All 7 Baroness Hayman contributions to the Energy Act 2023

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Tue 19th Jul 2022
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2nd reading & 2nd reading
Mon 5th Sep 2022
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Committee stage & Committee stage & Committee stage & Committee stage & Committee stage
Mon 16th Jan 2023
Tue 28th Mar 2023
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Report stage: Part 1
Mon 17th Apr 2023
Mon 24th Apr 2023
Tue 12th Sep 2023
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Consideration of Commons amendments

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Baroness Hayman Excerpts
2nd reading
Tuesday 19th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as a co-chair of Peers for the Planet and a director of its aligned organisation. The Bill has been a long time coming, and its arrival is welcome. It provides, as the Minister very clearly delineated, many of the frameworks necessary to achieve the Government’s commitments set out in the energy security strategy: primarily, decarbonising our electricity system by 2035. As has been described already, we need to achieve that transition while ensuring security of supply and a price that people can afford. This is a task made much more urgent and challenging by the current energy price crisis and the conflict in Ukraine, issues which should have convinced even the most sceptical of the need to move away from expensive fossil fuels and to build up our renewables. Renewables are the cheapest form of energy; as well as increasing UK energy security, they would create high-skilled jobs and opportunities across the country. Therefore, the Bill is undoubtedly necessary, but even at some 360-odd pages it is not sufficient.

Both the Bill and the energy security strategy on which it is based lack the drive and focus—the mission that the noble Lord referred to—particularly on energy efficiency, where what we need is leadership and delivery. According to the CCC’s recent progress report to Parliament, the energy security strategy

“is almost entirely supply-focused and … There remains an urgent need for equivalent action to reduce demand for fossil fuels to reduce emissions and limit energy bills.”

It has been said that the cheapest form of energy is the energy that we do not use. Clear evidence that acting on both demand and energy efficiency brings positive outcomes, both short-term and long-term, is there for all to see. Providing funds for insulated properties would, alongside benefiting people and the planet, permanently lower bills and reduce the need for further subsidies in future. As the IFS has highlighted, it is simply not sustainable to continue this winter’s £17 billion energy support package year after year.

While the measures in the Bill that help to scale up the heat pump market are welcome, I fear that, without a clear strategy and delivery plan, and by not facing up to the issues that still remain in many properties, the market may not be able to deliver what is needed on its own. I hope that the Government will introduce a comprehensive energy efficiency and retrofit strategy, as well as a road map for getting there. We need long-term solutions to the problems of our cold, stifling or leaky homes, not short-term fixes. There have been calls for Ofgem to have its remit amended to include net zero, so that it can play its part in a comprehensive drive for progress. I hope that the Minister will say today that the Government will take that suggestion very seriously.

My second area of concern relates to the need for a clear vision for delivering more renewables. The Government’s ambitious target of 50 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 is extremely welcome, but despite the net-zero and energy security strategies recognising, on paper, that onshore wind has a key role to play in meeting net-zero targets, we do not currently have targets for onshore wind or other forms of renewables, such as solar. The Government have been urged by the industry to set a target for onshore wind of 30 gigawatts by 2030, with £45 billion of gross value added. This has strong public support; BEIS’s most recent Public Attitudes Tracker shows that 80% of the public support it.

The CCC highlighted in its progress report that:

“There remain further opportunities to reduce fossil fuel consumption on a timescale that will help people cope with current very high prices. These include a sustained push for both energy efficiency improvements and electrification, especially in the buildings sector, as well as deployment of onshore wind and solar, which can occur significantly quicker than offshore wind deployment.”


I ask again that the Government reconsider the 2015 ministerial Statement that has put an effective moratorium on onshore wind developments proceeding in England. This must be changed if we are to provide more of the cheap, renewable and homegrown energy we urgently need. If the Minister says in his reply that primary legislation is not necessary and that this does not need to be put in the Bill, I hope that he will commit today to altering the planning guidance to increase the contribution of onshore wind, therefore recognising both the need to put local communities in control and, more broadly—because I do not see it in the Bill—the crucial role of engaging and empowering local authorities if they are to bring their communities with them.

In their the energy security strategy, the Government committed to

“consult … on developing local partnerships for a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for benefits, including lower energy bills.”

It was hardly the wholehearted and comprehensive measure that I had hoped for, but it was something. I hope that the Minister can tell us when this consultation will commence and ensure that it aligns with planning guidance, so that communities who want onshore wind can start to access these benefits. We also need to ensure that we do not lose existing onshore wind capacity due to the current rules on the life extension of onshore wind farms. Again, a consultation has been promised: when will we see it?

