. Schedule 15 provides for the introduction of technical standards, which will protect consumers from being supplied by inefficient networks. The regulator’s compliance activity in relation to new and existing heat networks will include work on any standards mandated in authorisation conditions under this power.

I therefore submit that the intentions behind the noble Lords’ amendments are already provided for in the Bill, so I hope that they do not press them.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I will clearly want to look at these clauses and the Schedule once all these amendments have been agreed and adopted. I am still not absolutely convinced that all aspects of consumer protection will be covered by this and by Ofgem’s role, but I welcome the Minister’s reassurance.

The key issue is whether all interventions will treat the consumers of district or decentralised heating the same as they would consumers of other forms of energy supply. That also applies to the Government. The Minister referred to the price cap, but the price subsidies or support that we agreed the other week has not found its way to consumers of district heating. That may be a matter of time or it may be that the entity that supplies the heat is obliged to pass that on, but that is not clear at the moment. Things like that need to be tightened up before the final version of the Bill is agreed. I therefore look forward to seeing what the clauses look like following the Minister’s amendments to see whether any further amendments are needed to meet my concerns in this respect. In the meantime, I withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
161BA: Clause 168, page 141, line 8, at end insert—
“(2A) The provision made in Schedule 15 is without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes it clear that the breadth of the power under Clause 168 is not affected by the detailed provisions made by Schedule 15.
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Moved by
161BB: Schedule 15, page 286, leave out lines 25 and 26
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment omits a definition that is no longer needed as a consequence of the amendments in the name of Lord Callanan at page 292, line 6 and at page 303, line 35.
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Moved by
161E: Schedule 15, page 288, line 25, leave out “in the United Kingdom and elsewhere” and insert “in the part or parts of the United Kingdom in relation to which the Regulator has functions under the regulations”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment limits any requirement on a Regulator of heat networks to keep under review the carrying on of activities connected with heat networks to those activities carried on in the part or parts of the United Kingdom for which that Regulator is responsible.
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Moved by
162A: Schedule 15, page 292, line 2, leave out “expenses” and insert “costs”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment ensures consistency with the reference to costs in the amendments in the name of Lord Callanan to Clause 170.
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Moved by
162YYU: Clause 169, page 142, line 30, at end insert—
“(ba) regulations under section 168 which create an offence or provide for an increase in the penalty for an existing offence;”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides that regulations made by the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland that create an offence, or provide for an increased penalty for an existing offence, may not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by a resolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
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Moved by
162YYV: Clause 170, page 142, line 36, leave out from “to” to end of line 37 and insert “costs within subsection (1A)”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment (together with the amendment in the name of Lord Callanan at page 142, line 37) clarifies the heat network-related costs that can be charged to holders of gas or electricity licences in England, Wales and Scotland.
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In response to the points the Minister made at Second Reading, I say that I do not believe that extending zoning in this way would remove choice for households, but it would significantly aid the rollout of low-carbon heat and ensure that this change is driven locally by those who know the most about the local area and local housing stock. I would be grateful if the Minister could say, in his summing up, what plans the Government may have in the short to medium term to expand zoning beyond heat networks.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Let me first remind the Committee of the broader ambitions of this section of the Bill, which covers heat network zoning, which is a key policy to deliver the scale of expansion of heat networks that will be required to meet net zero. This process brings together local stakeholders and industry, to identify and designate areas where heat networks are expected to be the lowest-cost solution for decarbonising heating. The clauses will enable the Government’s commitment to introduce zoning by 2025.

Amendments 162YYYA, 162YYYB, 162YYYC, 162YYYD, 162YYYE, 162YYYF, 162YYYG and 165A—who gives these numbers to amendments?—are in my name. They will permit regulations to allow the heat network zones authority, which I will refer to as the authority, to directly designate zone co-ordinators and heat network zones in cases where these functions have not been performed by the relevant responsible bodies. This will deliver a more efficient process for establishing heat network zones.

