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Energy Audit Schemes

Volume 76: debated on Monday 1 April 1985

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what action is being taken by his Department to promote energy audit schemes.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how much grant-aid was provided by his Department to the home energy advice and treatment scheme.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many customers took up survey offers under the home energy advice and treatment pilot scheme in the east midlands.

There are 50 per cent. grants available for energy efficiency surveys of non-domestic premises. We have also supported the initial commercial development of the home energy audit, carried out by professionals — surveyors and valuers — a do-it-yourself audit and a semi-personalised audit relating to house type and fuel in conjunction with a commercial promotion. My Department provided a 49 per cent. grant for the home energy audit scheme to enable the company to prepare for and conduct a commercial pilot of the scheme in the east midlands.

There have been 500 inquiries about the scheme, which have resulted in 56 audits and labels to date. The company is evaluating the market research on the pilot and I now await a report.

Are the operation and value for money of the home energy advice and treatment scheme being reviewed? Is the Secretary of State willing to learn from the successful experience of many local authorities, but especially from Newcastle upon Tyne, on this matter?

Yes, Sir. Home energy audit is a relatively new, but important, area for this country. The Government believe that these systems should be developed on a commercial basis, and have been prepared to provide grants towards testing the commercial viability of what are novel developments. The pilot scheme was important and we have much to learn from it.

Will the Minister be a little more definite about contact with the public sector? Has his Department been in touch with the Greater London council, which is advising local authorities on this matter, or with the Newcastle city council, which is advising tenants about audits on energy efficiency? What contact has his Department had with the public sector and what does he think should follow from that?

My right hon. Friend and I have had considerable contact with local authorities, which are developing a number of interesting systems, some of which I have been able to see for myself.

Is the Minister proud of what he has done under the scheme, bearing in mind that it was introduced last October? The Government continue to tell us that they must spend money wisely. As they spent £50,000 advertising the scheme, is the Minister proud of the fact that only a small number of people have taken up the offer? When will he get off his backside and really do something?

I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that, looking back on what has happened, it appears that the pilot scheme was not successful in itself, but it has been a very valuable experiment from which we must learn as much as possible.

Is my hon. Friend aware that one reason why the pilot scheme was not successful in the east midlands was that the motivation did not appear to be only of cost benefit but of domestic convenience? Will he look at the experience in the United States, where the gas, electricity and coal undertakings handle those inquiries, rather than surveyors?

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that most complaints relate to high fuel bills and that energy audits lead directly to lower bills, lower fuel consumption and ultimately the need for fewer new power stations and capacity, all of which are eminently desirable?

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. Several thousand consumers have applied for the do-it-yourself home audit, which we have supported with the Open University and Channel 4. Several thousand more have applied for our semi-personalised audit on offer in a commercial promotion. Therefore, a major campaign of publicity and information does help the home owner to an awareness of what he can achieve.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of State for the Environment has cut home insulation grant expenditure by 15 per cent.? Is he further aware that the Secretary of State for Wales has cut home insulation expenditure by 25 per cent., therefore depriving almost 13,000 households in Wales of the possibility of home insulation? How does he square all the fine words, breakfasts, and audits with the action of other Ministers who are cutting back on the most effective and simple form of energy insulation and saving — home insulation grants?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there has been no cut. We have the same amount to spend this year as we had last year.