A related issue raised by Power for People is the need to support community energy, so that people can purchase cheap, clean electricity direct from a local supply company or co-operative, instead of the current situation where local groups have to sell the power that they generate to large utilities that then sell it back to customers. It is asking for changes to be made to the energy market rules to make it affordable, proportionate and simpler for community energy schemes to sell their power directly to local customers. I hope that the Minister will consider including provisions within the Bill to enable these changes to be made by Ofgem.

I will speak very briefly about the use of hydrogen for home and workplace heating. It is clear that the Government view hydrogen as a key part of the future energy mix. While green hydrogen will undoubtedly have a role in some of the hard-to-decarbonise areas, such as fertiliser, cement and steel production, the question of pursuing a role for hydrogen in home heating is much more nuanced and debatable. There are alternatives readily available, and the proposals for a hydrogen levy could potentially bake in subsidies and higher bills for years to come. I hope the Government will look very carefully at the costs and environmental impacts of pursuing the strategy for the use of hydrogen in home heating.

Finally, I will pick up a theme that I have raised before: the current lack of comprehensive governance mechanisms to ensure that we deliver on net zero and, specifically, the need for a net-zero test to apply to decision-making across the Government, which we know from many reports is extremely patchy. Over the last 18 months, calls on the Government to build net zero into the structures and processes that govern departmental spending, prioritisation and decision-making have been raised by business organisations such as the CBI, the Climate Change Committee, the NAO, the Public Accounts Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee. Energy UK has recently highlighted this as a strategic issue which the Bill should address.

I must stress that no one is advocating some kind of bureaucratic tick-box exercise; energy companies and wider industry see such a test as an important mechanism for providing business certainty and clarity of direction from the Government. This sector, along with the others on which delivery of our decarbonisation goals depend, is asking for the Government to be clear, consistent and transparent in the way in which they take decisions not just within BEIS but across Whitehall. Developing a test will give them the confidence to invest, will help the Government to explain their decisions, and, by being transparent and clear, will help bring everyone, including the public, along with the Government, even when decisions are more difficult.

I hope that the Government will raise their ambitions for an energy system that is sustainable in every sense, and one that is based predominantly on homegrown, rapidly deployed renewables. This would be a system that weans us off costly fossil fuels—although I recognise the need for transition—lowers bills, provides warmer homes and improved health, and brings tens of thousands of high-skilled jobs in the energy efficiency and retrofit sector across the UK.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Committee stage
Monday 5th September 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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I am sceptical about whether this Bill will even get through. It could easily be overturned—it might not even get past this week, of course—but we must seize the opportunity to fix a broken system. We are living through a market failure. It will destroy the lives of millions of people, push more people into poverty and make life harder. If the Government cannot get a grip of the issue, they will deserve to be out of power for a generation.
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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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)
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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.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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I am grateful for that clarification. If the noble Lord is saying that the time has gone, that, it seems to me, is essentially a commercial and practical judgment. It may be right—I do not run a fracking company; I know very little in practice about fracking. It is possible that the time has gone in commercial terms, and that it might not be a sensible thing to do in current circumstances. None of that is grounds for ruling it out as a matter of statute and prohibiting it. It is complete nonsense to suggest doing that. We will leave fracking to one side for the moment.

I turn to Amendment 230, a much narrower and more technical probing amendment which relates to the composition of the domestic gas supply. It takes me back to my boyhood and the childhoods of a number of people in this Room, though not all, who might remember what life was like before we had North Sea gas pumped into our homes. We had town gas, which was produced from coal. Its content was a mixture of gases, including CH4, CO, CO2, H2, higher-order hydrocarbons and phenols. The composition was adjusted according to the calorific value.

When we switched over to North Sea gas, the composition of the gas that we used became over-whelmingly methane, with a small amount of higher-order hydrocarbons. The switchover to using methane allowed the calorific value to be higher. Those of us with very long memories will recall that it was marketed as “high-speed gas”, which meant “hot”—it had a high calorific value, so you could cook that much faster. Moreover, we then put that composition into legislation, which I am grateful to the Library for finding for me: the Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996, which are referred to in my Amendment 230.

The result is that, today, a significant amount of gas that we could extract from the North Sea is not being extracted because it cannot be used in our domestic supply by law. In effect, a lot is going to waste. The proposal in this probing amendment is to ask the Government to reflect on this and consider whether, given the energy crisis we have been facing, it might not be sensible and possible to amend those regulations so that we could make use of many of these gases that are currently going to waste but could, none the less, be fed into our domestic system. It could mean that the calorific value would be a little lower in our cookers, so it might take a little longer to bake a cake—a number of television programmes might be affected by this in detail; the outcomes might change—but in terms of efficiency, at a time when we desperately need energy, it is certainly worth looking at.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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I have listened to the noble Lord with some interest, but those of us with long memories remember the dangers inherent in the gas that was used before the date he was talking about and the number of suicides that took place. Does he think there is a health and safety issue to consider before going back to those days and that sort of gas?

