HC Deb 19 July 1974 vol 877 cc911-8

(1) A disposal authority may, subject to subsections (2) and (3) of this section—

  1. (a) use waste belonging to the authority for the purpose of producing from it heat or electricity or both;
  2. (b) establish and operate, within or outside its area, such generating stations and other installations as the authority thinks fit for the purpose aforesaid; and
  3. (c) where the authority operates an installation in which waste is usually used as the main fuel for the purpose of producing heat or electricity, then—
    1. (i) in the case of an installation for producing heat, use other fuel in addition to waste to produce the heat, and
    2. (ii) in the case of an installation for producing electricity, use other fuel to assist in burning the waste to produce the electricity, and, in an emergency, use other fuel instead of waste to produce the heat or electricity;
and a disposal authority may use, sell or otherwise dispose of any heat produced by the authority by virtue of this section.

(2) A disposal authority shall not be entitled to make any arrangements with a view to the production from waste of electricity for use otherwise than by the authority unless—

  1. (a) the authority has had consultations about the arrangements with the Central Electricity Generating Board and with any Electricty Board proposed to be specified in the arrangements in pursuance of paragraph (b) of the following subsection; and
  2. (b) the arrangements are approved by the Secretary of State and are in accordance with any conditions which he attaches to his approval.

In the application of this subsection to Scotland the reference to the Central Electricity Generating Board shall be omitted.

(3) Where a disposal authority produces electricity by virtue of this section the authority—

  1. (a) may use any of the electricity at the installation at which it was produced and on any premises occupied by the authority in connection with the installation, but shall not use any of it elsewhere;
  2. (b) may sell any of the electricity, on such terms as are specified in the relevant arrangements made in pursuance of the preceding subsection, to any Electricity Board (within the meaning of the Electricity Act 1947) which is so specified, but shall not or otherwise dispose of any of it to any other person; 912 and it shall be the duty of any Electricity Board so specified to buy electricity from the authority in accordance with the said arrangements.

(4) Subsection (6) of section 12 of this Act (except paragraph (b) of that subsection) and subsection (6A) of that section (except so much of it as relates to the Pipe-lines Act 1962) shall have effect in relation to a disposal authority as if the reference in the said subsection (6) to the collection of waste in pursuance of that section included the conveying of heat produced by the authority by virtue of this section and of air, steam and water heated by such heat.

(5) It shall be the duty of a disposal authority by which an installation for producing heat is operated in pursuance of this section in any year to furnish to the Secretary of State, as soon as practicable after the end of that year such particulars relating to the installation and heat produced at it as are prescribed.

(6) Nothing in this section (except the restrictions imposed by subsections (2) and (3)) shall be construed as prejudicing any power exercisable by a disposal authority apart from this section.

Mr. Denis Howell

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we can alse discuss new Clause 5 (Supplementary provisions relating to pipes), and Government Amendments Nos. 30, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 24 and 28.

Mr. Howell

I share the concern that it is necessary to take such an important Bill on a Friday. Nevertheless the circumstances are well known. I am encouraged by the fact that there has been considerable co-operation on all sides during the proceedings of the Bill to date. I hope that that will be the case this afternoon. In moving amendments I shall seek either to give the briefest possible outline or to move them formally. Of course, if the House wants further information I shall do my best to give it.

In another place my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal announced on Second Reading that we would be considering the incorporation of measures that would give waste disposal authorities powers to utilise heat produced from the incineration or processing of waste either for district heating schemes or for the generation of electricity. The new clause will give disposal authorities necessary powers and relieve them of the necessity of seeking Local. Act powers for individual schemes.

New Clause 5 places a duty on collection and disposal authorities to prepare maps showing the location of their pipes for transporting waste or heat. A copy of the maps will have to be made available for public inspection at the offices of the collection authority in whose areas the pipes have been laid. That is in every way an eminently sensible proposition. It will obviously be essential to maintain proper records of the location of waste or heat pipes, as it is at the present time for drains or sewers, and to make these records open to inspection. New Clause 5 is consequential upon the powers we are seeking in new Clause 1 and I hope that the House will approve.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

The Government are to be congratulated on the principle of the clause but I see one or two difficulties associated with it. First, the disposal authority will have the right to sell anywhere the heat which is produced from the burning of waste, but electricity is dealt with in a different way. The clause says that the authorities may not sell to any other person and that it shall become the duty of the electricity boards so specified to buy electricity from them.

There is to be free disposal of heat, and that may become important to the chemical industry which could be a free buyer in the open market. However, the electricity produced by the disposal authority in England and Wales would have to be sold to the CEGB and part of the value of the scheme is thrown away. I dare say the Government have in mind the Wilton power station of ICI which in 1973 produced something of the order of 300 megawatts of electric power and 1,200 tons per hour of steam. The heat was produced from chemical waste. It seems an extremely good idea and it gives some idea of the type of waste that can be utilised—for example gas, liquid petroleum gas, tars, waste lubricating oils, emulsion residues, waste from aromatic and olefin plants and hydrogen gas from the nylon plant. This sort of thing shows how we advance in technology and it is a good indication of the way in which the Government are moving ahead to take advantage of the use of waste to produce electricity.

It must be remembered that we are not first in the field in this direction. Amsterdam already provides about 6 per cent. of its electricity from waste disposal. Plants are already planned in the Federal Republic of Germany, and in the United States more than 136 million tons of refuse is consumed every year in the production of heat and electricity. If it was all consumed in the production of electricity it would supply 11 per cent. of the nation's requirements. Bearing in mind our responsibilities to the miners of this country, the Government should take note of the fact that in East Bridgewater in Massachusetts it is possible to produce a fuel which will generate as much steam as pulverised coal on an equivalent weight basis, and that all comes from refuse. It is worth noting that the amount of fly ash produced is comparable to that produced from coal.

