HL Deb 25 June 1990 vol 520 cc1263-6

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there has been any recent expansion in the role of the Energy Efficiency Office, and whether the resources at its disposal have been increased.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, new initiatives developed by the Energy Efficiency Office over the past year include the best practice programme; an increased role for the regional energy efficiency officers; the public sector campaign with a target of 15 per cent. energy savings in Government departments within five years; and proposals, currently before Parliament in the Social Security Bill, for the home energy efficiency scheme for low income households.

The budget for Energy Efficiency Office programmes in 1990–91 is £26 million, an increase from £15 million last year, and the office's staff complement has increased from 58 in June 1989 to 76.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, while I welcome those developments, does the noble Viscount not agree, in the light of the increasing importance of environmental issues and of the major impact which energy efficiency can bring to bear on those issues, that a major reappraisal of the role of energy efficiency should now be undertaken? In particular, will he indicate the extent to which the Government are specifically promoting combined heat and power schemes, which virtually double the efficiency of power stations and substantially reduce CO2 emissions in relation to energy consumed?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, yes. The Government have long recognised both the energy efficiency and environmental benefits of CHP. We have actively promoted the technology through a comprehensive programme of market studies, feasibility studies, research, development and demonstrations. As I said, we are building on that success through our best practice programme. In a most welcome initiative, the industry is currently running a series of events organised by the Combined Heat and Power Association to highlight the advantages of combined heat and power to key decision-makers.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, can the noble Viscount say exactly what measures the Energy Efficiency Office is taking about the heat wasted in domestic premises? What measures do the Government intend to take to see that the enormous amount of heat wasted in houses is preserved? In relation to nuclear energy, can the noble Viscount say whether the Government have a policy of least cost option, bearing in mind the fact that the nuclear power station at Sizewell B is now apparently going to cost £2,200 million, £1,000 million above the original cost estimate?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, yes. Through its regional offices the Energy Efficiency Office has managed, among other things, to promote an awareness among members of the community as to how houses should be insulated. The new home energy efficiency scheme, which is to be promoted this autumn, brings to low income houses the great benefits which insulation provides. The least cost option is one option which is under constant study by the department. As the noble Lord knows, energy efficiency in power stations is currently being looked at, and the combined cycle gas turbine, which is a new technology, is one of the options involved. As regards Sizewell, I am not prepared to comment on that press speculation.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Combined Heat and Power Association. Is my noble friend aware that there is not much CHP on the ground? The biggest scheme at the moment is a district heating scheme which heats a few streets in Sheffield. There has been a lot of talk; is it not time to end the talk and act on CHP?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, my noble friend should take comfort from the fact that CHP currently contributes around 3 per cent. of the UK electricity demand. A recent report published by the department indicates that that capacity could double over the next decade, and therefore the prospects for CHP are better than ever.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, does the noble Viscount recall that the National Audit Office said that among the barriers to lower energy use in the public sector is the ignorance of managers of the measures that are available? Bearing in mind that many cuts made in the energy office fell on advertising and the develoment of energy surveys among managers, will the Minister say how he intends to realign those priorities?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the noble Lord denies that improved energy efficiency is making, and has already made, a substantial contribution both to the environment and to the national economy. The UK energy consumption in 1989 was slightly less than that in 1979, in spite of an increase in GDP of 25 per cent. I would not call that ignorance among energy managers.

Lord Wade of Chorlton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Minister of State spent a considerable amount of time visiting the regions and promoting efficient energy use, particularly in smaller companies?

Viscount Ullswater

Yes, my Lords. My right honourable friend Mr. Peter Morrison, the Minister of State for Energy, embarked upon a series of regional visits to promote energy efficiency, bringing industrialists face to face to discuss the problems, opportunities and success stories in their regions.

Lord Carver

My Lords, will the Minister indicate whether his department has studied the Watt Committee report on energy regarding technological responses to the greenhouse effect? If so, what action is it taking regarding the implementation of new technologies for energy efficiency recommended by that report?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I cannot be specific in response to the question asked by the noble and gallant Lord. However, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced that we are prepared to set ourselves a target of returning to the 1990 levels of carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2005. That means a substantial reduction in emissions from levels projected in the department's Energy Paper No. 58. Energy efficiency measures are bound to play a major part in reaching that goal. All those factors will be considered in the environment White Paper to be published in the autumn.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, does the Minister realise that if we are to obtain CHP in some of the larger cities government guarantees and finance will be required? Surely that is worth while for the future. Will the Government seriously take into account that long-term, large CHP schemes cannot be financed only by the private sector?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I do not entirely agree with the noble Viscount. The private sector is well aware of the advantages of CHP and is substantially involved in the CHP schemes. There are currently 120 such schemes in industry, accounting for 95 per cent. of overall CHP capacity. As I said, we expect that capacity to double over the next 10 years.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I was referring to domestic CHP in large cities? The industrial side can take care of itself.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I accept that and I agree that the industrial sector is likely to continue to be the main CHP area. However, a number of smaller projects in buildings continue to grow and I understand that a recent study indicated a potential of 320 megawatts by the mid-1990s.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, does the Energy Efficiency Office offer any kind of help to the private bodies which help companies regarding energy efficiency?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, yes. The Energy Efficiency Office produces a large number of guides. It also holds seminars, and that is part of the best practice programme that I outlined in my original Answer.