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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The name of the regulations that I am suggesting we review is the Gas Safety (Management) Regulations, so I fully acknowledge that this is a question of safety, but it is not necessarily the case that these regulations, passed in 1996, that we are still adhering to could not be looked at to see whether, precisely as I say in my amendment, they could be

“safely amended to allow more efficient use of extracted … gas.”

It may be that they cannot but, nearly 30 years on, it would be helpful if the Government could look more closely at this.

My principal point in raising these amendments relates to Amendment 224. A bit like the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, earlier, I want to know whether the Government have a strategy for resilience. Do they contemplate the dependence on foreign supplies going on endlessly in very large measure, and what would they like to do about it? I think that an awful lot of people in this country were shocked to discover our level of dependency on imports and would like to hear that we are becoming more self-sufficient.

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Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
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My Lords, the amendment is Amendment 227B.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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For the assistance of the Committee, I point out that the numbering of the groups that we were given last night and was up to date was changed when we came to the paper that we received today, but no indication was given of that. Therefore, I believe that this is now the correct order.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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We are on the fifth group, with government Amendment 227B on pensions. I turn to Amendment 227C. The amendment that I just spoke to uses the phrase “relevant nuclear pension scheme” to describe the types of schemes that a designated person could be required to amend by virtue of that amendment. This amendment explains what is meant by that phrase. New subsections (1) and (2) provide that a relevant pension scheme is one run by, or on behalf of, the NDA under Section 8 of the Energy Act 2004, or one which provides pensions or other benefits to persons who are, or were, performing similar public functions. The new clause also clarifies that the UK Atomic Energy Authority pension schemes and pension schemes that benefit persons specified in Public Service Pension Scheme Act 2013 are not relevant pension schemes.

I turn to Amendment 227D. In order to implement the proposed pension reforms, the NDA and, in the case of the MEG-ESPS, Magnox Limited, will need information from others. Amendment 227D gives a person who has been required to amend a relevant nuclear pension scheme the power to require persons holding any information they might reasonably require to provide such information. Examples of information that they may need but which they might not otherwise be able to obtain include the number of members in a pension scheme and the salaries and ages of those members. Data protection legislation may still prevent the information from being shared; however, this amendment specifies that in making that assessment the requirement to disclose imposed by this clause must be taken into account. This amendment also provides that disclosure does not constitute a breach of confidence or a breach of any other restriction on the disclosure of information.

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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 229, which is tabled in my name.

Although I am against fracking, I am very much for energy from waste, and I am very proud of the facility close to the A1 at Allerton which is creating energy from waste material that is difficult to dispose of and used to go landfill. The benefits of energy from waste are twofold: we are creating an energy strand and we are disposing of waste. I think there is still an incinerator in Sheffield. I understand it was created by the Liberal Democrat administration at the time of the severe floods in the 2000s. One of the reasons for it was that there was a large quantity of furniture and other items damaged by the floods that needed to be disposed of very quickly. I hope that my noble friend will be minded to do more on energy from waste. Where it works, it works very effectively. We could learn from the experiences of other European countries, notably Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, Austria and Germany. In Allerton at the moment, the energy created is going into the national grid. I argue it should go to the local community. Allerton is one of the coldest parts of the country, and it would be in its interest to have a cheaper source of fuel.

The criticism that is made of energy from waste is around potential emissions. Looking at the BEIS figures which were brought to my attention thanks to the House of Lords Library, I see that the emissions figure for waste incineration was static between 2016 and 2020, at just 0.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, whereas the waste management total stayed at around 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and landfill was off the stratosphere, with extremely high methane emissions. That is another argument in favour of energy from waste.

I hope my noble friend will look favourably on rolling out more projects on energy from waste, such as those he knows about from exchanges we have had on the Floor of the House.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. I have Amendment 242A in this group, which is supported across all parties in the Committee—I am grateful to noble Lords who have signed it. It is similar to Amendment 228, which has just been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. There is a choice of amendments for the Minister, because we have the Labour amendment later on.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I am in some ways indifferent to which of the three amendments the Minister supports or to whether he wants to put forward different drafting himself, but I hope that the number of ways the Committee has brought forward this issue will persuade the Government to move. It is worth saying that there is not just support from different parties and political support, and from the Skidmore report, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, but great support for replacing the existing language of Ofgem’s objectives and duties in the Electricity and Gas Acts with a new text which makes reference to enabling the Secretary of State to meet the targets set out under Part 1 of the Climate Change Act.

As has been said, the future systems operator—the new regulator created by the Bill—does have a specific statutory net-zero objective linked to our climate change targets. However, this is weakened by the fact that there is no equivalent provision in relation to Ofgem, which has only the much more limited duty given to it in the Energy Act 2010. In their consultation on the future systems operator, the Government noted that

“There were several strong calls for Ofgem’s remit to be reformed to focus on enabling net zero in the most economic and efficient way”.