More specifically, Amendment 162YYYA permits regulations to enable the authority to designate a person as zone co-ordinator. This may be necessary in scenarios where, despite directing it to do so using the powers in Clause 176(4), a local authority does not establish a zone co-ordinator. This could prevent the heat network opportunity that has been identified from being realised. Similarly, Amendments 162YYYB to 162YYYG provide for areas to be designated as heat network zones by the authority, in addition to zone co-ordinators as already provided for in Clause 177(1)(b). They also ensure that this expanded role for the authority is reflected elsewhere in Clause 177. This mirrors existing powers for identifying areas as heat network zones and reviewing areas designated as such. The authority or zone co-ordinators may undertake each of these activities. These amendments will therefore ensure that the authority may designate zones directly, avoiding unnecessary delays to the rollout of heat networks.

Amendment 165A concerns low-carbon heat sources. A range of heat sources could potentially be used by heat networks, including heat from thermal power stations, industrial processes or cooling and refrigeration. Clause 180 gives the Secretary of State powers to require heat sources in zones to connect to a heat network. This amendment will allow regulations to ensure that heat sources that are required to connect do not abuse their monopoly position and charge disproportionate prices for the heat that they provide. Equally, it will allow the regulations to ensure that the requirement to connect does not unduly disadvantage heat sources themselves. This will help to support fair pricing, which will give investors greater security and confidence and help to accelerate the delivery of large-scale heat networks in zones.

I now turn to Amendment 162YYYZA in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake of Leeds, regarding designating GEMA as the heat network zones authority. The authority will be a national body responsible for zoning functions that require national-level standardisation or are most efficiently or effectively carried out at a national level. This approach will allow for national standards and consistent rules to apply in the initial identification of a potential heat network zone.

In terms of who could fulfil the authority role, Clause 176(3) is explicit that the Secretary of State may but need not be designated as the authority. The clause as drafted therefore already provides that regulations may appoint GEMA as the authority. We will be specifying the authority’s functions and responsibilities in the regulations; this will therefore be the subject of further consultation.

The authority will fulfil a different function from the heat network regulator, which, as set out in Clause 166, we propose will be fulfilled by GEMA in relation to Great Britain. This role will cover all heat networks, both within and outside heat network zones. We do not envisage a separate regulator for heat network zones in England. We will be specifying the authority’s functions and responsibilities in the appropriate regulations; we intend for the body to undertake functions on behalf of the Secretary of State and be accountable to the Secretary of State.

Detailed considerations regarding roles and responsibilities in zones will of course be subject to further consultation as we continue to develop our policy proposals. Consultation on these issues will take place in due course. Appointing the authority in regulations will allow for amendment should this be required as and when its functions change over time as the networks become more developed in the UK. I hope that this has helped to clarify our proposed approach and the scope of the powers already provided.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his thoughtful Amendments 163 and 164, which would make the provision of the zoning methodology mandatory and require the methodology to include certain details. As always, we want legislation to be flexible and future-proofed. In this context, this means that the regulations can adapt to developments in the heat network market. The Government are clear that a national methodology for identifying zones will be necessary to enable a robust and transparent approach that increases overall efficiency and drives consistency. To this end, a pilot to support the development of the methodology is under way in 28 English cities and towns. The outputs from the pilot will help to inform policy design and future consultation on the methodology and its contents. Accepting these amendments now would, in effect, tie the Government’s hands at this stage to the potential cost of industry, stakeholders and, ultimately, consumers.

Next, I turn to Amendments 165 and 166, also from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which concern interactions between the national methodology and the co-ordination and delivery of heat networks at a local level. Accepting Amendment 165 would mean that the methodology was no longer nationally determined and would have to vary according to each local authority’s requirements. A national methodology will minimise the duplication of effort at the local level and instead ensure that local input is applied at the most appropriate stage: the refinement and designation of the zones themselves.

Heat network zoning will support local net-zero goals by unlocking the lowest-cost pathway to heat decarbonisation in built-up areas. As we expect that zoning co-ordinators will work with the local authority, their work will be brought into local net-zero plans. Therefore, Amendment 166 risks creating unnecessary bureaucracy at a local level, reducing zoning co-ordinators’ capacity to focus on the effective delivery of zones.

The final amendment in this group, Amendment 167 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, would extend the Bill’s heat network zoning provisions to individual heat pumps. As noble Lords will be aware, various factors, including building density and availability of heat sources, mean that certain localised areas are particularly suited to heat networks. This is why we are introducing a framework to identify where heat networks can provide the lowest-cost low-carbon heating solution.

