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Energy Supply

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what steps he is taking to assist those households living in fuel poverty that are not connected to the mains gas network; (156368)

(2) what steps he is taking to assist households off the mains gas network to take full advantage of a competitive energy market;

(3) what steps his Department is taking to assist households and communities not connected to the mains gas network;

(4) what discussions he has had with Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the energy needs of households not connected to gas mains.

We recognise, and are addressing, the need to help fuel poor households both off and on the gas network. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is responsible for gas regulation, including transportation and distribution. As part of the post-2008 Gas Distribution Price Control, Ofgem is currently consulting on measures that would encourage gas distribution network companies to provide connections to deprived communities currently off the gas network. Such communities are likely to contain a higher than average proportion of fuel poor households.

The Design and Demonstration Unit within my Department has successfully developed a model for the provision of gas connections to deprived communities by independent gas transporters. A number of connections have been made using this model. The unit has also developed models to provide lower-cost household energy from renewable and other new technologies for those deprived communities where gas connections are not economically viable. We expect demonstration projects in North-East England and Yorkshire and Humberside that use these models to begin shortly. Assistance for fuel poor and vulnerable households within such communities is also available under other Government programmes, including DEFRA’s Warm Front programme.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Ministers frequently discuss the energy needs of vulnerable households both off and on the gas network with Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.