This view is also shared by your Lordships’ Industry and Regulators Committee. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, who signed my amendment, will go into the committee’s rationale for this recommendation.

The case for updated net-zero duties goes far wider than this House or political circles. It has been argued for by environmental organisations such as Green Alliance but also by industry bodies such as Energy UK, the main trade body for energy, representing over 100 energy suppliers and generators. It has said that strengthening Ofgem’s statutory duties to explicitly support the delivery of the legally binding net-zero target would help ensure it balances the needs of both current and future consumers.

As has been said, the Skidmore review has been published in the last few days. It recommends that this change takes place to ensure that Ofgem gives sufficient weight to net zero and to incentivise network companies to plan ahead, emphasising the importance of future-proofing our energy infrastructure. It is essential that Ofgem is given, by government and Parliament, a very clear remit and role as to the importance of net zero and that it recognises the cost to consumers of delayed action. Regulators, given explicit responsibilities by government and Parliament, have a key role to play in demonstrating cross-government commitment to reducing carbon emissions. There is widespread support for this change and I hope the Minister will be able to respond positively to it.

I will turn briefly to two other issues. I record my support for the case made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and hope that she too will get a positive response.

Turning to Amendment 229 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, to which I have added my name, the Minister and I have had many exchanges on the topic of onshore wind. I should start by saying that I welcome the movement the Government have made here and that they have opened a consultation on changing the National Planning Policy Framework guidance on onshore wind, to remove the effective moratorium to allow a new development where the proposal has community support and to encompass the repowering of existing sites.

I also welcome the commitment in the Written Ministerial Statement that the Government intend to make changes by the end of April this year. It is important that we move forward with some speed on this. It is now three years since I tabled a Private Member’s Bill to deal with this issue specifically. In that time, wind farms could have been built in the appropriate places, feasibly adding to the grid at this precise moment and reducing our reliance on expensive gas and foreign imports.

The amendment is not overly prescriptive, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has laid out; it simply requires the Secretary of State to set out a plan as to how more onshore wind farms will be deployed. It does not force the installation of turbines anywhere and would complement the existing consultation, which is focused on allowing communities which can show demonstrable support for onshore wind the ability to install it.

It would indicate the need, and the recognition of the need, for an overarching plan. RenewableUK has long called for the Government to set targets for new onshore wind and solar capacity:

“While onshore wind and solar are now eligible for CfDs, there is no clear medium- to long-term ambition.”


I hope the Minister will recognise that setting a target of 300 gigawatts by 2030 would create 27,000 high-quality jobs and add £45 billion to the UK economy. It is time to set a target now and to be ambitious. I hope the Minister will respond positively.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
I support the other amendments in this group on Ofgem and look forward to the upcoming speeches from noble Lords on them. I also look forward to hearing from the Minister and hope that he can provide the reassurance I am asking for. I beg to move.
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet. I will speak to my Amendment 133. I am grateful for the support of my co-signatories: the noble Lords, Lord Hollick and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann.

I also very much support the case for Amendment 1 made by the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale. One phrase stuck out for me: his advocation of a “coherent, system- level plan”. In so many of the areas around energy efficiency that we will deal with later in the Bill, this is what we have been missing—not individual initiatives but a strategic approach, with time limits, timescales and targets to be met, so that we can see delivery.

I also support Amendment 130 from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson—which is a different approach to achieving the same goal as my Amendment 133—and Amendment 132 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake of Leeds, which would finally ensure that the long-awaited strategy and policy statement setting out the Government’s priorities would be published within six months. I very much hope that the Minister can respond positively to that and say that that statement is imminent.

Ofgem’s current remit pre-dates the 2050 net-zero target set by Parliament in 2019. Amendment 133 gives Ofgem a specific statutory net-zero objective linked to our climate change targets, in so doing mirroring the remit that the Government are giving the future systems operator. In Committee, the Minister said of similar amendments updating Ofgem’s remit that the Government “agreed with their intent” but did not consider them necessary because of the existing decarbonisation objective, referring to the 2010 change to Ofgem’s remit, which included a non-specific greenhouse gas reduction objective.

However, this existing duty is limited and related to the reduction of electricity and gas supply emissions of targeted greenhouse gases only—in other words, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an unspecified amount over an unspecified timescale. It does not link to our net-zero targets and as a result is less specific and ambitious than what the Government are legislating for the future systems operator.

The change advocated in Amendment 133 has broad support, as was recognised by the Government in their consultation on the future systems operator. The Government themselves noted that

“there were several strong calls for Ofgem’s remit to be reformed to focus on enabling net zero”.