The noble Lord’s amendment would apply zoning to heat pumps. Our strategic approach, set out in the heat and buildings strategy, is to work with the grain of the market and our policy levers are aligned to natural trigger points to create optionality for consumers regarding their various heating options. For clarity, such trigger points include appliance replacement and change of tenancy or property ownership, among many others of course. An approach where more technologies are zoned risks removing choice for consumers and could cause early appliance scrappage and additional disruption.

I thank noble Lords for this debate and for their amendments. I ask them not to press their amendments.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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Could I ask the Minister for some clarification? I apologise if I have not got my head around this. What is a zone: a council estate, a county, a region or a combined authority? I am trying to get from the Minister a mental picture of what a zone could be and what determines that boundary.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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No specific boundary is set out in the proposals. It can vary from authority to authority. It is very unlikely to be a whole region; it is much more likely to be an inner-city area, an industrial estate or something like that. It will very much depend on the local circumstances and what heating sources are available. Crucially, it will depend on local support, which is why local authorities are crucial to this process. Many local authorities around the country are already in discussions and are very keen to get on with these zoning proposals, presumably including Leeds. Although I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, does not speak for Leeds any more, I know that it is one of the pioneers in this area.

Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his response. He set out the reasons why district heating is particularly well suited to a zoning approach. Could he expand a little on why, for example, heat pumps or urgent retrofits are not suitable for zoning in the same way?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

They could be, but we do not want to designate a particular technology because it will vary from area to area and locality to locality. It is to be expected that heat pumps will play a part in heat network zoning. That would be the case but we do not want to be particularly specific.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister and the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Ravensdale, for their contributions. I will assume that their questions have at least been addressed, if not fully answered. We might come back to them later; we shall see. On Amendment 162YYYZA, which would designate GEMA, the Minister said that there will be further consultation on who will ultimately become the designated body for network zones. Once that decision is made, will we hear about it? Will whoever has been designated that role be regulated or will it just be announced?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It will be set in the appropriate regulations. The bottom line is that we have not made a final decision at this stage.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
162YYYA: Clause 176, page 145, line 29, at end insert—
“(b) to designate a person as a zone coordinator where a local authority (or local authorities) fail to comply with a requirement imposed by virtue of paragraph (a).”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment enables the Heat Networks Zones Authority to designate a zone coordinator where a local authority (or authorities) fail to comply with a requirement to make such a designation.
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Moved by
162YYYB: Clause 177, page 146, line 5, after “coordinators” insert “or the Authority”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment enables zones regulations to provide for areas to be designated as heat network zones by the Heat Network Zones Authority as well as by zone coordinators.
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Moved by
165A: Clause 180, page 149, line 9, at end insert—
“(ga) make provision about the terms on which thermal energy is supplied to a district heat network in pursuance of regulations made by virtue of paragraph (f) or (g) (including in particular provision about the amount that may be charged);”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment enables regulations to make provision about the terms on which thermal energy is supplied to a district heat network where the supply is enabled by a requirement imposed on a person by a zone coordinator or where the thermal energy is generated by machinery or other equipment of specified types.
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Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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I shall speak to the amendments in the names of my noble friend Lord Lennie and myself. Before I get to that point, though, I want to stress that the contributions made in this debate have been so strong that I cannot see how the Government can continue not to take this aspect of the debate with the seriousness it deserves, because at the end of the day we have very serious obligations and commitments to make. We are not going to achieve what we have set out to do if we do not focus on delivery, and the importance of how we take our communities and people with us on that journey. I really do not think that has been stressed enough.

The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, put it very well when he stressed the importance of involving local authorities in setting up local area energy plans, particularly something that has to be repeated again and again when we talk about this: the bringing-in of powers that need to go down to local authorities and then into the communities. The important aspect of this is that the resources must be there to accompany those powers. Frankly, we are in a situation where local authorities across the country have lost over 60% of their budgets. This needs to be taken into account when we consider how local areas can contribute to the important work that needs to be done in this space. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, expressed it exceptionally well by highlighting the current contradictions in government policies that are holding us back in so much of what we need to do.

Going through the debate, I commend the contributions that have been made from our partners coming in. They have brought such important evidence as to what we could be doing, and about the huge potential that could be unleashed if the Government were able to put the necessary measures in place.

