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Energy: Rural Areas

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what recent discussions he has had with Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the energy needs of rural households; (180760)

(2) what steps his Department is taking to assist rural communities without access to the mains gas network;

(3) what steps he is taking to assist rural households living in fuel poverty that are not connected to the mains gas network;

(4) what steps his Department is taking to assist households not connected to the mains gas network which have high energy bills.

BERR's Design and Demonstration Unit has developed a model under which deprived communities without access to mains gas and that meet certain criteria can be connected to the network, using existing funding. A number of communities have been connected using the model. In partnership with the regional development agencies in north-east England and Yorkshire and Humberside, we are co-funding demonstration projects delivered by Community Energy Solutions, a community interest company that will provide cost-effective energy to 40 communities. These projects will use mains gas and renewable technologies as appropriate, will benefit both urban and rural communities and are designed to be replicable elsewhere. Under the new gas distribution price control, Ofgem, with our support, has incentivised the gas distribution network companies to provide mains gas connections to deprived communities. We expect this to result in many thousands of customers gaining access to mains gas during 2008 to 2013.

Ministers from DEFRA and BERR have regular discussions on a range of energy issues, including the needs of rural households.