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Energy Efficiency

Volume 180: debated on Monday 12 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the rate of improvement in energy efficiency in the United Kingdom and other European countries.

Between 1983 and 1988, the United Kingdom reduced its energy intensity—the ratio of energy consumption to GDP—by an average of 2 per cent. per year. This is more than twice the rate of improvement in the European Community as a whole over the same period.

My hon. Friend's answer is excellent news for British industry in a European context. However., in the wider context, how has the United Kingdom compared with our better international competitors, such as Japan? To what extent has the Government's Energy Efficiency Office contributed to that development? Will he assure the House that the Government's commitment to energy efficiency will continue?

I am glad to say that according to the OECD—its figures, not ours—since 1983 United Kingdom energy intensity has fallen faster than that of most of our competitors, including Japan, which is regarded as the world's most efficient nation. I am also glad to say that the Energy Efficiency Office programme alone has, to date, achieved recurring annual savings now worth more than £500 million a year.

If one destroys large parts of industry, inevitably a great deal is achieved in energy conservation. Some countries have not pursued that option.

Will the Minister explain the latest inconsistency in the Government's position on energy conservation? How can the Prime Minister make some extremely fine remarks at the world climate conference, emphasising the Government's commitment to energy conservation, while in Brussels, the Minister's Department seeks to be obstructive and to oppose sensible and effective energy conservation measures that appear to be required by the very European countries that the hon. Gentleman criticises?

Gross domestic product in the United Kingdom has increased by 25 per cent. in real terms since 1979, while energy consumption has remained almost unchanged. We are producing substantially more national wealth with virtually no additional energy consumption.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, I imagine that he is relying on a somewhat tendentious article in The Observer yesterday. The facts contained in that article are untrue. We are carrying forward the White Paper commitments on appliance labelling, not retreating from them. We are consulting the industry and consumer organisations about a voluntary scheme. We are arguing the case in Brussels for a voluntary scheme across the Community and I am glad to say that Britain's proposals were well received at last week's meeting. We believe that minimum standards should be the basis of a labelling scheme.

At a recent meeting that I convened in the Department, it was made clear that the Department's proposals for a labelling scheme were similar to those put forward by organisations such as Friends of the Earth. I am glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that we are determined to take forward an effective appliance labelling scheme as soon as possible.