In this group, we have focused specifically on setting up a community electricity export guarantee programme. Our amendments relate to community energy and would bring in new clauses between Parts 7 and 8 and Parts 12 and 13. We have done this because, as we have heard, community energy covers aspects of collective action to reduce, purchase, manage and generate electricity. Projects obviously have an emphasis on local engagement and local leadership and control. I firmly believe that that action can often tackle challenging issues around energy with communities, which are well placed to understand their local areas, and bring people together with common purpose. As we have heard, it often takes only a couple of experienced and committed people at a local level to unlock some of the issues we have faced that have been holding us back, and to advise government on what needs to be changed and done to bring this forward.

I do not know whether others picked up a significant amount of interest in the different media outlets over the weekend about community energy projects and initiatives that are being brought forward. We have heard that those projects are significant and cover a whole range of different aspects and ways of coming forward. I do not want to go over all the contributions that have been made, but I hope that we are all looking for some very specific measures and some movement from the Government that we can take forward to Report to examine how we can make the difference that we need.

Running all the way through this is the cruel impact of energy bills on our communities and local people. The response communitywide is because people have to work across so many different areas. That key element of behaviour change is absolutely essential if we are to bring the necessary partners together.

Our amendments would require the Secretary of State, within six months, to

“require licensed energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers (‘eligible licensed suppliers’) to purchase electricity exports from sites generating low carbon electricity with a capacity below 5MW, including community energy groups … Licensed energy suppliers with fewer than 150,000 customers may also offer to purchase electricity exports from exporting sites … including community owned energy groups”.

Eligible licensed suppliers must

“offer a minimum export price set annually by OFGEM”,

offer a minimum five-year contract and allow

“the exporting site to end the contract after no more than 1 year.”

These steps are important to make sure that the benefits come to community energy projects and that they have a guaranteed stable market to operate in.

A community smart export guarantee is supported by Community Energy England. It would increase investor certainty, especially for larger-scale ground-mounted projects where most of the energy is exported. I am interested to hear what consideration the Government have given to such a scheme and whether we can look forward to progress to ensure that we can deliver.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this important debate. Let me start with Amendment 168, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale. It seeks to ensure that guidance is published for local authorities regarding local area energy planning. Although the amendment is well-intentioned, in my view, it is not necessary. The Government already have work under way to consider the role of local area energy planning in delivering net zero and supporting efficient network planning, including heat network zoning policy. Through the Government’s Local Net Zero Forum, we are working with local authority representative bodies to discuss the roles and responsibilities of local government, and how we will work with local government to reach our targets.

I am sure the noble Lord agrees that local authorities are already well placed to undertake local area energy planning given their established relationships with many key stakeholders. Guidance to help develop local area energy plans was already published earlier this year and the Government directly supported this activity through the £104 million “prospering from the energy revolution” programme. This included co-funding for the development of guidance for local areas developing local energy plans and the subsequent delivery of those plans. This has so far seen plans produced for Peterborough, Pembrokeshire, Stafford, Cannock Chase and Lichfield. Given that this activity is already under way, I hope the noble Lord agrees that his amendment is unnecessary and will therefore feel able to withdraw it.

I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Young, Lady Boycott and Lady Blake, and the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Lennie, for Amendments 238 and 242G, which seek to enable community renewable generation schemes to sell electricity generated to local consumers. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for her contribution. The Government believe that community groups have a role to play in our efforts to eliminate our contribution to climate change. However, it is our view that encouraging or introducing obligations on licensed electricity suppliers to mandate them to offer local tariffs would be a disproportionate intervention in the market. Local tariffs are better left as commercial decisions for suppliers.

There are already examples of suppliers offering local tariffs through the market. Octopus Energy offers customers in Market Weighton, Caerphilly and Halifax a tariff with discounted prices at times when electricity is generated locally. Any new obligation in this area is likely to be complex and burdensome, particularly if it interferes with suppliers’ existing services and processes already used to serve their customers.

It is therefore more appropriate to allow market-led solutions to continue to develop, rather than us trying to make commercial decisions on behalf of suppliers. As we set out in the British energy security strategy, the Government are developing local partnerships in England that will enable supportive communities to host new onshore wind infrastructure, for example, in return for benefits including lower energy bills. The Government are separately considering wider retail market reforms that deliver a fair deal for consumers, ensuring that the energy market is resilient and investable over the long term.