The change was recommended in a report by your Lordships’ Industry and Regulators Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, and was also recommended this year by the Skidmore review and the Climate Change Committee. The latter argued that:

“Giving Ofgem a net zero responsibility”


will help it to

“think … strategically about the changes that lie ahead so that we can minimise the cost to the consumer in the long run.”

Just yesterday, the National Infrastructure Commission, in a fairly coruscating report on the Government’s progress towards reaching net zero, recommended the change in its Infrastructure Progress Review.

Support does not end there. The new duty is strongly endorsed by the main industry trade bodies: Energy UK, whose 100 members deliver nearly 80% of the UK’s power generation and over 95% of the energy supply; RenewableUK, which represents 1,000 businesses employing 250,000 people in the UK; and the Energy Networks Association, whose members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and which employs 40,000 people in Great Britain.

This is not just a matter of semantics. The reason all these organisations and bodies support this change is that they believe it essential for increasing the pace and scale of investment in the UK’s electricity grid, which we were hearing about earlier, in order to deliver net zero and ensure that long-term planning happens at the pace needed. As the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, who cannot be with us today, said when we were debating a similar amendment in Committee:

“Many of our witnesses”


at the Select Committee

“told us that the net zero target should be included explicitly within Ofgem’s strategic duties … If there is no explicit reference to net zero, there is a danger that the decisions will be very short-term in nature, focusing on short-term costs for consumers and not the long-term costs of failing to achieve net zero and invest in the infrastructure necessary to achieve that.”—[Official Report, 16/1/23; col. GC 418.]

The trade bodies that represent the industry have been clear that they consider the lack of a clear duty that specifically refers to our net-zero targets as a reason why there has been historic underinvestment in the grid. Ofgem is not currently empowered to consider the benefit of long-term investments with sufficient weight, meaning that new renewable infrastructure is having to wait years to connect to the grid in some cases. This is not a case of it saving the consumer money, as it will cost more in the long term if we continually, but only slowly and incrementally, improve localised energy grid infrastructure. To put it colloquially, it will mean repeatedly digging up the road many times over, rather than digging it up once and for ever.

As RenewableUK has commented to us, at present

“grid development only takes place when there is overwhelming demand for it”,

rather than in future anticipation. That would make sense in a situation where there were uncertainties, but we are certain that we are going to have vastly increased demand for electricity in the near future and that the grid will be decarbonised. We know that every street in every town is going to need to be able to install EV charging points, and we hope that new developments will need to install solar panels and heat pumps, which will all need to connect to the grid. This is something we all know we need to do, but as things stand, by the time there is what is seen as overwhelming demand for grid expansion, it is very hard for grid development to catch up.

Responding to this amendment in Committee, the Minster also said that Ofgem would be keen to avoid any confusion over the need to balance decarbonisation, affordability and security of supply. I agree: Ofgem has repeatedly made it clear that it would welcome such clarification. My amendment does not alter those other aspects of Ofgem’s remit or weaken them in any way. It is for the Government to clarify to Ofgem how those various trade-offs can be balanced.

As I said, Amendment 132 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake of Leeds, would ensure that the long-awaited strategy and policy statement setting out the Government’s priorities is published within six months—something that is overdue and badly needed. But as all the committees and trade bodies I have cited make clear, doing this does not detract from the need for legislative change to reflect our 2050 targets.

We should not miss the opportunity given by the Bill to update the consumer interests that must be protected when Ofgem carries out its functions to include our statutory responsibilities to achieve net zero by 2050. I end by reminding the House of the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, in Committee. He said that it would be ironic if the regulator most responsible for regulating the journey to net zero is one of the only regulators which does not have a specific responsibility in its remit. I hope we can persuade the Minister to agree.

Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as a member of Peers for the Planet. I am speaking specifically to Amendment 133—so excellently spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman—to which I have added my name. I also support the other amendments in this group.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has made clear, the future systems operator, which will regulate under the terms of the Bill in future, will have a statutory net-zero objective linked specifically to our climate change targets. Currently, Ofgem does not have that, and this amendment simply seeks to bring it into line. The consequences of an ill-defined and time-limited free objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is that Ofgem is not giving sufficient weight to net zero and focusing instead on near-term energy costs, which do not properly recognise the cost impacts for future consumers of delaying specific action to achieve net zero.

The network companies are therefore currently incentivised not to plan ahead. Instead, they are encouraged to defer investment to the last possible moment, and not to anticipate the increases in long-term demand that we are all aware are coming. This has discouraged future-proofing of our energy infrastructure and left us with an ageing network infrastructure that is not really fit for purpose now, let alone for 2050, with constraints and delayed reinforcements being a barrier to connections for housing developments and to the connection of low-carbon power, transport and heating. The reality is that we will need much more grid infrastructure due to the decarbonisation of heat—which is commendably legislated for in the Bill—and of transport through the increased take-up of electric vehicles.