I therefore welcome this proposal. I have only one criticism apart from my point about electricity having to be sold to the CEGB, and that is that perhaps it should be specified for the sake of industry which types of fuels may be consumed. It might be interesting if the Minister gave some guidance on the methods he has in mind. Is he moving towards hydrogenation, pyrolysis and bioconversion? I realise that there has not been a great deal of research work on the last of these, but the first two have reached the trial stage and it is well known that with optimum conditions with hydrogenation as much as 99 per cent. of the carbon content is converted to oil—about two barrels per ton of dry waste—and with pyrolysis, which has been operated to a great extent in the United States by Monsanto, Union Carbide and the Garrett Research and Development Company, great results have been achieved. These processes could be of great value to the Government in pushing forward with this proposal.

Mr. Arthur Jones

May I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your kind reception of my proposition earlier about the suspension of the sitting. I know that I echo the opinion of everyone in the House when I say how pleased we are that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) is now in his place. We sympathise with him for the hard stint he has had during the last 26 hours. He said that he had difficulty in getting down to his papers, but that difficulty applies to many of us because the papers have been tardy in coming up. There are a number of Government starred amendments which it has been difficult to have the chance to look at, and I think we shall find that quite a number of the amendments have not been edited to fit in with the redrafting of the Bill.

This is an intolerable situation in which the House has to conduct its business. I know that it is in no way the Chair's responsibility but I think I am reflecting the views of hon. Members on both sides about the unreasonable pressure there is on business, as reflected by your decision to suspend the proceedings. I am sure that we are determined to get on with the business and to deal with it as purposefully, promptly and effectively as we may.

I welcome the new Clause. The Minister referred to individual schemes, but I do not know whether he meant that disposal authorities as individual authorities would need to have schemes of that character or whether the authorities could get together on a joint basis.

Was my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) correct in saying that the power had to be sold to the CEGB? Surely schemes of this sort will enable local authorities to use the power generated for their own purposes. It has been common practice in the past for the burning of waste to be used by local authorities to generate power to pump sewage disposal units and arrangements of that sort. Was my hon. Friend correct in saying that the schemes envisaged are of such a magnitude that the power produced will be put into the national grid?

Is the question of mineral recovery dealt with? Warren Spring, for example, we have seen prototype schemes of the disposal of waste by burning and the recovery of minerals as a result. I do not know whether that is dealt with.

I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford said on the subject. We are creating new powers, and I shall be glad to hear what the Minister has to say.

1.30 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Alex Eadie)

It is welcome and refreshing that we should have some discussion about what the Department of the Environment and my Department feel about the matter.

The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) raised many interesting questions. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy recently published a document on the conservation of energy. The House has also had the advantage of the publication of the CPRS report on conservation, which says that incineration can make a contribution towards conserving energy resources. The hon. Gentleman's contribution is timely.

I shall consider the impact of the clause under three headings. First, the clause will enable local authorities to make a small but welcome addition to the country's energy resources by supplying electricity to the system and supplying heat for district heating schemes from the burning of waste. I was recently sent to Scandinavia to examine district heating. The Scandinavian countries have far more experience of incineration than we have. In trying to learn from their experience I visited up-to-date incineration schemes where the Scandinavians burn household refuse in towns and localities. In Stockholm, I understand, some 40 per cent. of buildings are heated from district heating schemes, and there are a number of incineration plants.

The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) talked about mineral waste. We and local authorities will be examining the whole question of recycling material. I received from America last week a postcard on which it was stated to be the result of the recycling of paper in a particular State. The question of recycling material, something that is already happening in many parts of the world, is relevant when we talk about incineration. For example, 40 per cent. of incineration is of paper, some of which, together with other materials, can be recycled.

Secondly, the clause is an enabling provision. We cannot predict what the local waste disposal authorities will do, but we shall examine each proposal sympathetically from all points of view.

The hon. Member for Bedford asked whether research and development were involved, and he introduced the question of coal. This Government set up the tripartite examination by the unions, employers and the Government. The examination has also set up a working party to deal with the whole question of research and development on coal conversion and other sources of heat. I am the chairman of the working party. I hope that we shall very shortly be able to publish a report for the scrutiny of not only the House but the whole nation. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that, because he takes an active interest in these matters.

The Central Electricity Generating Board is ready to give local authorities the benefit of its experience and advice in considering plans to generate electricity from the incineration of waste. The local authorities will sell the electricity to the electricity boards. The House is aware that we have a national grid system. We are talking about an infinitesimal part of electricity capacity and generation. There will be two-way co-operation. The electricity authorities will make their expertise available to the local authorities so that they may decide whether they should go in for heat production from waste disposal.

Mr. Skeet

To encourage the conservation of energy and to encourage people to utilise waste in that connection, would it not be more appropriate to encourage schemes such as the ICI development by which ICI produces its own electricity?

Mr. Eadie

The hon. Gentleman is talking about something else, which may be the subject of a debate on another occasion. We are talking about a new clause dealing with refuse disposal. I hope that the House will have a debate about the whole question of energy conservation, when it can go into matters of refuse disposal and incineration.

Mr. Arthur Jones

I do not think that the Minister has covered the point about the use by local authorities of the power generated.

Mr. Denis Howell

They can use it themselves or sell it to the electricity boards.

Mr. Eadie

We are talking about something that is very small. There will be co-operation between the electricity undertakings and the local authorities, and there will be close collaboration between the Department of Energy and the local authorities with regard to the sums of money involved. I think that the House would wish that.

The principle of incineration is a substantial subject to which I hope the House will return one day.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.

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