Home Insulation

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Tuesday 14th May 2024

(1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I certainly do agree that we need to target the poorest households, which is precisely what we do under schemes such as the social housing decarbonisation fund and the energy company obligation. The noble Lord is also right to point out that the private rented sector is one of the most difficult sectors. But home insulation grants, ECO, et cetera, are often rolled out in PRS homes.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, insulation is plainly cost-saving, whatever form your heating takes, but it is particularly important in respect of heat pumps, powered as we know by expensive electricity. Does the Minister yet know when the Government will announce the long-promised rebalancing of the cost of electricity versus the cost of gas?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is absolutely right that, whatever form of heating you have, insulation is always a good thing, because you can use less of it. Rebalancing is obviously a particularly tricky political issue. We are currently looking at it and, although I cannot give the noble Lord a date yet, we hope to have a consultation on some proposals out shortly.

Biomass: Power Generation

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 13th March 2024

(3 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course I agree absolutely with the statement made by my noble friend. As I said, I have spoken to Ofgem, which is investigating. It is its job to enforce against these criteria. My officials are in touch with those in British Columbia for further discussions. However, there are many perfectly legitimate reasons why timber would be removed from old-growth forests—for instance, for firebreaks, diseased wood, et cetera. This is a complicated issue. Drax is an important part of the UK’s energy security. Let us make sure that it does this sustainably and abides by the rules before we rush to judgment.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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Has the Minister actually studied the detailed and evidenced findings of the last few weeks from “Panorama”, confirmed by the Government of British Columbia, that Drax is, in fact, burning wood from old-growth primary forests—rich, diverse habitats that are over 150 years old and will take 80 years or far longer to grow back—and that it is doing so in defiance of its 2017 commitment? Against wind, solar, hydro and nuclear, is not the case for biomass as a source of renewable power fatally weak and wholly unconvincing?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows—we have been in correspondence on this—I do not agree with him. As I said, we are in discussions with the British Columbia authority. This is not a third-world country; it is perfectly capable of sustainably managing its forests in its own way. There are internationally agreed strict sustainability criteria. It is important that Drax follows those rules. Ofgem is studying its application and will not hesitate to take action against it, as I have said.

Heat Pumps

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 6th March 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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A huge amount of research has gone into it. We reckon that about 90% of homes in the UK are suitable for heat pumps. Obviously, there is a wide variety of different homes; the area that the noble Lord and I come from has a lot of terraced properties. You can use ground source heat pumps with common arrays in the road, and you can use heat networks that have one remote location powering the heat pumps. There are a number of different technologies where this is perfectly possible.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, we languish not only very close to the bottom of the European league table of heat pump installation but at the bottom of another European league table: the ratio of the price of electricity to gas, with electricity being far higher. The Minister has discussed the matter before. When will we rebalance that imbalance in the UK?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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If the noble Lord had been paying attention earlier, he would have noticed that I answered that question in response to my noble friend Lord Leigh. This is a difficult political issue—I will not shy away from that fact—but the Government are aware that we need to make progress on it, and we will issue a consultation this year.

Civil Nuclear Road Map

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Monday 15th January 2024

(5 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes a good point, but the attraction of using a similar design is that many of the teething problems that have been undergone at Hinkley will hopefully be solved by the time we get to a decision on Sizewell. As I said, my noble friend makes a valid point and, again, it is not a question of either/or. We will continue the development of SMRs and AMRs in conjunction with large-scale nuclear.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, I welcome the Government’s Statement on their long-term nuclear policy. It is and it should be a critical component of our strategy for achieving net zero. However, I want constructively to raise some points. I worked at No. 10 in 2004 when the decision was made in principle to give the go-ahead to a new nuclear plant, which of course became Hinkley Point C. It has become a 25-year project. This is a genuine question: what lessons does the Minister think the UK can learn about how we manage these ambitious long-term infrastructure projects? Did we set out to fund it in the right way?