The Financial Times reported last year that renewable energy developers are being told that they will have to wait six to 10 years to connect to regional distribution networks. RenewableUK has highlighted that, in Scotland, a significant number of offshore wind farms that were granted leases last year by the Crown Estate Scotland will not be able to get a grid connection until the mid-2030s. Clearly, there is not a sufficient sense of urgency. Indeed, part of this is likely to be due to the non-specificity of the timescale for achieving net zero that Ofgem currently has.

There is a specific example of a 3-gigawatt east coast offshore wind farm being developed by RWE. This will be instrumental in meeting the Government’s 2030 net-zero target, but it has a grid connection date of 2032.

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Ultimately, we agree with the intent of the amendments and will continue to consider the matter during the Bill’s passage in the other place. However, I encourage Peers to reconsider them at this point and note that, for the strategy and policy statement to be designated, it must of course come before Parliament and be approved by a resolution of each House, so Members will get the opportunity to have their say on such a strategy in the future.
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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Before the noble Lord sits down, I would be very grateful if he can tell me why he thinks so many other people disagree with him on this—so many people who are regulated by the regulator, and so many reports, from your Lordships’ House, the Skidmore report, and from the CCC. Why does the rest of the world not get it?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I think it is very easy for other people who are not directly engaged in the business of regulation to think that adding a statutory duty will be the magical cause of all the different elements of the energy system that they want to contribute to. But, of course, what we should also remember is that placing a duty in primary legislation also makes it justiciable.

I am sure there are plenty of lawyers in this House, and lots of litigation is already flying around on net-zero duties—the Government, indeed, need to respond to further litigation by the end of the week. If the House wants to give yet more work to their learned friends—of course, all the costs of that are ultimately borne by consumers—then the House is free to do that. We continue to keep the matter under review, but we are very clear, as is Ofgem, that Ofgem feels as though it already has this responsibility. I hope that Peers will think again.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Moved by
97: Before Clause 200, insert the following new Clause—
“National Warmer Homes and Businesses Action Plan(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, publish an action plan entitled the Warmer Homes and Businesses Action Plan, to set out how His Majesty’s Government intends to deliver on—(a) achieving a low-carbon heat target, of 100% of installations of relevant heating appliances and connections to relevant heat networks by 2035,(b) achieving EPC band C by 2035 in all UK homes where practical, cost effective and affordable,(c) achieving EPC band B by 2028 in all non-domestic properties, and(d) introducing the Future Homes Standard for all new builds in England by 2025.(2) The Secretary of State must, in developing the Warmer Homes and Businesses Action Plan, consult the Climate Change Committee and its sub-committee on adaptation.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to bring forward a plan with timebound proposals for low carbon heat, energy efficient homes and non-domestic properties and higher standards on new homes.
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 97 I remind the House of my interests as set out in the register. This is truly a cross-party amendment, and I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Bourne, Lord Whitty and Lord Foster of Bath, who have added their names to it. The noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, has Amendment 98 in this group, and has been fighting the battle on energy efficiency even longer than I have.

I do not need to speak at length on this issue, as I explained the rationale of it in Committee. For any noble Lords who missed that event, I also explained the rationale for amendments to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. This is an important issue and it goes across many sectors. In the private sector, social housing and owner occupation we have the same problem: our housing stock is old, leaky and draughty—and part of the leaking that goes on is of money. There are also the effects on health and productivity.

There has been no challenge at any time when I have suggested that it is important that we focus on energy efficiency. The analysis that we have a real problem is universally accepted. Indeed, six years ago the Government first set out their own aspiration for as many homes as possible to be EPC band C by 2035. However, I am afraid that, although the aspiration has been there, the achievement has not. Since that aspiration was set out, we have had numerous schemes for home insulation, which in the main have failed. They have been piecemeal and ineffective, and have given no confidence to the industries that we need to deliver those services that there will be long-term investment and that they too can invest and train the workforce necessary to make the inroads we need into the problems.

We have had those sorts of schemes and a string of announcements from Governments. There has been a string of announcements, a string of reannouncements, a string of consultations and, most recently, an announcement that there was a commitment to publish the responses to a previous consultation. What we have not had is the comprehensive, coherent, cohesive plan that would see us able to make real progress in this area.

Everyone else has quoted the Skidmore review so I will too. In that review, Chris Skidmore said that the mission to improve energy efficiency for households

“will not only reduce energy demand and bolster our energy security, but also save consumers money on their bills”.

To that, I add that it will also save taxpayers money because, at the moment, they are subsidising those bills. Good money is literally going up in smoke; we need to stop it now. What we need is a comprehensive, cohesive plan with set times for the achievement of set objectives—something that we have never had.

This is not only my analysis. In its progress review—last month, I think—the National Infrastructure Commission highlighted:

“Government is not on track to deliver its commitments on heat or energy efficiency … A concrete plan for delivering energy efficiency improvements is required, with a particular focus on driving action in homes and facilitating the investment needed”.


