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Volume 78: debated on Monday 29 April 1985

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


asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied that existing energy conservation schemes are adequate.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on his plans to make 1986 Energy Efficiency Year.

Energy Efficiency Year, which I announced on 1 April 1985, will carry forward the momentum and progress achieved in energy efficiency since I launched the campaign 18 months ago. The year will serve as a focus to get everyone involved.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that much more has to be achieved and that, given the large number of houses occupied by the least well off, who can neither afford to pay for sufficient heat nor make the best use of the heat that they can afford to purchase, some real action is needed? Does he also accept that as much energy can be saved from effective conservation measures at lower cost and with a faster rate of return as can ever be produced by developments such as Sizewell's PWR?

One could quote any development and compare it with savings that can be effectively and efficiently made. I agree that the hon. Gentleman is talking about a sector of enormous potential savings—about £7 billion a year could be saved with such policies. As to those on low incomes, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that much more needs to be done. My Department is encouraging, with some success, the voluntary groups that are bringing to low income families a whole range of aids, such as insulation and the sort of things that will reduce their energy bills considerably.

Are not more powerful financial incentives to consumers of energy needed to get greater conservation?

There is a remarkable range of incentives per industry. We estimate that over £300 million of investments could be made, which would show savings of more than 100 per cent. per annum. There is incredible complacency as well, and if we could remove that in both domestic heating and lighting and in commercial use, a great deal of progress could be made. At the moment, there is a lack of consumer awareness about what can be done.

During Energy Efficiency Year, will my right hon. Friend be looking specifically at the efficiency of coal-fired boilers? If there are potential savings here, can they be pointed out to industry so that it can reduce its costs?

Yes, in every one of the conferences that we have had on energy efficiency—we have now contacted nearly 15,000 chief executives—part of the demonstration has been to show the advantages looking positively at conversion to coal.

What co-ordination is there between the energy efficiency office and the Department of the Environment about building standard regulations, which have effects on energy conservation? Will the right hon. Gentleman's Department resist the moves that are believed to be under way to introduce new regulations that will run counter to his aims for greater energy efficiency?

As a former Secretary of State for the Environment, I recognise the wide-ranging problems about building regulations. There is good liaison between the two Departments.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that this week is the 10th anniversary of neighbourhood energy action, which has been so successful in harnessing the community task force to insulate people's homes. Will he ensure that this successful project gets every further encouragement?

What are the Secretary of State's views on the Newcastle upon Tyne experiment, in which, as the right hon. Gentleman is probably aware, an office has been set up to deal with both consumers and industry? When will his Department concentrate on consumers as well as industry?

Nobody benefits more from all that we are doing in energy efficiency than the consumer. The whole of the campaign is directed towards helping and assisting consumers to reduce their energy bills. If this campaign is a success, it will primarily be consumers who will benefit.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a theatre group from his Department recently visited my nine-year-old son's primary school and acted out the need to save energy, since when he has switched off everything in the house, including his mother's oven, and left on the television?

I have not seen any of these theatrical groups, but I gather from those who have that they have a remarkable impact and are highly successful.