As I am sure noble Lords are aware, the Government are undertaking a comprehensive review of electricity market arrangements in Great Britain, which considers options that encourage generation and demand to consider location. It also asks how markets can better value the role of small-scale, distributed, renewable electricity. The department is currently looking at the responses to the review of electricity markets consultation, which closed in October.

Amendments 237 and 242F would enable community renewable generation schemes to receive a guaranteed minimum price for the electricity that they export to the grid. Small-scale, low-carbon electricity generation should be brought forward through competitive, market-based solutions, which will help to encourage innovation and investment. We introduced the smart export guarantee in 2020 to provide exactly that: small-scale, low-carbon electricity generators with the right to be paid for the renewable electricity that they export to the grid.  It ensures that these generators, which would otherwise struggle to find a way to sell electricity, can have guaranteed access to the market and a choice of options following the closure of the feed-in tariffs scheme.

To enable the SEG to be truly market-based and encourage innovation, however, suppliers must be in a position to set both the tariff levels and structure for themselves. We should allow the small-scale export market to develop with minimum intervention and not introduce a support scheme that specifies minimum prices or contract lengths for generators.

I say without much optimism that I hope noble Lords are reassured that the Government recognise the role that community-owned and locally owned renewable energy schemes can play in supporting the UK’s national net-zero targets. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw or not press their amendments.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister sits down, can he tell me—either now or in writing later—what is the Government’s estimate of the amount of local community energy generation that would be arrived at by 2030 under the market-led approach?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to give the noble Baroness a detailed answer in writing but we do not see any particular limit on it. It is what the market will develop. The problem with the noble Baroness’s amendment is that she is seeking, in effect, to get every other customer to subsidise a relatively uncompetitive form of energy production. If community energy schemes are low-carbon and competitive, they will be able to take their place in the generation mix. Many of these community energy schemes are already supported and will continue to be.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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I wonder whether, in writing to the noble Baroness, the Minister could also write to us on a couple of other things, including the number of schemes that have gone through the two mechanisms that were introduced subsequent to the feed-in tariff changes. This would let us see how trends are operating in the market situation that he is describing at the moment; my perception is that it is not producing growth in the uptake of community schemes. The Government must be clear: are they keen on community schemes, seeing them as a real attribute, or are they keen on only commercially competitive ones? If it is the latter, I am almost certain that we will not see many come forward.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are keen on these schemes but, as always, the question comes down to cost. How much we are prepared to subsidise an essentially uncompetitive scheme that is leveraged on the bills of everyone else who is not benefiting from these schemes? That is the fundamental question. I am of course happy to write with the clarification that the noble Baroness asks for.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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I am sorry but I really have to come back on that. Does the Minister acknowledge that there are advantages to these schemes other than on cost? They include, for example, insulation, bringing communities together and increasing acceptance and understanding of net zero, as many noble Lords have outlined.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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If the noble Baroness is asking me whether I think that there is an advantage to insulation schemes, the answer is of course yes. I am not sure what her question is, but insulation is a great thing.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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Finally, if the Minister can bear it, can he tell us in writing whether he feels that these small community schemes could in fact deliver 10% or so of the UK’s electricity energy; and what estimate he has made of the feasibility of reducing all these technical regulatory constraints, which cost so much at the very beginning? He will understand that, if you are going to make a profit, you have to invest up front. Small schemes are unlikely to be able to make that initial investment but it may well be a tremendous bonus to the country in the longer term if the Government were able to help them reduce all these costs at the outset. It would be helpful to have all that set out in a letter if the Minister is able to do so.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am of course happy to set out to noble Lords the details of our position in writing. We want to reduce bureaucracy as much as possible but we have an overriding need to ensure the stability of the energy system. Certain technical requirements need to be met by these schemes. We want to encourage them as much as we possibly can, but that comes with limits. We will certainly write with as many details as we can provide.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend has been very helpful, but I am none the less fairly disappointed by the replies he has been able to give. To illustrate, I live in Eastbourne and, if you stand on the hills above Eastbourne—Britain’s sunniest town—and look down at hundreds of acres of industrial and retail estates and car parks, about the only solar panel you will see is on the local college’s eco training hub. That is because the ownership and commercial benefits of these areas are extremely complicated. No one is in a position to get a cost-effective, reasonable-scale scheme going on their own; it needs something that will work as a whole.

