asked the Secretary of State for Energy what resources his Department is devoting to studies of community heating programmes.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced his willingness to make grants towards studies of the prospects for combined heat and power and district heating schemes in Belfast, Edinburgh and Leicester. Grants are available under the energy efficiency survey scheme towards the cost of energy efficiency surveys of central boiler plants serving community heated dwellings.
Will the Minister confirm that, for technical and cost reasons, the most likely form of fuel for CHP schemes will be coal and that that is a further good reason why the future of the industry should be safeguarded? Will he also confirm that in planning future CHP schemes there will be a presumption in favour of the use of coal?
I readily agree that where coal is involved it is indeed an economic scheme, and the Government want combined heat and power schemes to go ahead where they are economically viable. We believe that that is best achieved by the involvement of the private sector. The Government are prepared to assist in the initial development of these schemes.
Where CHP feasibility studies show a higher rate of return than alternative supply investment by the nationalised industries, should they not be allowed to go ahead in the interests of providing cheaper energy to consumers?
I shall consider carefully what my hon. Friend has said. We are at an early stage in all these schemes, but I shall be monitoring the results carefully.