We need to take that conclusion very seriously; my amendment seeks to do just that.

I am grateful to the Minister, who found time to discuss these issues with me. He had some concerns about the drafting of the amendment, particularly the words “cost effective”, “practical” and “affordable”. I am trying to make this amendment sensible, cost effective, practical and affordable, but I hope to reassure the Minister that those words were not just plucked out of the air by me. They come from the Government’s own Clean Growth Strategy and were quoted back at me as something that the Government supported by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in his response to my amendment when we debated it during a debate on the levelling-up Bill.

For those reasons, I hope that these words will not worry the Minister in the way that they did when we had a conversation. If he was still concerned and felt the need to change them at Third Reading, I think we would all be happy to come back and see whether there was a way in which we could accommodate that. Meanwhile, I do not resile from my view that, as a Parliament, we need to say how firmly we believe that the Government have not made enough progress on this issue and that we need a road map to do so urgently.

I beg to move.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, this group covers the two amendments concerning the energy performance of existing premises and of new builds.

I will start with Amendment 97, from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lords, Lord Foster and Lord Whitty, which would require the Secretary of State to publish a national warmer homes and businesses action plan six months after Royal Assent. That proposed plan looks very similar to and would duplicate the Government’s existing Net Zero Strategy and the Heat and Buildings Strategy—added to, of course, by the Powering Up Britain publications. Therefore, we feel that it is unnecessary.

On minimum energy-efficiency standards for domestic buildings, the Government agree with the ambition of reaching EPC band C by 2035 for as many homes as possible where that is cost effective, and for commercial properties below EPC band B where that is cost effective. On minimum energy-efficiency standards, these ambitions have already been published in various publications, including the Net Zero Growth Plan. The Government have already set out their timeline to deliver the future homes standard by 2025 and we have accelerated work on its full technical specification. We will consult further on that later this year. Regarding the proposal on heat networks, the Bill already outlines our heat network zoning proposals for England, which details where buildings should be connected to heat networks and gives local authorities the power to implement heat network zones.

On top of all those major commitments, as has been referenced in the debate, we recently launched the Energy Efficiency Taskforce, of which I have the honour to be co-chairman, to deliver our ambition to reduce the UK’s final energy consumption from buildings and industry by 15% by 2030. So there is no difference in ambition from the Government on energy efficiency. I agree with many of the points made on how important energy efficiency is, and we are progressing work to increase it across a whole range of sectors, as I have outlined.

In addition to all that, in the Statement on powering up Britain, which was made just before the Easter Recess and will be repeated here on Wednesday evening, we announced a further insulation scheme—the Great British insulation scheme—to deliver £1 billion in additional investment by March 2026 in energy-efficiency upgrades in some of the least efficient homes, including those in the so-called able-to-pay sector. Furthermore, we announced that we will extend the boiler upgrade scheme until 2028, supporting both domestic and small non-domestic buildings, building on the existing £450 million-worth of funding already committed between 2022 and 2025 to provide the signal that people have been asking for that the scheme will last in the longer term. All of that will help us to reach our ambition of phasing out all new installations of natural gas boilers by 2035, but before we can proceed to legislate for that we must provide effective cheap alternatives; otherwise, the population will, in my view, react badly to being compelled to do that.

I turn next to Amendment 98, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Foster, Lord Lennie and Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, with contributions from my noble friend Lady Altmann. I would also like to thank the noble Lord for his important work as chairman of the committee. This amendment would require all privately rented homes to have a minimum energy performance certificate—EPC—rating of band C by December 2028, subject to specified exemptions. The amendments would also require non-domestic privately rented properties to meet EPC B by December 2028.

Again, the Government agree with the principle of increasing the ambition for minimum energy-efficiency standards to help reduce energy bills for tenants and to deliver carbon savings to meet our net-zero and achieve our fuel poverty targets. That was reflected in the Government’s consultation, which has been referred to, on proposals to raise the minimum energy-efficiency standard for privately rented homes to EPC C for new tenancies from 1 April 2025 and for all tenancies by 1 April 2028. We are currently considering the results of that consultation, but, as I have said in the House before, it is not an easy policy to progress. There are already shortages of rented accommodation in many parts of the country, and it is certainly not my ambition to further increase those shortages, so we will have to be careful how we proceed in that legislation. The Government also consulted on a minimum energy-efficiency standard for non-domestic privately rented buildings of EPC C by 2027, and EPC B by 2030.

Under the Energy Act 2011, the Secretary of State already has the necessary powers to amend the PRS regulations to raise the minimum energy-efficiency standards and set the dates by which landlords must comply with the new energy standards. As I explained in Committee, the amendment would not allow us to reflect the immense amount of valuable feedback that we received from the consultation in the final policy design that we are currently working on. This will be essential to ensure that it is fair and proportionate for tenants, of course, but also for landlords themselves. As I said at the time, we intend to publish the summary of responses to this consultation later in the year, as confirmed in the powering up Britain Statement.