A decent feed-in tariff need not be subsidised—it can be below market rate—but there needs to be something so that there is a base on which you can build. My noble friend’s department was kind enough to send a representative to our recent solar summit. One of the main things that came out of a gathering of local businesses, energy suppliers and so on was the need for a basis on which local collaboration can be built, not to create something that requires a subsidy to produce electricity at a greater cost than would otherwise be the case, but to enable a very complicated situation to come together and be supported into commerciality, allowing local virtuous circles of electricity generation and consumption to emerge. That is not happening in our system at the moment, which is ridiculous. Something needs to happen to enable us to move from 200 hectares of white roof to 200 hectares of black roof, and to get the benefits of that.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said, a number of suppliers already offer competitive tariffs in the market. They will provide long-term certainty on pricing. There are many examples of industrial units that have already put solar panels on. Obviously, the most cost-effective way is for them to use that power themselves and export any surplus power to the grid using the smart export tariff guarantees. I will answer that question again: the Government are supportive of community energy schemes. We want to see more of them, but we think that is best delivered through the market framework. I will happily provide noble Lords with more detail in writing.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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Can I remind the Minister that it is government policy to decarbonise the electricity system within 12 years and one week? That is no time at all. I am absolutely a defender and promoter of market forces, but in some places they just do not act quickly enough. We have a very short period of time in which we must decarbonise the electricity system. I cannot see why the Minister would not be in favour of ease of movement into this market. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, it does not necessarily require subsidy. To use a Borisonian term, it would unleash the real will of communities in this country to help in that target of decarbonisation by 2035. I cannot see why the Government do not grasp this and make the most of it.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said, we are supportive of proposals. We accept the target for decarbonising electricity production and we are moving ahead full-scale with our sails erected—which is no doubt a Borisonian term—towards that goal. Community energy will play probably a small role, but it will play a role. Obviously, larger-scale generators will supply the majority of the nation’s electricity.

Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for participating in this very informative debate. I was very encouraged by what the Minister had to say in response to my Amendment 168 and the work already ongoing in government. I come back to the fragmented nature of local area energy plans: some local authorities have the resources and others perhaps do not. I look forward to fleshing out the detail on that as we go towards Report.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, put it really well. The key theme running through all this is the participation of local authorities and local groups in our energy transition and about defining the part they have to play. We have these big, top-down targets—50 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 and 24 gigawatts of nuclear by 2050, as well as heating targets—which are all of course very necessary. But we need that bottom-up view and a better definition of the role of local authorities and local groups in supporting this huge engineering challenge, and I say that as an engineer. It is about stitching together all that local data to better inform how we respond nationally. I look forward to further discussions leading up to Report but, with that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this debate so far. We on the Labour Benches certainly welcome Amendment 192 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Hayman, and others, which would create a requirement to publish a national energy demand reduction strategy. It seems an obvious point to make.

We received some information from Energy UK. It says that, although we cannot deal with the current crisis in this Bill, it can ensure that long-term strategies are put in place to tackle the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock. This powerful point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Foster. If we do not have targets to measure it against, we cannot really manage it; we just have—I do not quite know what—a sort of wish list, I suppose. We support the targets suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Foster.

The Bill outlines its intention to create powers to remove the European energy performance of buildings directive, or EPBD, requirements in the UK. Those requirements are not perfect, but they have been in place in the supply chain, effectively delivering energy efficiency measures and low-carbon technologies. How will the Government safeguard against the potential for the UK to roll back on energy performance of buildings regulations when we remove the European energy performance of buildings regulations? We risk falling behind the rest of Europe, if we have not done so already, in this space.

We also need to see the detail regarding how the Government will safeguard against the potential for the UK to fall behind the rest of Europe. We need clarification on what measures the Government will take to ensure that all buildings are fit for the future, given the lack of measures in the Bill to reform planning and building regulations. The latter requirement could also be backed by the introduction of a net-zero test, as previously set out, but what measures will the Government take to ensure that all buildings are fit for the future, given the lack of measures in the Bill to reform planning and building regulations or set specific targets for delivery?

