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Energy Efficiency

Volume 76: debated on Monday 1 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what further initiatives he proposes to take to encourage energy efficiency.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he has decided to make 1986 the year of energy efficiency.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is considering designating 1986 as energy conservation year.

I am delighted at the progress that we have made during this past year. More than 14,000 senior executives have attended our early morning briefing meetings, there has been a 50 per cent. increase in extended survey scheme applications and a 300 per cent. increase in voluntary insulation projects for low-income households.

There is however, very much more progress to be made. I have decided to make 1986 an energy efficiency year in which I hope the Government, major energy utilities and industry will combine together to make a further considerable impact towards obtaining far higher standards of energy efficiency in this country.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's decision, which will underline in the most effective way the need to improve energy use and conservation. Will he confirm that we are talking about the possibility of saving thousands of millions of pounds through the more effective use of energy? For example, in offices and shops it would be possible to save energy to the value of £500 million.

The energy bill is about £35 billion. If we operated to the best standards that are being implemented in other countries, there would be a saving of £7 billion a year. There is enormous potential for improving our economic efficiency and it is an area in which every effort should be made.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept my congratulations on the progress that has been made in industrial sectors during the year. In the forthcoming year of energy saving, will he concentrate on an area in which probably the greatest potential for energy saving exists—the public sector? Will he make a special endeavour to co-ordinate the activities of local authorities and health authorities so as to make their officials more energy-conscious?

Yes. The local authorities' advisory organisation on efficiency, LAMSAC, has said that sensible energy efficient management services would reduce the rate bill by about £100 million a year. There is enormous potential within the NHS to improve energy saving. We shall do everything possible to co-ordinate the public sector to make the most progress that we can.

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that local authorities are given sufficient funds by the Department of the Environment to enable them to fund worthwhile local installations in energy-efficient schemes?

Yes. This is an area in which substantial progress has been made by the better local authorities. There is much to be done by the rest of the country and we shall be giving every possible encouragement to achieve further progress.

Is it not a fact that many organisations are confronted with an asbestos problem? Will the right hon. Gentleman say what research is being undertaken and what advice is being given so that alternatives can be found that offer a degree of efficiency that is equal to that of asbestos?

I cannot be specific, because I must confess that I have not examined this issue in any detail. However, I shall do so and thereafter I shall write to the hon. Gentleman.

Is the Secretary of State aware that my right hon. and hon. Friends will welcome the introduction of the year of energy efficiency in 1986? How much additional new money will be forthcoming from the Government to promote energy efficiency projects? Will the real value of home insulation grants be maintained in 1986?

The range covered by Government grants is quite considerable, including energy surveys, development programmes and research programmes. The majority of the savings to be made do not need Government support, in the sense that they are remunerative in themselves. About £300 million-worth of capital investment could be made by industry, which would bring a return of more than 100 per cent.

What about home insulation? Surely that is one of the most simple and understandable means of achieving greater energy efficiency. Britain lags behind most other Western countries on energy efficiency. Why does the Secretary of State not co-operate with other Departments on these issues?

We are collaborating with other Departments. As I said in my answer to the main question, there has been a 300 per cent. increase in one year in voluntary insulation projects for low-income households. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will rejoice in that.