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Energy Act 2008

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 22 January 2009

1. What recent discussions he has had on the implementation of the provisions of the Energy Act 2008; and if he will make a statement. (249982)

Key policies enabled by the Act, including the introduction of the banding of the renewables obligation and the roll-out of smart meters to medium-sized businesses, will be in force by April 2009. Later this year, we will consult on the feed-in tariff scheme for small-scale renewables scheduled to be introduced in 2010, and confirm details of our plans announced last year for the roll-out of smart meters to domestic users by 2020.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. Although it would be churlish not to welcome today’s announcement from British Gas of a 10 per cent. cut in pricing, does my right hon. Friend have something to say about those individuals—especially pensioners—who are making additional payments because they have prepayment meters?

My hon. Friend asks about an important issue. It is right to welcome the price fall in wholesale gas and this morning’s announcement of the reduction in British Gas prices, which will commence next month. We want price reductions that go as far as possible, as fast as possible from British Gas and other energy companies because wholesale gas prices have fallen.

On prepayment meters, it is welcome that Ofgem has proposed changes in the law and in licence conditions for the energy companies. That means not only eliminating some of the problems of the past few months, but, in future, stopping the sort of practices that offend us all and discriminate unduly against the poorest people in our society.

Will the Secretary of State have a close look at the innovative scheme in the borough of Kettering, whereby Kettering borough council and E.on got together? In return for the installation of smart meters, E.on’s dual fuel customers will get a council tax rebate if they make sufficient energy savings.

We will certainly look at that. The point of the community energy saving programme, the details of which we will announce shortly, is precisely to encourage that sort of work between energy companies, local authorities and community groups, to ascertain how we can help some of the poorest people in our society with their gas and electricity bills and with smart metering, and ensure that they can get a fair deal. We will definitely examine that proposal.

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to implement the woodfuel strategy, which straddles both Departments? Has he considered the small costs of implementing that strategy, which might contribute to our renewables obligation and improve the quality of woodland throughout the kingdom?

My hon. Friend asks about an important subject, about which he has great expertise. It is important to consider such proposals—for example, renewable heat can help us in future. Such generation is currently at a low level and we want to introduce a renewable heat incentive precisely to encourage the sort of proposals that my hon. Friend mentioned. We are undertaking work with the Forestry Commission and DEFRA, and it is important in contributing to our renewables energy strategy.

Does not the Secretary of State’s initial answer simply confirm that the Energy Act is more about talk than desperately needed action? No real action has been taken on our critical lack of gas storage or how we can make carbon capture and storage a reality. There is no urgency about creating a national grid fit for the 21st century or methods of introducing the next generation of renewable technologies. There have been years of talking about the details of smart metering and feed-in tariffs, and further delays on biogas and renewable heat. Fuel poverty has not even been mentioned. Is it not clear that, if we are to have an energy policy that is secure, affordable and low in carbon, we need not more talking shops but a change of Government?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman; he obviously practised that in the mirror this morning. The answer to his question is no. The Energy Act is facilitating progress on a whole range of fronts, including feed-in tariffs, gas storage and nuclear power—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that that is all talk, but 17 gas storage projects are planned in this country, and the Langeled pipeline has been built since 2006—since the previous dispute between Russia and Ukraine—and is now supplying a large amount of our gas. This is not about talk; it is about a party that understands the importance of energy security and fairness to consumers.