Finally, in relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said about the 19 million homes requiring energy efficiency measures to be put in place pretty quickly, I recommend to the Government Labour’s warm homes plan, which will deliver fully costed upgrades to 19 million homes, cutting bills and creating thousands of good jobs for the future.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank everyone who has contributed to this debate on energy efficiency, which is very much a matter dear to my heart. Noble Lords may have noticed that I was delighted to launch the Government’s £18 million “It all adds up” energy saving campaign on Saturday—it is almost as if it was designed especially for this debate—with advice that could help UK households cut hundreds of pounds off their bills. The campaign features tips on simple, low or no-cost actions that households can take to immediately cut energy use and save money while ensuring that people are able to stay safe and warm this winter.

We know that warmer homes and buildings are key to reducing bills and will create jobs along the way. That is why the Government are committed to driving improvements in energy efficiency, with a new ambition to reduce the UK’s final energy consumption from buildings and industry by 15% by 2030. Existing plans that we already have in place are expected to deliver around half of this new ambition. To go further, we will need to work together as a country to reduce waste and improve the way we use energy. As has been referenced in this debate, a new energy efficiency task force is being established to lead this national effort.

First, Amendment 192, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, requires the Secretary of State to publish a national energy demand reduction strategy to provide for the delivery of low-carbon heat and energy efficiency targets for all UK homes and buildings. Again, while I understand the reasoning behind this amendment, we do not consider it necessary to ensure that our commitments to improve the energy performance of buildings and our net-zero targets are met.

We already have a heat and buildings strategy which sets out the actions the Government need to take to increase the energy efficiency of buildings in the near term and provides a clear long-term framework to enable industry to invest and deliver the transition to low-carbon heating. Just having another strategy document does not make the policy decisions that are required any less difficult. As I have already mentioned, the Government are launching the energy efficiency task force with the key objectives of developing a long-term strategy to drive improvements in energy efficiency and reduce national energy demand.

As I have repeated many times in the House, we are investing £6.6 billion over this Parliament on clean heat and improving energy efficiency in buildings, reducing our reliance on fossil fuel heating. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, referenced, the Autumn Statement also recently announced a further £6 billion of funding to become available from 2025. In the context of spending reductions and a difficult economic environment, I was delighted to see that announcement from the Chancellor. The Government also recently announced—and we are now consulting on—a further energy efficiency support scheme through ECO+. The scheme will be worth about £1 billion and shall deliver an average household saving of around £310 per year through a broad mix of affordable insulation measures, including loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, draught-proofing and heating controls.

Amendment 197, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, requires the Secretary of State to set an average energy performance certificate target for mortgage lenders of EPC C by the end of 2030. It also gives the Government the power to make regulations that relate to the disclosure of energy performance information on properties in their portfolio. I have met with many of the lenders, and I agree that they have an important role to play in improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock. However, as we highlighted in our consultation on improving home energy performance through lenders, the Government are concerned that the amendment may have unintended consequences for the mortgage and housing market. I am sure that this is not the noble Lord’s intention, but there is a danger of disincentivising mortgage lenders from lending to energy-inefficient properties. We would then end up with a load of unmortgageable homes in the UK, which I do not think anybody wants to see.

It is imperative that mortgage lenders are not disincentivised from lending to any particular group while home owners are under unprecedented financial pressure. The Government are using the feedback from the consultation to refine the policy and will publish a response once the policy matters have been resolved.

The noble Lords, Lord Ravensdale and Lord Foster, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, all mentioned the importance of skills. If anything, that is key to this area, probably even more so than the availability of funding. We understand that scale-up requires consistent long-term deployment streams via government funding and regulation, which is what we are attempting to do, so that companies working in these markets can make the investments needed and individuals can choose to upskill.

To grow the installer supply chain, we are investing in skills and training. In 2021, the Government invested £6 million in the BEIS skills training competition, resulting in almost 7,000 training opportunities being provided across heat pump installation and wider retrofit skills. In fact, we have another training competition out for bids at the moment.

