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Energy Consumption (Innovative Technologies)

Volume 646: debated on Wednesday 12 September 2018

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to undertake a public consultation on innovative technologies and energy consumption in households and commercial properties and to report on responses to that consultation and steps to be taken to encourage the development of innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption; and for connected purposes.

I am introducing this Bill because much innovative technology has been developed that can aid the Government in achieving their commendable energy policy objectives, and I am keen to see it recognised and promoted. I know the Minister is interested in this area, so I will explain in more detail how the Bill can help her.

The Bill touches on a number of issues that are close to my heart and affect not just my constituents in Taunton Deane but those across the nation. They relate to harnessing new and innovative carbon-saving technologies to lower energy consumption in our homes and commercial properties, particularly by cutting energy wastage, lowering fuel bills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is very important if we are to achieve our climate change goals.

At the outset, I thank all my hon. Friends and other Members for supporting the Bill—there is a great deal of support—and want to make it clear that I fully support the Government’s drive to do as much as possible to reduce the amount of money people pay for their energy, through the recent Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018, for example. I was pleased to speak in a number of debates on that Bill, as were some of my hon. Friends who are in the Chamber today. I was delighted that Ofgem announced last week that, on passing that Bill, 11 million households on default tariffs across the UK would save an average of £75.

However, a great deal more can be done by harnessing technology to use energy more efficiently. The industry suggests that consumers could halve their winter energy bills if more attention were paid to that. I attended a workshop here in Parliament that focused on the energy company obligation and fuel poverty which highlighted to me that we have some ingenious minds working on solutions. I know that the Minister has hosted workshops on innovative technology, and that she recently addressed the Sustainable Energy Association, so this issue is definitely on the Government’s radar.

The call in the Bill for a public consultation on technologies will enable companies to submit information to illustrate to the Minister how inventions can help us achieve our energy policy objectives. That will, in turn, stimulate investment and development, and lead to even greater innovation. It will be important to cover applications not just for domestic households but for business and commercial use.

Let us look at some examples. First, stored passive flue gas is a UK invention that significantly improves the efficiency and domestic hot water performance of A-rated condensing gas boilers, thereby helping households to save about £100 a year on their gas and water bills because the boiler is much more efficient. If fitted into every home with a gas boiler, we could see savings of 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, which would clearly be a very useful contribution to our climate change targets.

Another device relating to gas systems is called MARGO. It is nothing to do with ballet or Margot Fonteyn, although it is a very fleet-of-foot device. MARGO stands for metrology for the acoustic recognition of gas-optimised services—it is clear why they shortened it. It is a new smart billing UK invention for more accurately measuring the gas supply to, and therein carbon dioxide produced by, households already installed with mechanical gas meters. If widely installed, it could reduce reported household carbon dioxide emissions by 10% a year, equating to savings on bills of about 4%.

Let us move on to the exciting subject of radiators. They are commonly used to deliver heat in our homes and business spaces, and yet so often they do not work efficiently. I am guilty of that in my home. One unbalanced radiator can add 3.5% to our heating costs. If there are a number of unbalanced radiators, costs could be increased by 8%. Indeed, for a whole-company system, costs could be increased by as much as 27%. That astonishing waste of money could simply be rectified with innovative technologies that enable systems to be balanced quickly for relatively little cost—about £70 to £170. Not balancing systems means that customers are effectively short-changed.

Still on homes, heat pumps are increasing in popularity. NIBE Energy Systems is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of heat pumps, and the market leader in Europe. It has a heat pump that combines an air source heat pump with a ventilation unit to provide renewable heat and hot water to homes. It is also smart grid-ready, and is able to respond to pricing signals, reducing the strain on the grid and saving consumers money.

How often do buildings feel too hot on warm days because the heating system is not flexible and cannot be adjusted? My office in the House of Commons is a good example of that. It often gets so hot that the windows are opened and all the heat disappears outside. That is not a good way of operating, so a whole-system approach to buildings would be very helpful. Demand Logic technology could help to cut costs for businesses and public authorities in that respect. It provides data intelligence on how a building operates, and can ensure that maintenance work is prioritised to where it is most effective. Better comfort levels should encourage us to be more productive in our work, so it is a win-win all round.

In a similar vein, the Zeroth energy system is an inventive community heating network. Its uniquely low operating temperatures mean that much less energy is lost into the communal areas of a building. That addresses the overheating issue, which can cause corridors to be boiling hot—that occurs even in Parliament—which is an utter waste of energy and heat. Sometimes they can be up to 30 °C, which is most uncomfortable. There are virtually no heat gains from the pipework into corridors in that system. It reduces temperatures, waste, running costs and carbon emissions from heating and hot water by up to 29% using air-source heat pumps and a low-energy loop.

Even insulation comes into some of these ground-breaking methods. A wood fibre insulated building envelope by Pavatex, for example, can control temperature, sound and moisture in a building. It is made from cellulose, so it absorbs large quantities of carbon dioxide—up to 10 tonnes—for every home built. There are many wins with that example.

Hydrogen fuel boilers can also cut carbon enormously. A gadget that Vitovalor has developed is pioneering alternative decentralised power. It generates 5,000 kWh of electricity all year round, and it can be fitted into almost any house. It can cut carbon emissions by an incredible 40% and domestic electricity consumption by an even more impressive 60%. It also provides power generation, but does not emit nitrogen oxide, so it contributes to improved air quality.

Bioenergy is another new technology that can be harnessed to a much greater extent. It is fuelled by waste and biomass residues. There is a great deal that can be done.

In conclusion, such new technologies are being developed all the time, as I believe my examples have demonstrated. They can achieve the aims being discussed today, reducing energy consumption through improved efficiency and cutting waste, with the subsequent lowering of fuel bills and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, more can be done and needs to be done not just for domestic properties but for all properties. That is one of the main points of this Bill.

Fortunately, we have a Minister who is very interested in all these issues, and if she will invite companies to contribute to the consultation that I have proposed, highlighting their inventions and all the other new technologies in the pipeline, I am sure that this will do a great deal to stimulate greater innovation, reduce energy consumption and meet this Government’s energy needs. Indeed, we could become world leaders. It will benefit us all, not just my constituents in Taunton Deane but everybody everywhere. I hope that the Minister will respond to my Bill by setting in motion the call for just such a consultation.

Question put and agreed to.


That Rebecca Pow, Ian Austin, Caroline Lucas, John Grogan, John Penrose, Julian Knight, David Warburton, Derek Thomas, Sir David Amess, James Heappey, Alex Sobel and Geraint Davies present the Bill.

Rebecca Pow accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 November, and to be printed (Bill 267).