New Clause 20 - Building regulations: microgeneration

Part of Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:00 pm ar 9 Chwefror 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:00, 9 Chwefror 2006

I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) for his sensible and spot-on intervention. He reminded us of the practical implications with which we should concern ourselves.

I entirely endorse the points made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, who tabled this new clause. It should come as no surprise, because he has a tremendous track record in the area and is one of our   great experts. However, I am concerned that the new clause does not go quite far enough. He made the point that, on Second Reading of his Management of Energy in Buildings Bill, the Minister for Housing and Planning said that she would use the code for sustainable buildings to promote microgeneration:

“We ... believe that there are additional ways we can promote micro-generation, such as through the code for sustainable buildings, on which we will consult shortly.”—[Official Report, 11 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 660.]

However, the current draft of the code is disappointing and in no way fulfils the promises that the Minister made on Second Reading. Microgeneration, which has many enthusiasts in this Committee, hardly features at all. In some important cases, it is omitted altogether.

Without being unfair to the Minister in any way, I shall give the Committee a few examples. On page 17, under the proposed essential elements of the code, energy efficiency is defined as the

“conservation of fuel and power”.

Nowhere is microgeneration included separately. On page 19, in a table under the heading “Establishing Minimum Standards”, energy efficiency is defined in the same way, with no mention of microgeneration.

On page 24, in the paragraph “Establishing the Minimum Standard”, microgeneration does feature, but only as an alternative to energy conservation for homes unable to access mains gas. The paragraph says:

“Homes unable to use mains gas for space and water heating will have to invest in additional energy efficiency measures or incorporate lower carbon technologies, such as microgeneration, than homes that use mains gas for such uses.”

That is really not good enough. Nor should energy efficiency be seen as an alternative to sustainable energy or microgeneration. That is not what we expected when the Minister for Housing and Planning spoke in November.

I can give other examples. On page 42, in appendix F, the first objective listed is

“improvement in energy efficiency of new homes”,

with no mention of the promotion of microgeneration. Page 43 lists the guiding principles of the IRA. Did I say “IRA”? I meant to say “RIA”. Again, there is no mention of microgeneration, and perhaps we should hold the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to account for that. There is mention only of energy efficiency. Pages 44 onwards make no mention of the benefits of microgeneration; only energy efficiency is mentioned.

There is a real danger that in some quarters even in the environmental movement, energy efficiency is seen as an alternative to microgeneration or decentralised energy. It is not and it must not be presented in that way, because that is a false argument. We must be full advocates of all those technologies and of energy conservation and efficiency. Page 44 merely mentions it in passing as a low carbon technology when it should have been included in all the relevant sections, all the way through, particularly those headed “Essential Elements”.

The Government have spoken consistently of their support for microgeneration, and the Energy Savings Trust report for the DTI clearly shows that microgeneration could deliver up to 40 per cent. of electricity needs by 2050. That is ambitious, but we should be ambitious. That can happen only with the right regulatory and policy frameworks. Without those, microgeneration will remain the niche product that it is at the moment and the benefits will not be achieved.

The Minister is reasonable, so will he repeat the promise made by the Minister for Housing and Planning back in November and this time drive the Government hard and ensure that the sustainable buildings code will be changed accordingly? So far, it is not good enough.