Before answering that question, I should like to offer the apologies of the Secretary of State to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House. He is unable to attend today’s departmental questions, as he is still travelling back from China at the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s highly successful visit. However, the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry), and I will do our best to field questions from the House. We would both like to welcome the new team to their places on the Opposition Front Bench.
In respect of question 1, as confirmed in last month’s spending review, the coalition is fully committed to feed-in tariffs for small-scale renewables. We want an ambitious roll-out of a range of decentralised domestic and community-scale technologies, and to maximise the scheme’s value for money, particularly in the current fiscal climate.
Specifically, we have said that when we review the scheme in 2012, we will reduce projected costs by 2014-15 by at least £40 million. Only in the event of deployment running ahead of published projections would we bring forward that review. But, to reassure the industry further, we will announce the trigger for such an early review shortly.
We are very keen to encourage businesses, communities and, of course, home owners to engage in the decentralised energy revolution, and to that end I am very pleased to tell my hon. Friend that we will shortly publish a new online initiative, giving a whole lot of detail to communities and businesses in order to allow them to access financial incentives and to cut through regulation.
Many peripheral areas such as my constituency cannot benefit from feed-in tariffs because they simply have the wrong transmission lines and infrastructure. Can the Minister assure me that, in the future, when there is a universal roll-out of feed-in tariffs, areas such as mine will not be hit by disproportionate costs because the infrastructure is lacking?
Absolutely. I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman thinks that his constituency is behind, and I shall be very happy to look into the specific case in his area. If he would like to write to me with specific issues, I shall ensure that my officials look into them, because we are committed to a national roll-out of this exciting technology.
What discussions is the Department having with financial institutions to ensure not only that access to feed-in tariffs is available to people on low incomes, who cannot borrow money at competitive rates in order to benefit, but that, if it really is a national programme, low-income people will fully benefit from it?
Feed-in tariffs are available to everybody, regardless of income, and there are some innovative market solutions and offers that allow people to access those technologies without needing any up-front capital. However, it is up to the market to bring forward such solutions, and for Government to create the environment in which the market can do so.
The influence of the Secretary of State’s visit to China has already been evidenced this week, as the Department for Energy and Climate Change announced its five-year plan to coincide with the fourth five-year plan of the People’s Republic of China. We are all state planners now.
In respect of small-scale renewables and feed-in tariffs, I note that solar power did not receive a single mention—not a single word—in DECC’s five-year plan, so will the Minister now admit that, on his watch, feed-in tariffs will be withdrawn from photovoltaics? What does he say to the pioneers and early adopters of that technology now that the sun is going down on photovoltaics?
I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman should commence his career on the Opposition Front Bench shadowing this Department with a completely false scare story. It is completely untrue. We are absolutely committed to solar PV and to the widest range of domestic and community-scale renewables, but the fact is that we inherited a system that simply failed to anticipate industrial-scale, stand-alone, greenfield solar, and, although we will not act retrospectively, large field-based developments should not be allowed to distort the available funding for roof-based PV, other PV and other types of renewables.