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Net Zero Targets: Business and Investors

Volume 748: debated on Tuesday 16 April 2024

4. What recent discussions she has had with businesses and investors on the Government’s net zero targets. (902276)

12. What recent discussions she has had with businesses and investors on the Government’s net zero targets. (902285)

As a Department, our ministerial team meet regularly with industry: for example, through the hydrogen investor forum, the Offshore Wind Industry Council, the solar taskforce, the Green Jobs Delivery Group and the cross-cutting Net Zero Council, which is shortly celebrating its first anniversary.

Car makers warned what would happen before the Government delayed the end date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Sure enough, sales of new electric cars are down by 19% in the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Switching to electric driving is cheaper over the lifetime of the vehicle. Why did the Government not listen to the warnings from business? Do they not want people to benefit from cheaper travel?

I proudly drive an electric vehicle myself, and I celebrated the fact that 48,388 electric vehicles were registered in March 2024 alone.

Eight in 10 of the large energy companies recently surveyed by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association agreed that the UK is falling behind in the race to become the most investable market for low-carbon technologies. What steps will the Minister take to reassure the clean energy industry that the UK is serious about the transition to net zero, which must include moving away from a commitment to max out oil and gas production?

I very much welcome the hon. Member’s highlighting the importance of this area. I am sure that he will join me in celebrating the fact that we secured £60 billion of investment in low-carbon technology in 2023, up a staggering 71% on the previous year. We are heading in the right direction to meet our ambitious target.

Does the Minister agree that it is economic madness to pursue our current ruthless net zero agenda, outsourcing carbon production to the likes of China and forcing us to pay more to heat our homes and power our economy? We must put the British taxpayer first.

It is crucial that we work with the public and businesses, not against them. In “Powering up Britain” we set out our plan to secure our energy system by ensuring a resilient and reliable supply, increasing our energy efficiency and, crucially—my hon. Friend will welcome this—bringing down bills.

The Zero Carbon Humber projects are a vital part of the country’s achieving its net zero target. However, there is concern among potential investors—particularly in connection with the carbon cluster projects—that the Government are moving a little too slowly. Will the Minister reassure those businesses that the timetable will be honoured?

My hon. Friend regularly champions investment in his constituency, working closely alongside the businesses he supports. We understand the importance of that. Just before Christmas, we set out a road map to speed up the process, which we very much hope will unlock that vital investment for his community.

I welcome the Minister to his post. I think he is struggling a little bit to get with the programme, but hopefully he will soon be on message. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] That was in terms of his answer to the question about being anti-net zero.

The Department confirmed last month that curtailment payments cost a whopping £1.4 billion last year. That is bill payers’ money being used to pay providers to switch off wind power and switch on gas. Why should people be paying even more on their energy bills to switch off cleaner and cheaper energy because the Government have failed to deliver the net zero capacity that we need?

That is why we have been focusing on expanding the interconnectors network so that, where we produce energy that we cannot use domestically, it can be sold. I also welcome last year’s large-scale expansion of battery farms—they have been springing up at an amazing speed—which allow us to store the energy supplied that exceeds demand.

I look forward to hearing the Minister’s predictions of what the curtailment payments will be in the coming year, because they were up for the previous year. In a survey of energy industry leaders, nearly 90% said that we need new policies to make the UK more attractive to investors. Nearly two thirds are moving investment out of the UK, and three quarters blame a lack of clarity from this Government on net zero. Is it not time for Ministers and Back Benchers to drop the culture war and put British industry and jobs first?

On a lack of clarity, I think the shadow Minister has mixed things up with the green prosperity plan. Even I cannot keep up with the latest position of senior figures in the Labour party, but I think the shadow team lost that battle. The reality is that in 2023 we secured £60 billion of private investment in low carbon technology, which was up a staggering 71% on the previous year. That is a credit to our team who delivered that.