HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc717-9W
Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the meeting of the Energy Council on 21st December.

Mr. Bean

The Council of Ministers (Energy) met in Brussels on 21st December 1978. The Council agreed a recommendation to member States on energy saving by the modernisation of buildings. On the basis of the Commission's report on member States' national energy programmes, the Council requested further work on possible Community energy policy objectives for 1990. The Council also requested further work on the Commission's proposals for a draft framework optional directive to provide for the energy consumption labelling of domestic electrical appliances, and a draft directive applying this scheme to electric ovens. I made it clear that the United Kingdom's final attitude could not be determined until the Scrutiny Committee had reported on these documents.

In the light of member States' differing views on the detailed scope and provisions of the Commission's three coal proposals—to provide Community support for coking coal, for intra-Community trade in power station coal, and to promote the construction of coal-fired generating capacity in the Community—it proved impossible to agree any support measure for Community coal. We pressed for modifications to the schemes proposed, which would be necessary to avoid their producing an economic disadvantage for the United Kingdom. We made clear the Government's deep dissatisfaction at the lack of progress on coal and emphasised the importance of continuing work on Community support for this major long-term indigenous energy resource. We suggested that alternative approaches should be examined, including the possibility of supporting coal use near to the point of production thereby reducing the element of total support required to cover transport costs.

The meeting of the Council on 30th May had decided that the Council in December should consider regulations fixing financial limits on the schemes to support demonstration projects on energy saving and alternative energies and substantial first tranches of projects. As only small first tranches were available for consideration the United Kingdom reserved its position on the proposal, acceptable to the majority of the Council, to approve these tranches and the following financial limits for the schemes: —

Energy saving 55 meua
Alternative energies 95 meua
of which Coal based 50 meua
Solar 22.5 meua
Geothermal 22.5 meua

In reserving our position we made it clear that in general we welcomed these schemes and had sympathy with the arguments of our colleagues but that we considered it essential that the Council should only approve new expenditure after the same rigorous scrutiny as would be applied in national Governments. The Government will now be considering their future position.

The Council took note of the Commission's report on the refinery situation and of the interim report of the expert group set up to examine certain hydrocarbon exploration projects put forward by some member States for possible Community support.