Biomass Strategy 2023: Cross Sectoral Sustainability Framework

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 15th November 2023

(7 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Indeed, my noble friend makes a very good point. We have currently awarded £32 million of funding to projects as part of the Government’s £1 billion net zero innovation portfolio, because there is an awful lot that we can do to improve the availability of biomass feedstocks and look at deploying it more effectively.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, the “Panorama” on Drax offered vivid and compelling evidence that fatally undermined Drax as a renewable proposition. The Minister has previously asserted that that was an accurate presentation, but as yet has offered no evidence to support his claim. Drax wrote to me almost four months ago, also claiming that the programme was a misrepresentation, and offered to present me with evidence. Despite prods from me and further promises from Drax, I have yet to receive that evidence. Is it possible that the “Panorama” was an accurate representation?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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To slightly correct the noble Lord, I think I said it was an inaccurate portrayal, rather than an accurate one, as he said. We have debated this matter before, and the noble Lord has tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions to me on it. I cannot go any further than to repeat what I have already said: government officials have engaged extensively with forestry experts and Canadian officials following the “Panorama” programme, and we have found no evidence that wood pellet production in the region is unsustainable. We continue to believe that the narrative would have benefited from a much fuller picture of how harvesting decisions are made in practice.

2030 Emissions Reduction Target: Heating

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Tuesday 5th September 2023

(9 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, that is a matter for building regulations. The future homes standard will come in from 2025; it will not specify the type of heating but it will put in place standards that will, in effect, end gas boiler installations in new homes.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister will know that heat pumps are a very efficient means of turning electricity into heat, but does he think that, while electricity costs roughly three times as much as gas, there is any prospect whatever of them taking off in the UK?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is right about the efficiency of heat pumps and about the cost of electricity. Later this year we will issue a consultation on so-called price rebalancing, which will attempt to bring the electricity price down relative to gas.

Drax Biomass Power Station

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Monday 3rd July 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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Speaking of proof, has the Minister had a chance to view the devastating “Panorama” on Drax? Drax’s claims have been fatally undermined. Ancient forests have been cut down and indiscriminately turned into pellets, transported 12,000 miles by ship and incinerated in Yorkshire, emitting more CO2 than coal did before and at gigantic cost to the taxpayer. This is not the route to net zero.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord should be careful of jumping to conclusions. I have not seen the programme, but my officials have. They have engaged extensively with forestry experts and Canadian officials following the programme, and the officials’ conclusion is that the “Panorama” programme provided an inaccurate representation of practices by the forestry and biomass sector on the ground.

COP 28

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 17th May 2023

(1 year ago)

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Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, following the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I would be the first to recognise that the route to net zero is fraught with challenge and difficulty. But will the Government publish a considered integrated assessment of the optimum route forward for the UK and a detailed plan—which we do not have at the moment—of where we go over the next five to 10 years?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am sorry to disagree, but we do have detailed plans on where we are going. We have laid them out in our building strategy and in our net-zero plan. Only just before the Recess we published our Powering Up Britain plan, outlining exactly the kind of details that the noble Lord referred to.

Electricity: Decarbonisation

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 21st December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her support. She is right in that we allocated CfD support of 40 megawatts of wave and tidal stream power in the last CfD round. We want to encourage community energy and we will do all that we can, working with Ofgem, to make sure that it is supported, because it is an important form of generation that we want to secure.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, by 2035, we shall need a lot more electricity to power the growth in both EVs and heat pumps installed in homes and buildings. As a multiple of current demand for electricity, could the Minister tell us what is the Government’s forecast of demand in 2035?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is right that we will need a lot more electricity both for EVs and for the electrification of heat. I cannot give him an exact figure at this stage—it depends on a number of different factors, not least of which is the success of our demand reduction policies.

Government Departments: Communication with Industry and Commerce

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Monday 14th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for her question. I know that she takes the subject of R&D spend passionately and I agree with her, but we will have to wait for the decisions that the Chancellor will announce on Thursday.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, there are 1.25 million job vacancies in the economy. There are skills shortages in every sector, every area of skill and every part of the country. We have an immigration policy that is not focused on business need and an underinvested, overstretched infrastructure. Does the Minister accept that we need action, not just communication, to heal our badly broken economy?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course we need action. I agree with the noble Lord on that, and we will hear the Chancellor’s latest proposals on Thursday. It is a difficult issue that needs resolving, but one of the consequences of our record low levels of unemployment is skills shortages. However, we have a skills plan to invest across the whole range of the economy to make sure that we have the skills we need.