I hope that I have been able to reassure noble Lords as to our ambitions in this area. We want to see the same policy outcomes as do many in this House and we are already working on many of these areas. I hope that my reassurances will enable the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I am grateful to everyone who has spoken on this important issue. The Minister said, in essence, that there is no difference between the Government and my amendment. If that is so, it will not be such a big deal for them to accept it. However, the truth of the matter is that this amendment would mandate action in this area, and in a specific timeframe. I am sad to say that the Government have a credibility problem in this area with their own ambitions, objectives and restatements of policy. I have been very much supported from all Benches—I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Deben—and I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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Moved by
133: After Clause 264, insert the following new Clause—
“GEMA general duties relating to climate change(1) In section 3A(1A) of the Electricity Act 1989 (the principal objective and general duties of the Secretary of State and the Authority), for paragraph (a) substitute—“(a) their interests in enabling the Secretary of State to meet the targets set under Part 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (UK net zero emissions target and budgeting);”.(2) In section 4AA(1A) of the Gas Act 1986 (the principal objective and general duties of the Secretary of State and the Authority), for paragraph (a) substitute—“(a) their interests in enabling the Secretary of State to meet the targets set under Part 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (UK net zero emissions target and budgeting);”.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to include within Ofgem’s general duties a specific requirement to have regard to meeting the UK’s net zero emissions target.
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, we debated this amendment before Easter. At that time, I put forward the case that it was strange that Ofgem, as the regulator for energy, would not have a responsibility for net zero. I explained how many organisations and consumer bodies in the industry supported having such a duty, and asked the Minister why the Government were the odd ones out among all those informed views. I am afraid that he did not give me an answer that I found compelling. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Portrait Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to everybody who took part on the Bill because I never expected to see carbon capture and storage—I am the honorary president of its association—getting such a good hearing in this House. I put on record my appreciation of the £20 billion that the most recent Budget has decided to expend on carbon capture and storage. We cannot reach the targets on net zero without carbon capture and storage; the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, referred to the Danes, who are making fantastic progress on that in their fields. My last point is that we have the capability to capture 7,000 tonnes of carbon in the North Sea and elsewhere. Only Norway has more capacity than that. There is a great future here and, frankly, I am still pinching myself to accept that this House has got behind the Bill. I thank everyone who took part in it very much.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I feel that I should say something as everyone else has. There will be two things and they are very brief. One is to echo the hope that we will not have to fight battles again at ping-pong on issues which are absolutely mainstream and in line with the Government’s objectives. They are common-sense measures, particularly on insulation and energy efficiency, and on the remit of Ofgem. The other is that, in declaring my interest as chair of Peers for the Planet, and simply because this is an opportunity to thank those who give us support, I also record my thanks to Emma Crane, Kyla Taylor and David Farrar at Peers for the Planet for the work that they did on the Bill.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Consideration of Commons amendments
Tuesday 12th September 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Energy Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 168-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons Amendments - (11 Sep 2023)
Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, I rise extremely briefly to support very strongly the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and my noble friend Lady Boycott. Regarding the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Boycott, it is crazy that we have barriers inhibiting the development of renewable energy by community energy schemes. This amendment is a very modest proposal to ensure that those barriers are removed within a reasonable timeframe. I hope that all sides of the House can support these three amendments, but I have particularly spoken to that tabled by the noble friend Lady Boycott.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register and record my gratitude to the Minister for the Ofgem amendment. In much more elegant language, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said that it was a no-brainer. It absolutely is, and Amendment 187A is equally a no-brainer. However, before I say why, I add my support to those amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. Particularly in the latter we have a compromise which would really boost a sector of the energy industry that is of great benefit.

In terms of benefits, no one—including the Government —fundamentally challenges the benefits of improving the energy efficiency of Britain’s old, cold, leaky housing stock. They recognise the benefits for individuals and families in terms of health and reduced bills, but it goes beyond that. There are benefits for the UK because improving energy efficiency reduces demand, helps towards our net-zero target and improves our energy security. It is also potentially of benefit to the taxpayer in reducing the huge expense that the Government take on board when energy prices spike. We have seen how much the Government have spent on heating homes and that money going out of the window because of the state of the housing stock. There are also benefits in stimulating the retrofitting industry, which is a national industry. It goes across all parts of the country and helps with the training and then the providing of secure and sustainable jobs.

We have debated this—I will not say ad nauseam, but certainly at length—not only on this Bill but on the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, because of the issues that I was talking about, such as employment and the fact that the poorest people suffer most from the worst homes, in terms of energy efficiency and their health.