All 1 contributions to the Energy Bill [HL] 2022-23 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Tue 19th Jul 2022
Energy Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading

Energy Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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2nd reading
Tuesday 19th July 2022

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This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Energy Bill [HL] 2022-23 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I start by acknowledging the record temperatures that we have been experiencing over recent days. I hope your Lordships remain cool while in the Chamber—which is probably the best place to be at the moment, given the air conditioning—and of course while travelling to and from the Chamber. I recognise the wealth of knowledge on energy policy in your Lordships’ House, which will no doubt be on full display in today’s debate.

This landmark Bill comes at a critical time for our country. Record high gas prices, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the challenge of climate change all come together to highlight why we need to boost Britain’s energy independence and security. To protect households from the full impact of rising prices, we are acting now with a £37 billion package of financial support this year. This includes the expansion of the energy bills support scheme so that households will get £400 of support with their energy bills.

Secure, clean and affordable energy for the long term depends on the transformation of our energy system. That is why we are bringing forward this Bill, the most significant piece of primary legislation for energy since 2013, delivering key commitments from the energy security strategy, the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan and the net zero strategy. The Bill will help to drive an unprecedented £100 billion of private sector investment by 2030 into new British industries and will help to support around 480,000 clean jobs by the end of the decade.

I turn to the main elements of the Bill. It has 12 parts, which it will be helpful to consider under three key pillars. The first pillar leverages investment in new technologies, securing clean, homegrown industries that can help to reduce our exposure to volatile gas prices in the longer term. The Government have continually demonstrated our commitment to maintaining the security and resilience of our energy system. Investment in clean technologies is an essential part of the system transformation.

Deploying carbon capture, usage and storage—CCUS—and low-carbon hydrogen production will create new industries, helping to transform our former industrial heartlands. The Bill will introduce state-of-the-art business models for CCUS and for hydrogen. That includes provisions to establish an economic regulation and licensing framework for CO2 transport and storage, and a new levy to fund hydrogen production. These will attract private investment by providing long-term revenue certainty to investors, putting the country on a path to grow these new clean industries and reindustrialise our economy.

The Bill will enable the delivery of a large village hydrogen heating trial by 2025, providing crucial evidence to inform decisions in 2026 on the role of hydrogen in heat decarbonisation. Building on policies such as the £450 million boiler upgrade scheme, the Bill includes provisions to scale up heat-pump installation, providing the powers to establish a market-based mechanism for the low-carbon heat industry to help build the market for heat pumps to 600,000 installations per year by 2028. Through the Bill, we will also make the UK the first country to address fusion in regulation, providing clarity on the regulatory regime for fusion energy facilities.

The second pillar in the Bill will allow for the necessary reform of our energy system. It will protect consumers from unfair pricing and decarbonise our energy system. By reforming the system, we will help to scale up the installation of key clean technologies for the future, ensuring that the system is more efficient in order to enable innovation and reduce the UK’s dependency on global fossil fuel markets.

The Bill will enhance our network security by establishing a new independent system operator and planner, which will support system reform and boost energy system resilience. Working across the electricity and gas systems, the independent system operator and planner will also ensure efficient energy planning, enhance energy security, minimise cost to consumers and promote innovation.

The Bill will reform energy code governance, overhauling the way that the technical and commercial rules of the energy system are overseen and kept up to date. This will make the system more agile, enable innovation and gear our system toward net zero.

In line with our manifesto commitment, we are legislating to extend the existing energy price cap beyond 2023 if necessary. The cap is the best safety net for 22 million households, preventing suppliers over- charging consumers. The Bill also contains provisions to enable competition in onshore electricity networks, delivering up to £1 billion worth of savings for consumers on projects tendered over the next 10 years.

The provisions in the Bill about mergers of energy network enterprises will protect consumers from increasing network prices in the event of energy network company mergers. They will enable the Competition and Markets Authority to consider the impact on Ofgem’s ability to carry out its role when reviewing energy network company mergers. We estimate that this could save energy consumers up to £420 million over 10 years.

The Bill will protect consumers and the grid from cyber threats, with new powers to regulate energy smart appliances. Provisions in the Bill will support continued delivery of the smart meter rollout, which will enable consumers to manage their energy use and cut their bills to help with the cost of living.

We will introduce multipurpose interconnectors as a licensable activity. The provisions will reduce the number of cabling points, landing points and substations. This will reduce the impact on local communities and the environment. It will also support the Government’s ambition for 50 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, as well as providing certainty to investors in and developers of multipurpose-interconnector projects.

In line with the 2021 smart systems and flexibility plan, we are legislating to clarify electricity storage as a distinct subset of electricity generation in the Electricity Act 1989. This will facilitate the deployment of electricity storage, such as batteries and pumped hydro storage, and remove obstacles to innovation in this area.

