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House of Commons Hansard
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Domestic Energy Efficiency Plan
18 June 2019
Volume 662

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

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I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Government to publish a plan for meeting the domestic energy efficiency targets in the Clean Growth Strategy; to make provision for monitoring performance against milestones in that plan; to establish an advisory body on implementation of the plan; and for connected purposes.

Just last week in this Chamber, we committed ourselves to net zero carbon by 2050. That means delivering a core Conservative value and a key manifesto pledge to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it for future generations. It is not only the right thing to do, but it has the potential to unite the nation in a common purpose. The vast majority of people of all ages and businesses from right across the UK support more Government action on climate change. This target is both affordable and achievable.

As the crucible of the first industrial revolution, it is right to maintain our leadership and endeavour to be the first major economy to transition to the high-tech, carbon-free fourth industrial revolution. While growing our economy, the UK is already among the leading economies in reducing our carbon emissions. This bold ambition requires a clear vision and carefully thought-through plans to enable people, business and places to transition and make the most of the opportunities that arise. In practical terms, it means delivering the clean growth strategy—a part of the industrial strategy launched in 2017 and updated in 2018.

While significant progress has been made, especially with consultations and evidence gathering and with investment in innovation, we now need to publish plans to give the clarity and certainty that businesses need if they are to commit investment to deliver change in the goods and services they provide. People want to know how they can make changes over time to play their part in this national endeavour. My ten-minute rule Bill asks the Government to publish a plan for meeting the domestic energy efficiency targets in the clean growth strategy, to make provision for monitoring performance against the milestones in the plan and to establish an advisory body for the implementation of the plan.

Home insulation may not capture the imagination as a standard bearer for the fourth industrial revolution in the way that electric cars and autonomous vehicles do, but it will make a huge contribution to our reduction in emissions from heating our homes. Energy saving is just as important as generating carbon-free and renewable energy, as we will need more electricity for the new cars, buses and trains. As the Committee on Climate Change has noted in its most recent report, a comprehensive energy efficiency programme should be the first and least costly step in getting towards zero carbon emissions.

Research from the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group shows that energy efficiency improvements to homes could reduce the energy consumed in UK households each year by 25% and knock £270 off the average household bill of £1,100. That is a saving in people’s pockets, but it is also a saving of the equivalent of six nuclear power stations the size of Hinkley Point C. There would be strong economic returns of a similar scale to other major infrastructure projects.

An appraisal based on HM Government methodology has found that the net benefit of this saving would be £7.5 billion, and this excludes the wider health and productivity benefits. It has been estimated that for every £1 invested by the Government, GDP would be increased by £3.20. More jobs would be created right across the UK. It is imperative urgently to develop a framework to stimulate the market among households and businesses that are able to pay for energy efficiency, with a clear trajectory towards the targets set out in the clean growth strategy. The National Infrastructure Commission has made energy efficiency a national priority, and its first assessment has asked for 21,000 insulation measures a week by 2020, which is a sixfold increase on the estimated 3,500 a week at the moment.

The green finance taskforce has made positive recommendations for energy efficiency, including financial incentives for meeting the energy performance certificate band C 2035 target on all buildings, and it has suggested a capital infrastructure plan for the Government for energy efficiency objectives. The Government’s clean growth strategy target for EPC band C by 2035 is universally recognised as a good level of ambition, with earlier deadlines for the private rented sector and for fuel-poor homes. Policy exists on new build homes, and the future homes standard announced in the spring Budget is most welcome, as is the industrial grand challenge. However, what is missing is a road map for delivering a plan for retrofitting energy efficiency measures into the majority of homes in which most Britons live.

It has been estimated that an annual £5.2 billion investment from public and private sources will be needed to achieve this ambition. In 2017-18, public investment was £0.7 billion, drawing in very little private investment, with most of the money coming from the energy company obligation. The Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group has estimated that an annual public investment of £1.7 billion would leverage in £3.5 billion of private investment. While the economic arguments for investment in energy efficiency are clear, there will also be huge impacts on the quality of people’s lives. As for many of my hon. Friends’ constituents, nearly half the constituents of Cornwall live off the mains gas grid, resulting in higher energy bills. Like the majority of people in the UK, they live in homes with low levels of insulation and energy efficiency measures. Average incomes in Cornwall, while rising, remain significantly below the England average, so we have high levels of fuel poverty.

Over the past nine years, I have been working with Public Health Cornwall on an innovative partnership that has brought together businesses and Cornwall Council, as well as health, care and emergency service professionals and many voluntary sector organisations to help people out of poverty and to live in warm homes. This public health approach has literally saved lives. Cornwall’s devolution deal has enabled greater flexibility on the ECO, and it is tackling fuel poverty, too. The partnership’s work has been funded by a mixture of public, ECO and business funding and voluntary donations. Over 20,000 people have been helped to live in warm homes, with new heating systems and insulation installed. In addition, independent evaluation shows that the winter wellness partnership has prevented more than 800 hospital admissions and helped 348 households remain in work or make progress towards work.

In Cornwall, we have shown over time that working with people on installing energy efficiency measures improves people’s health and wellbeing, as well as the environment. In developing a national plan, I would like the Government to set up an advisory body to draw on this learning and that of other local authorities and organisations. Learning from the first-hand experience of people on the frontline in Cornwall and across the country would enable the Government to take an evidence-based approach and to build on what works. After all, we are talking about asking people to make significant changes to their homes, and we need to be as sensitive to people’s feelings as to their finances. It is clear to me and my colleagues here today that we need to turbo-charge our action on home energy efficiency. I hope this motion will be the catalyst for that change, and I very much recommend this Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Sarah Newton, Richard Benyon, Tim Loughton, Antoinette Sandbach, Zac Goldsmith, Maria Caulfield, Vicky Ford, Steve Brine, Peter Aldous, Derek Thomas and Sir David Amess present the Bill.

Sarah Newton accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 407).