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Sustainable Energy: Somerset

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 16 July 2019

I thank my hon. Friend for his local interest in taking action on climate change. I am pleased to say, as I mentioned earlier, that we have recently reopened the £10 million rural community energy fund. It has already supported over 150 rural communities, including through the installation of a solar capacity project in my hon. Friend’s constituency of Frome. We have also established five local energy hubs across the country, including in the south-west, providing support to local authorities that are planning green energy projects.

I met a large group of people from Somerset the other day at the Time Is Now rally in Westminster. It is clear that people from every walk of life are keen for the Government to lead the way in environmental sustainability, yet reductions in feed-in tariffs, a lack of incentives to use brownfield resources and a lack of obligations on new build houses make the going tough. How will the Department change this?

The feed-in tariff scheme achieved its objectives in support of over 3,000 installations in my hon. Friend’s constituency. Its successor, the smart export guarantee, will be a smarter, more market-driven mechanism that will help to deploy without subsidy as costs continue to fall. I can reassure my hon. Friend that the Government have set a clear ambition for new homes to be energy efficient and to embrace low-carbon technologies through the buildings mission and the 2025 future homes standard commitment announced by the Chancellor in the spring Budget.

The Minister is a constituency neighbour of mine. If he has time during the summer break, may I urge him to visit Wyke farm in Somerset for an example of a business that prides itself on being 100% green? It has used pulp from the cider mills to supply its anaerobic digesters and is doing really interesting things on waste water. It really shows how a farm can be at the heart of the local community, using its waste and farming in a sustainable way.

I thank the hon. Lady for that suggestion. I would be happy to come and visit during the recess. I pay tribute to her leadership on this issue locally and nationally. She has made significant commitments to this agenda for a long time and I have learned a lot from her.