The campaign for
Warm Homes & Lower Bills
Just before Parliament closed, front bench spokepeople from both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties backed a bid to make energy efficiency a key infrastructure priority.
Speaking before the summer break in a debate initiated by ex-energy efficiency Minister, Lord Whitty (Labour) support was voiced by peers from all three political parties – including the chair of the Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben (perhaps better known as John Gummer, former Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment).
Lord Whitty had triggered the debate by tabling and amendment to the Infrastructure Bill which would require energy efficiency proposals to be included in the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan, which is published each year. He opened the debate saying “It is important that investment in energy efficiency is seen alongside “big bucks” investment in generation and improvements in the energy system itself. Delivering energy efficiency improvements has the best return, pound for pound, of any investment in energy in terms of carbon saving, of cost saving to the consumer and of energy saved. My principle concern, as noble Lords will recall, has largely been on investment in the housing stock… Return on energy efficiency measures, as analysed by countless economists, is much greater than the return on generation investment…. and in carbon- saving terms it is also greater.
If we are looking at how public and private money is spent and directed on infrastructure, investment in energy efficiency should be considered on the same basis, at the same time, with the same degree of urgency and with the same degree of government backing. That is not the case at the moment.
So the arguments for energy efficiency in all its forms being up there as part of the infrastructure programme are pretty irrefutable.”
Speaking from the Conservative benches, Lord Jenkin of Roding pointed out that the Government’s Infrastructure Minister, Lord Deighton, has already said he was “seduced” by the idea of including energy efficiency in infrastructure plans. He told Lord Whitty that he “may well be pushing at an open door,” pointing out that Lord Deighton “has very considerable influence on these matters and comes to this House and his job with a very great reputation for what he succeeded in doing in the case of the Olympic Games.
Lord Jenkins also referred to Energy Bill Revolution research, telling peers “The Energy Bill Revolution, which sent me a brief on this recently, quotes research from Cambridge Econometrics showing that energy efficiency schemes… ‘outstripped all other investments and tax breaks by creating over 70,000 jobs by 2015, and the boosting of GDP by 0.2%’.”
The Liberal Democrat benches were also strongly in favour, with Baroness Maddock imploring the Minister “in the light of what has been said it is important that she can confirm that she will talk very seriously about this to her colleagues. I am particularly concerned, coming from the north-east, for the job creation opportunities of energy efficiency.”
Lord Deben – well known for his work on fighting climate change rose two amusing points:
“The trouble with politicians is that they like boys’ toys, and it is always better to build something big that you can point to, so that in your dotage—which of course none of us is anywhere near—you can say to your great-grandchildren, “I built that great monstrosity there; it was one of the reasons why I felt that I had done something”. I fear that that is quite deep in the psyche of politicians.
When I was the Minister responsible in the Department of the Environment there was a tendency to ensure that those who dealt with energy efficiency were perhaps not the most exciting of people—not perhaps as thrusting or pressing as those who dealt with the big projects. I am sure that that is no longer true and that now we have people of immense thrust, but it is important to give them some help and support. This amendment does that.”
Finally Lord Cameron of Dillington (cross bench) and Baroness Worthington (Labour) both spoke in support, with the Baroness remarking “we have among the worst housing stock in Europe. It is appalling that a country of our wealth and history should have people living in fuel poverty in damp and unheatable homes. This has to be stopped. We have to make sure that our housing stock is upgraded to give us warm and healthy homes to live in.”
It is a convention that amendments are not pressed to a vote at this stage in the House of Lords, so the debate finished with Lord Whitty withdrawing the amendment. However the enormous amount of cross-party support, means it is likely to be something that is returned to later. The confirmation that the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties will also treat energy efficiency as a key infrastructure priority in future is also an important development. We would like to thank all those peers who took part in the debate for their contributions.
Each winter 25,000 people die of the cold in the UK and a third of these deaths result from people living in cold homes. The UK has some of the worst insulated housing stock in Europe leaking heat from their walls, window and doors. Making domestic energy efficiency an infrastructure priority and funding an ambitious programme to insulate our housing stock is the only permanent way to end fuel poverty, save lives, cut carbons and reduce bills. We hope that the government will consider making this an infrastructure priority as the Bill continues through Parliament.Back