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Home Energy Efficiency

Volume 495: debated on Thursday 9 July 2009

The principal schemes for delivering home energy efficiency in 2010-11 will be Warm Front, the carbon emissions reduction target, and the community energy saving programme. The budget for Warm Front in 2010-11 is £195 million. The other two schemes are funded by the energy companies, so the information for a specific year is commercially confidential. However, based on the measures that are to be delivered, we can say that estimated overall spend will be around £3.7 billion between 2008 and 2012.

I thank the Minister for that. I am sure that she is aware that there are 2¼ pensioners in fuel poverty—[Hon. Members: “2¼ million.”] Sorry; there are 2¼ million pensioners in fuel poverty, yet the pre-Budget report estimated that the increase in expenditure on the issue would deal with an extra 66,000 people only. Given that she has not told us how many people the energy companies will help, what impact will that extra expenditure have on reducing pensioner fuel poverty?

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that, because of our fuel poverty policies, we managed to bring 4 million people out of fuel poverty. That was a huge achievement. It is the rise in global prices that has put people, including pensioners, back into fuel poverty. However, in the winter, we raised fuel payments for pensioners to the highest level ever, and we have said that we will do that again this winter. We have ongoing programmes with the energy companies, and they are giving social assistance as well, so I suggest to him that the Government are doing a great deal to alleviate fuel poverty.

While I welcome the Warm Front programme in particular, is the Minister aware that a large number of houses of a non-traditional construction will not be given a guarantee, and so cannot have the work done? It is estimated that there are 250,000 such houses across the country. Will the Minister meet me and others to discuss the problem, so that we can find some way of getting efficiency measures into non-traditional homes, and so that everybody can benefit from the work that is being done?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We have, of course, had due regard to the points that he and others have made, and we are looking carefully at how to bring non-standard homes into the scheme. For example, for solid-wall homes, we are producing new programmes and pilots that will give us the option of using air source heat pumps. Through other programmes, such as the carbon emissions reduction target uplift, which is an obligation on energy companies, we will make it possible to do more work in homes that are not conventionally built.

Does the Minister agree that one of the biggest and easiest hits that we can make when it comes to our climate change ambitions is tackling domestic carbon emissions? The measures taken in the home are therefore the most important. Why does she not bang heads together, get a smart metering agreement between the various companies, and implement it as soon as possible?

I agree with the hon. Lady’s proposition. About 27 per cent. of our emissions come from the domestic sector and result from the choices that we make, so that sector is very important. We have already announced a roll-out of smart meters. It is a complex programme—it needs to reach every household in the country—so it will start next year and will take 10 years. If we can speed it up, we will. It is very important, it is the way forward, and we will do it.

Is not a national energy efficiency programme important not only as regards climate change, but for job creation? On the economic stimulus packages that different countries have introduced in response to the economic crisis, is it not true that the proportion of those resources that we are allocating to green jobs is far lower than in the USA, China, France, Germany and South Korea? Would not a national energy efficiency programme, clearly identified and clearly branded, be one of the most effective ways of registering our support for action against climate change, and—

Order. May I say gently to the hon. Gentleman that I think that he has had three questions? He will, however, get one answer from the Minister.

May I tell my hon. Friend that 21 per cent. of our targeted measures were on green jobs? We, of course, started from a much higher base than the United States; we had already put in place many measures, and were already on track to increase them. The home energy saving strategy, on which the Government recently consulted, provides for what is essentially a national energy saving programme, directed at homes and small business. That will go ahead very shortly, and I think that it will produce the kind of measures that my hon. Friend has championed in the House.

The hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor), is absolutely right. We need a national energy efficiency programme with far greater ambition than that shown in the three rather pedestrian programmes and the very vague funding that the Minister has mentioned. The fact of the matter is that, even if we include private sector funding, we spend about a third of what Germany spends on energy efficiency, and it is already far more efficient than we are. If we want a programme that is attractive and easy for consumers, and that will ensure the transformation in energy efficiency that the Government have failed to deliver, they will need to adopt our proposals of £6,500 for every household in the country, and a real partnership between a public—

Order. May I say for the benefit of the Front-Bench team in the future that what we need is not a statement, but a question?

The Government will not take any suggestions such as the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) has made about his programme. [Interruption.] Let me explain to him. I wrote to his colleague, the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), to ask him to explain exactly how the Opposition’s programme was to be funded. I have had no reply to that letter. We have costed it at £200 billion. Where will the money come from? His party is dedicated to cutting the Department that sponsors such programmes. There is no way in which the programme that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) mentions will be funded and we—

Order. I think the Minister of State is being led astray by the statement. We must focus on the policy of the Government, rather than that of the Opposition.