HL Deb 18 June 1992 vol 538 cc283-5

3.10 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, following the transfer of the Energy Efficiency Office to the Department of the Environment, any new initiatives in this field have been taken or are contemplated.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, the Government have formed a partnership with British Gas and the regional electricity companies to establish an independent Energy Saving Trust. We will be consulting on the strengthening of the building regulations, and are taking forward an initiative to encourage training in energy efficiency.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that evidence of initiative by the Government in the energy efficiency sector. Does he not agree that in the present circumstances of mounting anxiety about the environment, improved energy efficiency represents the most effective way of dealing with some of the problems which were debated recently at Rio? In those circumstances, in addition to the specific initiatives which he has indicated, will the Government contemplate having a major campaign aimed at both domestic and industrial consumers to bring home to them the vital importance of saving more on energy usage, and providing some incentives for them to do so?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I certainly agree with the essence of the noble Lord's argument about the importance of energy efficiency. The noble Lord will know that we have a number of other schemes ongoing. For example, the campaign Helping the Earth Begins at Home and the Making a Corporate Commitment appeal to industry. A longer-term campaign requires a great deal of planning but it is a matter which I shall certainly take up.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, is not the fact that the Energy Efficiency Office has to be shunted from one department to another in this way evidence that the Government's attitude towards energy is to privatise the energy industries rather than have a positive energy policy? Would it not have been better for the Energy Efficiency Office, instead of being transferred to the Department of the Environment, to have been made an independent agency, as was proposed by the Labour Party?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the Labour Party was clearly wrong in its policy. We have put the Energy Efficiency Office firmly in the Department of the Environment because we believe that that is where it can make its greatest contribution towards energy efficiency and in looking after environmental considerations, which were explained so well by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, on the question of transferring parts of the now departed Department of Energy to other places in the government machine, can my noble friend give an indication as to when the Government will reach a decision about the transfer of the Petroleum Engineering Division to Aberdeen? Is my noble friend aware that the transfer of those 80 jobs from London, where there is really little local interest in the oil industry, to Aberdeen, which is the capital of the oil industry in the United Kingdom, would be extremely welcome? It would, according to Scottish Enterprise, generate some 15,000 additional jobs in the Grampian region coming from the private sector of the oil industry.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I believe that that is beyond the scope of the Question but I can tell my noble friend that we are still awaiting the consultants' report.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is the noble Lord satisfied that the use of gas—a premium fuel—for the generation of electricity is the best and the most efficient use of that fuel?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords. I did not quite understand the question. Perhaps the noble Lord will repeat it.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, gas is a premium fuel. It is an extremely efficient means of generating heat. However, when gas is used for generating electricity a great deal of its efficiency is lost up the chimney and in cooling towers. Therefore, it loses much of its heat value. Is that the best use of a premium fuel and does not that contribute a great deal to global warming, CO2 and so on?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. We believe that there should be a variety of sources of power available in this country so that we need not rely on any particular source. Gas is a fuel which is extremely efficient in certain circumstances and environmentally friendly. That meets one of the Government's goals.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, will my noble friend say something about the continuing research facility of the Energy Efficiency Office? He will recall that enormous amounts of research were successfully taken up by the pottery industry in the late 1970s and early I 980s. Perhaps he will update us on the position.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, research is fundamental to the Energy Efficiency Office. My noble friend will be delighted to know that this year we have increased expenditure on the Energy Efficiency Office by 40 per cent. to £59 million; that is, 10 times the 1979 level of expenditure in real terms.