As we committed to in the energy White Paper, we are legislating to enable the removal of obligation thresholds under the energy company obligation scheme, commonly referred to as the ECO scheme. We will do so without creating significant financial and administrative burdens for small suppliers by enabling the Government to establish a buy-out mechanism under the scheme for suppliers.

Through the Bill, we will kickstart the development of heat networks. By enabling heat network zoning in England, we will overcome barriers to deployment by identifying areas where they provide the lowest-cost solution to heating buildings. We will also ensure that families living on heat networks are better protected, by appointing Ofgem as the new regulator for heat networks in Great Britain.

The Bill will provide a replacement power to enable the UK Government to amend the EU-derived energy performance of premises regime. This will ensure that the regime is fit for purpose and reflects the UK’s ambitions on climate change.

The third pillar in the Bill is about ensuring the safety, security and resilience of the UK’s energy system. The Bill follows the British energy security strategy announced earlier this year and puts into law measures to boost long-term energy independence and security. We are clear that nuclear energy has a vital role to play in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and in our transition to net zero, as reconfirmed in the British energy security strategy. That is why this Bill will enable UK accession to the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. This will make greater compensation available to potential victims in the highly unlikely event of a nuclear incident and improve the investment climate for nuclear projects.

To build our nuclear future, we also need to clean up the past. Therefore, the Bill will facilitate the safe and cost-effective clean-up of the UK’s decommissioned nuclear sites. It will bring forward the final delicensing of nuclear sites, allowing more proportionate clean-up and earlier re-use of these sites. The Bill will also make it clear that geological disposal facilities located in or under the territorial sea require a licence and are regulated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. The Bill introduces measures to enable the Civil Nuclear Constabulary to utilise its expertise in deterrence and armed response to support the security of other critical infrastructure sites, helping to keep those sites safe.

The continuity of core fuel supplies and energy resilience has never been more important. As such, the Bill contains measures for downstream oil security, which will apply to facilities such as oil terminals and filling stations. These measures will prevent fuel supply disruption and reduce the risk of emergencies affecting fuel supplies, such as disruption from industrial action or malicious protest and emergencies resulting from wider national security risks.

As we all know, our oil and gas sector plays an important role in our transition to a cleaner energy system. The Bill will enable existing legislation to be updated, ensuring that the offshore oil and gas environmental regulatory regime maintains high standards in respect of habitat protection and pollution response. It is important that we ensure that the UK’s oil and gas and carbon storage infrastructure remains in the hands of companies with the best ability to operate it. Therefore, the Bill will allow the North Sea Transition Authority to identify and prevent a potentially undesirable change of control before it happens.

In line with the polluter pays principle, and in order to protect taxpayers, the Bill introduces a provision on charging schemes for offshore oil and gas decommissioning. This means that the Government will be able to recover the costs of these activities more fully from the industry.

I also share with the House three amendments that we intend to bring forward in Committee. To meet commitments made in the British energy security strategy we will look to amend the Bill to include measures on offshore wind habitats regulations assessment and an offshore wind environmental improvement package. This measure will help to reduce the time it takes to get planning consent for offshore wind projects from up to four years down to just one year. We will also look to include a provision on the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme, also known as ESOS. This measure will improve the quality of ESOS audits and provide powers to expand the scheme to include net-zero elements in audits and more businesses. Finally, we will look to amend the Bill to include provisions that will bring Nuclear Decommissioning Authority pensions in line with the majority of the rest of the public sector. The new scheme was agreed with unions, and includes provision for retirement on full pension before state pension age.

The Bill will benefit every part of the UK. Some measures of course touch on devolved matters. From the outset, the Government have sought to work closely with the devolved Administrations and are committed to the Sewel convention. Where the Government believe that the Bill is legislating in an area of devolved competence, they have, in good faith, highlighted these areas to the devolved Administrations ahead of their consideration of the Bill.

This is ambitious legislation and allows for the necessary reform of our energy system. We are charged with a great responsibility to ensure the security, affordability and decarbonisation of our energy supply for many generations to come. We are also presented with huge opportunities to leverage investments in new, clean technologies that will reinforce the UK’s position as a global leader in delivering net zero. I hope noble Lords will recognise the exciting opportunity that this Bill represents to facilitate the necessary reforms, boost investment in clean technologies and ensure the security of supply in the longer term. At the same time, it will stimulate economic growth and job creation in support of our levelling-up agenda. I beg to move.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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First, let me thank all noble Lords for their contributions to what I think has been an excellent, important and constructive debate. I will attempt to answer as many of the questions asked as possible, and of course, I look forward to debating many of these issues further as the Bill proceeds through Committee.

One of the most pressing issues facing many hard-working households and businesses today is the cost of living, particularly the cost of energy. Unsurprisingly, many noble Lords—including the noble Baronesses, Lady Blake and Lady Hayman, and my noble friend Lord Howell—asked how the Bill will address this issue. The Government are acting now to protect households from the full impact of rising prices with a package of financial support worth £37 billion.