Amendment 212 in this group from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, would require the Secretary of State to collect and publish a list of those public buildings that hold display energy certificates, commonly referred to as DECs, and those that do not. I really do not believe that it would be cost effective for the Government to identify and inspect all public buildings that require a DEC, nor to record this information. The energy performance of buildings report published in 2020 cited an estimated DEC compliance of about 83%. We currently publish DEC data as part of our register. I hope noble Lords agree that this demonstrates that the existing system, which we intend to continue and keep under review, is working well in respect of DEC compliance.

Finally, Amendments 198A and 198B from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, would require the Secretary of State to ensure that all households achieve an energy performance certificate band C by 2035, with specified exemptions, and require regulations relating to energy performance in existing premises. The Government remain committed to our aspiration of improving as many homes as possible to reach EPC band C by 2035 where practical, cost effective and affordable. That is why, as I mentioned, we are investing £12 billion during this Parliament into the various Help to Heat schemes, some of which the noble Lord referenced, to make sure that homes are warmer and cheaper to heat, including £1.5 billion to upgrade around 130,000 social housing and low-income properties in England. However, we need to retain flexibility to choose the best approach, rather than being restricted to the regulatory requirement.

Regarding existing premises, the Government have consulted on raising the minimum energy-efficiency standards for the domestic and non-domestic private rented sectors. We are in the process of considering our responses to both consultations. However, it is important to stress that improving existing buildings is a complicated issue and requires striking a balance between improving standards and minimising impacts on the housing market, and, for the private rented sector specifically, ensuring that the final policy is fair to both landlords and tenants. That is a particular dilemma that we face with the PRS regulations.

Similarly, regarding the social rented sector, the Government have committed to consult within six months of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill receiving Royal Assent. By prescribing specific targets without any opportunity for landlords to offer views, the proposed amendment would be at odds with this commitment.

I thank all noble Lords who contributed during this debate, but given what I have set out and the Government’s long-term commitment to drive improvements in energy efficiency, I hope that they will not press their amendments.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath (LD)
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Before the Minister sits down, could he clarify whether the Government believe that the 2017 Clean Growth Strategy, which talks about achieving EPC band C by 2035 for all homes where this is feasible, affordable and cost-effective, is a target or now just an aspiration? Could he be clear on the language? He used “aspiration” a minute ago. In the documentation, and in every letter he has written to me and in every answer, it has been described as a “target”. I just want to be clear.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I think we are getting into semantics here. I am not sure there is a huge difference between them. My point is that it is not helpful to embed it in primary legislation. It is a target; it is an aspiration; it is something we are working towards that we want to try to deliver, but it is a complicated area with a lot of difficult policy choices and potentially a huge amount of expenditure.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath (LD)
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In the light of that, if “aspiration” and “target” are the same and the Minister is not therefore resiling from the 2017 document, could he tell me why the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, and, more recently, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have argued that there is merit in putting environmental targets into legislation? I do not understand where the problem comes. The Minister says the Government need flexibility in the way this is delivered. I do not disagree with that. I am sure that new technology will come along that will perhaps help to do this more efficiently, effectively and quickly. I hope that is the case, but the way in which a target is achieved is totally different from having that target. The industry has been absolutely clear that it is very keen to see a statutory target to give it the confidence it needs.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I disagree with the noble Lord. I have had many discussions with businesses and companies in this area, and we are providing the policy certainty they need. It is clear what direction the country is going in. We have listened to a lot of the feedback, have set out longer delivery programmes for the various schemes that we fund directly and are giving the certainty that people need. It does not make any difference to the industry, in terms of the policy landscape, to enshrine a target in primary legislation as opposed to it being an aspiration, a target or whatever other language the noble Lord prefers.

Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, I have listened to everything the Minister said in response and, as I said earlier, it is great that the Government are moving strongly on this and all these matters, particularly skills and many other areas. However, there is still a need for a joined-up strategy and for some of these targets to be in statute. We have learned from the green homes grant, for which one of the issues was the lack of the long-term thinking that a strategy would provide.

The real issue here, as noble Lords have powerfully articulated, is that we have picked all the low-hanging fruit—the decarbonisation of our electricity system, and vehicle and transport electrification—and now we have to move much higher up the tree to more difficult matters, such as the decarbonisation of heat. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, powerfully articulated the challenges in that area. We will have many more discussions on this leading to Report but, with that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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