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Combined Heat And Power

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on plans to expand combined heat and power schemes.

I will continue to encourage wherever possible interest in combined heat and power. Ultimately, decisions are for the private sector.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating Leicester city council and Leicester Energy Ltd. on the pioneering work that they have carried out with combined heat and power? The right hon. Gentleman is aware of the problems that have affected that scheme and will recall the meeting that took place in his office when he was kind enough to show us his collection of clockwork teddy bears. Will he join me in wishing the forthcoming new talks well and hoping for a happy conclusion? Will he give an undertaking that if the talks do not succeed his Department will do all that it can to save this environmentally safe and cost-cutting scheme?

As the hon. Gentleman reminds the House, I was delighted to be able to see him and some of his colleagues from Leicester at the beginning of the summer recess. I hope that I left him with the impression that nobody would have been happier than I if the scheme as it then was could have gone ahead. As he knows, ultimately the negotiations between the East Midlands electricity board and Leicester Energy Ltd. did not come to fruition. If further options come forward I shall certainly do what I can to facilitate them. However, in all fairness to the hon. Gentleman I must make it quite clear that there is no question of any subsidy from the taxpayer.

Should not my right hon. Friend accept, however, that if two thirds of the energy that is presently thrown out of power stations in cooling water were used for district heating in cities, it would not only save huge amounts of fossil fuel but would be environmentally beneficial? Should he not therefore consider giving combined heat and power the same sort of support that he is giving high-cost electricity from nuclear and from renewable sources?

In the main I certainly accept the principle of what my hon. Friend says. I know that he has been a strong supporter of combined heat and power for a long time. Ultimately, the matter comes down to commercial factors. As my hon. Friend may know, in one other city, Nottingham, there is a small district heating scheme. I hope that that example can be repeated on a larger scale in other cities. As he also knows, apart from that scheme there are many combined heat and power examples in other parts of the country. In industry there are 120 and in buildings there are about 300. Therefore, I think that the idea is catching on very well.

Does the Minister agree that the best thing he could do to encourage combined heat and power schemes would be to follow the example of the Secretary of State for Energy and simply announce that the electricity boards would have to allow combined heat and power stations to be base load stations, in the same way as he has announced for nuclear power stations? If that were done, the economics of combined heat and power stations would be immediately transformed and they could produce the cheapest electricity in the system.

The hon. Gentleman puts forward an alluring and very attractive idea which would make a simple solution. However, he will understand that if I agreed with him here and now, I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State might find ourselves in great difficulties and my ministerial career would be quickly at an end.