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Net Zero: Cost-Benefit Analysis

Volume 750: debated on Tuesday 21 May 2024

Our pragmatic, proportionate and realistic approach to meeting net zero will capitalise on the opportunities of the low-carbon transition, creating jobs and investment across the UK.

The cost of net zero is being borne by our hard-pressed constituents, at the same time as China increases its carbon dioxide emissions by more than the UK’s total emissions every year. Wholesale electricity prices are currently £65 per megawatt, but we are paying £102 per megawatt for fixed offshore wind, offering £246 for floating offshore wind, £89 for onshore wind, and £85 for solar. Can the Minister explain whatever happened to plentiful, cheap renewable energy?

The hon. Member and I agree that we must champion the importance of delivering cheaper bills for consumers. This does not have to be a binary choice between tackling climate change and delivering cheaper consumer bills. By investing in a cleaner, more efficient energy system, we can do both.

I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

The benefits of renewables cannot come at any cost. In that spirit, I welcome the commitment of the Secretary of State and in particular the Minister to protect food security through the additional protections of versatile and productive agricultural land. Will the Minister also affirm the Government’s determination to protect areas that are particularly affected by energy infrastructure—pylons, wind and solar—such as the Lincolnshire fens, the Somerset levels and Romney Marsh? Food security matters just as much as energy security in the national interest for the common good.

We are proud to have taken renewables from just 7% under the last Labour Government to 47% today, but my right hon. Friend makes a powerful point about the need to tackle clustering. The Secretary of State reiterated clear guidelines and advice for local authorities and planning committees up and down the country to make sure that we safeguard, wherever possible, our key agricultural lands as part of our commitment on food security.

Communities in Westmorland cannot afford for us not to be reducing carbon emissions. I think of communities such as Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Kendal, all of which are listed as energy crisis hotspots. That means they have below average incomes, but above average energy prices. There are over 10,000 homes in need of loft insulation and 6,940 homes in need of cavity wall insulation in my communities. Will the Minister give resources to the excellent Cumbria Action for Sustainability to meet that need and decrease bills, and also perhaps revise the rules for ECO4 so the scheme better fits older homes in rural areas such as ours?

I thank the hon. Member. As on football, we agree on the principles. The Government are proud to have taken energy-efficient homes from 14% to 50%. Local initiatives can play a key part in that and I would be interested to learn more about the project he highlighted.

Decarbonisation is welcome, but it must be achieved in a way that balances the country’s other priorities, such as food security. I welcome last week’s statement from the Secretary of State about the importance of protecting our best and most versatile farmland, but can the Minister tell me more about how he will ensure that we prioritise solar power on rooftops instead?

The Government are proud to have delivered an additional 43 GW of renewable energy since 2010 alone. We have also introduced planning changes to make it easier to install solar panels on rooftops, including those of industrial buildings, and we can thank consumers for leading the way: an average of 17,000 households a month added solar panels to their roofs last year.