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Energy Efficiency

Volume 684: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether their targets for energy efficiency have so far been met.

My Lords, we are making good progress towards our household energy efficiency targets for 2010. This will accelerate as new policies take effect. The energy-intensive companies in the climate change agreement exceeded their interim targets in the first two milestones and are on course to achieve their 2010 targets. However, targets on reducing absolute carbon emissions and electricity use per unit of floor area of the central government estate are not currently being met.

My Lords, I note what the Minister says, but does he not agree that overall energy demand continues to rise at a time when we should expect it to decrease as a result of energy efficiency measures? Are not the Government's energy efficiency measures too fragmented to have a major impact, as the Science and Technology Committee contended in its report of last July? Will the Government therefore take advantage of the energy review to come forward with fresh thinking on energy saving, such as the offer of council tax rebates for improvements in home energy efficiency, bearing in mind that the domestic market is one of the most wasteful in energy terms and that a dramatic new initiative is required?

My Lords, the noble Lord has hit the nail on the head in many ways. As is implied in his question, no one key factor can deal with this issue. The energy review and the White Paper that flows from it will deal with both renewable energy and energy saving. That is for certain. I cannot pronounce on whether going down the council tax route is the way to do it, but we must certainly do more.

The more equipment we put into our homes, the more energy we use. Consumption is going up even with the savings that have been made. A lot of policy initiatives have been put into train in the past few years, and they will come to fruition. At the same time, our consumption is going up because people leave their equipment, such as televisions and radios, on standby, which I understand consumes some three-quarters of the energy that is used to run that equipment in the first place. A big change in practice and culture is required. I am not sure whether a council tax rebate would be the answer, but we certainly need some big initiatives in this area.

My Lords, what efforts are we making to educate children in schools about saving energy and about the colossal waste?

My Lords, I do not know about particular school programmes, although I know that a lot of work is being done in schools to explain what energy is, where it comes from, and the use of energy-saving equipment. There is nothing that we do not already know about this. Simple things such as modern light bulbs can save an enormous amount of energy, as can switching off lights when we do not need them. As some of the adverts say, “Don’t boil more water than you need”. All those simple little things can make an enormous difference. We are also changing building regulations, because in some ways that is the one way in which we can tackle the issue. On the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, from next summer, all homes in private occupation that are sold in this country will have to produce a home information pack that will include an energy rating. That will bring about change.

My Lords, the Minister is correct to draw the attention of the House to the fact that energy efficiency and energy economy are separate subjects. Of course, the economy has been becoming much more energy-efficient for a long time—long before we were concerned about global warming. However, a growing economy by and large continues to demand increasing amounts of energy so that energy consumption, as the Minister has pointed out, is still rising. Does he therefore accept that a solution for controlling emissions will be found by looking at the way in which we source our energy as opposed to looking at whether we use it efficiently?

My Lords, that is absolutely right. I have just come hotfoot from the Royal Show at Stoneleigh, where I saw examples of energy efficiency from the ground. You can get enough hot water from a few square metres of your garden a metre down to use for the house. You could do that everywhere, although obviously not for blocks of flats. There is a whole host of ways of using what is in fact solar energy; it does not have to come from solar panels. There are lots of examples of ways in which we can make better use of what the sun gives us that is now wasted, but we must tackle it from both ends by looking at emissions and new sources of renewable energy.

My Lords, when the Minister responded to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, did he say that there has been a net increase or a net decrease in carbon emissions since new Labour took power? I understood him to say that there had been a net increase.

My Lords, I had to look at the issue last week when I repeated the Statement on Thursday morning. There are so many different figures and targets that it is incredibly complicated. That has probably been used as an excuse over the years for having done nothing about it, but I can say that the energy-intensive companies that signed up to the climate change agreements exceeded their targets in the first two milestones by saving 3.9 million tonnes of carbon. In the first three-year phase, we exceeded our targets under the energy efficiency commitment. We also delivered measures that saved 0.4 million tonnes of carbon per annum, which saved consumers £9 for each £1 spent. So there have been savings. There are other issues, but I will check the precise words that I used and will respond to the noble Lord in writing if I have to.