Mathematical Sciences

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Tuesday 8th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am afraid that I just do not recognise the picture the noble Lord is painting. The UK is a world leader in mathematical science and British mathematicians publish a large volume of highly regarded work. We have the fifth largest share of publications in the world. When looking at the top 1% of the most cited publications, UK mathematicians are responsible for the third largest share. I am sure we could always do more and better, but we have an excellent record.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, long ago I studied maths and further maths at A-level, and it was fun. Now, sadly, I struggle even to master my grandchildren’s GCSE papers, but I recall enough of my time in mathematics to understand the supreme value of pure maths. Without Newton we could not have landed on the moon. Without Turing we would not have smart- phones. Is the Minister aware of the disquiet in the maths community not only at the overall funding for mathematical sciences but at the insufficient investment in fundamental theoretical mathematics research? Will the Minister agree to consider if that really is the case?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Like the noble Lord, I did mathematics at A-level, but an almost equally long time ago and I have forgotten most of it now. He makes a very good point. We have an excellent record of investment in mathematics but I will take his remarks back to the department and see if we can do better.

Net-zero Emissions

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Tuesday 7th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct that energy efficiency is extremely important. It is very much a “no regrets” approach; we should always take a fabric-first approach to upgrading properties. As I mentioned, we have a substantial series of financial commitments: the social housing decarbonisation fund, the home upgrade grant, the boiler upgrade scheme, et cetera, to contribute towards the cost of these. The other things we need to look at, of course, are the green finance offers, which will enable people to upgrade their homes in a cost-effective manner.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, heat pumps appear currently to be the only proven and viable off-the-shelf option for decarbonising home heating, yet, as we all know, electricity is prohibitively expensive and the cost of the necessary insulation exorbitant. How does the Minister think the Government’s target of 600,000 heat pump installations within six years can be achieved?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct about the target that we have set. I mentioned the boiler upgrade scheme starting next year. We also have changes to the building regulations, as referred to in earlier questions, which will kick in in 2025, making it virtually impossible to install fossil-fuel heating systems. That will produce a large increase in heat pump installations, as will the other schemes that we have talked about; low-carbon heating can be installed under all of them.

Hydrogen Economy

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Monday 19th July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a good point, in that low-carbon steel production will be one of the areas that we will need to look at. Hydrogen is one of the fuels that could offer us an option in that area, alongside others. All of those matters will be addressed in the hydrogen strategy.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB) [V]
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It is clear that hydrogen is a possible option for decarbonising maritime travel, heavy vehicles and the heating of buildings, but the likely cost of clean hydrogen as a fuel and the scale of investment needed to convert national gas infrastructure and home and building heating systems for hydrogen is not at all clear. Will the Government consider publishing an early assessment on the feasibility and cost of the hydrogen option, to ensure that the lobbying does not run ahead of the reality?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I can understand the noble Lord’s scepticism, and he is right: we need to take a hard-headed, practical, cost-effective look at hydrogen production. The costs of producing it are, of course, highly uncertain. They will depend on a variety of factors, which will evolve over time as it is deployed, but in the forthcoming strategy, we will indeed take a detailed look at the cost of producing hydrogen at the moment.

Heat Pumps

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Monday 22nd March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The GHG is facing some delivery challenges, as the noble Baroness will be aware. The deployment of heat pumps is proceeding. I can find out the latest figures for ground source heat pump deployment and let her have them in writing.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB) [V]
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My Lords, decarbonising home heating, responsible for around one-fifth of our emissions, is an enormous challenge. There are a number of different technological approaches to meeting it, not just heat pumps, all with uncertain practicality and unsettled economics. The Government have published a road map and a timetable for the transition to electric vehicles. Will they produce an equivalent plan for home heating?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Yes is the short answer. As I mentioned earlier, we are developing options for how a long-term framework of policy approaches can set us on a path to decarbonising heat, homes and buildings. The heat and building strategy will set this out in more detail.

OneWeb

Debate between Lord Birt and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

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Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as a former member of the board of Eutelsat. LEO is potentially a breakthrough technology, but it is also very high risk, as the collapse of OneWeb so vividly demonstrates. What scale of investment will be needed to build out a commercially viable constellation? How will that investment be funded, whether by debt or equity?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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Given the commercial considerations, at the time I am unable to provide further detail on our ongoing discussions. However, we will have strong representation on the board, we will be fully involved in setting the strategic direction of the business, and we will of course be discussing the future of the business and the merits of bringing in additional shareholders with our partners in due course.