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Energy Bills

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 8 March 2012

First, we are directly helping about 2 million vulnerable households with their bills through the warm home discount scheme, and many more households are benefiting from subsidised energy efficiency measures under the carbon emissions reduction target scheme. Secondly, later this year the green deal and the energy company obligation will provide energy efficiency measures at no up-front cost to households. Thirdly, we are looking to help consumers get better prices by harnessing their collective purchasing power.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. On consumer energy bills, does he agree that it is wrong in principle to finance carbon commitments on the back of the poor, which was the policy of the previous Government, and that we need a more imaginative way forward?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am a liberal, but I strongly believe that collective action can help solve some of society’s ills. That is why I promoted collective purchase and switching as consumer affairs Minister and am continuing to do so as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. It is a shame that the party of Keir Hardie and Aneurin Bevan forgot the power of collective action in its 13 years in government.

It is interesting that the Secretary of State referred to the CERT and Warm Front schemes, which Labour introduced and the Government are scrapping. I welcome today’s announcement on funding for green deal training, however. It is a good first step towards delivering the apprenticeship scheme that a Labour amendment added to the Energy Bill. Yesterday, however, DECC released figures showing that 7 million homes still need cavity wall insulation, yet the Government impact assessment for the ECO shows that under the green deal cavity wall insulations are set to plummet by 67% next year. At our last question time, I warned that that will lead to a loss of 3,000 jobs. What is the Secretary of State going to do to ensure that these jobs can be safeguarded?

The green deal and the ECO are extremely good proposals. They replace proposals that had a place, but which were not as effective as our proposals will be—[Interruption]—because our proposals are in a package and we have a range of other regulations to help on energy efficiency. We will conduct another impact assessment to show how beneficial our measures are for jobs and the industries concerned.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the project in Burnley to clad hundreds of Calico Homes, which is funded by British Gas, Calico and this Government, is the right way forward as it will save money, keep the houses warmer in winter, keep energy bills down and help achieve the aim of having green energy?

My hon. Friend is a huge champion of energy efficiency in his constituency, and he is absolutely right. It is the ECO scheme that is making such policies possible. As a result of such measures, we can move on to solid-wall insulation, which for too long has been a poor second cousin.

AF Consult estimates that huge savings could be made by changing the energy mix away from windmills. Why does the Energy Secretary not truly dash for gas and utilise the huge shale gas resources that are in Lancashire?

We need to balance a range of priorities in energy policy, including energy security, affordable bills and tackling climate change. That is why this Government have a portfolio approach to energy generation. We are looking at low-carbon technologies, including wind power, carbon capture and storage, and new nuclear.