However, the cost of living crisis is not just about providing support today. It is also about ensuring that we have an energy system that is affordable for many years to come. This Bill will create a more cost-efficient energy system by increasing innovation and competition, for example by introducing competition in onshore electricity networks and attracting investment in a strong, low-carbon energy sector. The Bill will also help to reduce our exposure to volatile gas prices.

My noble friends Lord Moylan and Lord Howell and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, touched on the important issue of energy security. It is an absolute priority for this Government. Thankfully, Britain benefits from highly diverse and flexible sources of gas supply and a diverse electricity energy mix, which ensures that households, businesses and heavy industry can get the energy they need. I am happy to confirm that the UK is in no way dependent on Russian gas. We have highly diverse sources of gas supply, providing us with one of the largest liquified natural gas import infrastructures in Europe, for which, I am happy to say, the EU is particularly grateful at the moment, as we support it. Natural gas has an important ongoing role to play in future as the UK decarbonises its energy system. However, how natural gas is used will need to change to eliminate the CO2 associated with burning it.

In response to my noble friend Lord Moylan, affordability is of course absolutely key to delivering on our energy strategy. The value for money of the measures that we introduce is completely critical.

As many noble Lords have noted, this is a wide-ranging Bill. I welcome the many questions that were asked in the debate about the wider energy sector; most of them do not necessarily relate to the Bill but I will nevertheless attempt to address them anyway.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Blake and Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Whitty, raised the knotty subject of energy efficiency, which we have debated long and hard in this House. Let me say at the start that huge progress is already being made on the energy efficiency of UK homes. We are investing more than £.6.6 billion over this Parliament to improve energy efficiency. However, cost of living pressures mean that now is not the right time to bring in additional requirements for home owners regarding further regulations on minimum energy efficiency standards. However, we will bring forward measures at a more appropriate time.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked if the Government will introduce windfall taxes back into the oil and gas industry. The energy profits levy will raise around £5 billion in its first 12 months, which will go towards supporting people with the new cost of living measures announced by the previous Chancellor.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked about the programme of policy statements and secondary legislation. To implement the commitments in this Bill we will of course publish policy statements for the Lords Committee stage, helping your Lordships to understand the intention of the regulation-making powers in the Bill and the next steps which will follow that.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, asked about onshore wind. On consultation, we are going to introduce a clear route which enables local communities and authorities to work together to signal their support for onshore wind and for onshore wind developers to respond quickly to this. On planning guidance, while we will not introduce wholesale changes to current planning regulations for onshore wind in England, we have committed to developing local partnerships for a limited number of supportive communities which wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure in return for appropriate benefits, including, for example, lower energy bills.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh all spoke about community energy. Through the introduction of UK-wide growth funding schemes, the Government are enabling local areas to tackle net-zero goals in ways that best suit their particular community needs.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked if there would be enough electric vehicle charging points. We are committed to ensuring that an inclusively designed EV charging network is available that works for all consumers.

My noble friend Lord Moylan asked what will take up the slack when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, which is an important question. The Government’s long-term ambition is to increase our plans for the deployment of civil nuclear power up to 24 gigawatts by 2050, which would be around 25% of our projected 2050 electricity demand.

The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about the use of waste for energy. I can inform both that the forthcoming biomass strategy will consider evidence on the likely support for and sustainability of biomass feedstocks and the best use of biomass across the economy to help us achieve net zero.

I turn to some of the points made about measures in the Bill, starting with pillar 1. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, mentioned the cost and viability of heat pumps—a matter dear to my own heart. With the low-carbon heat scheme and other policies, we are confident that the instalment cost of heat pumps will come down significantly over the coming years as the market scales up, making heat pumps an increasingly attractive and affordable option for more and more UK households.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, also questioned whether hydrogen was the appropriate technology for heating homes. Indeed, that is a very good question to pose. It has the potential to make a contribution to fully decarbonising heat by offering consumers a future heating option that works in a very similar way to natural gas, but without the carbon emissions. However, it is important to point out that hydrogen for heat is not yet an established technology. Much further work is required to assess the feasibility, costs and potential benefits. As part of that, a neighbourhood trial will start next year, with a hydrogen village expected to go live in 2025. This is all part of the plan to work out the feasibility of the wide scale use of hydrogen for home heating.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, all questioned whether CCS was an appropriate technology for the UK. The Climate Change Committee has described carbon capture usage and storage—CCUS—as

“a necessity, not an option”

for the transition to net zero, which will enable the UK to deliver upon its global climate commitments. Contrary to what some noble Lords said, CCUS is a proven technology with CCUS projects operating safely globally, in countries such as Norway, the US and Canada. CO2 storage is a mature and safe technology.

The noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Whitty, spoke of the need to accelerate CCUS delivery and have a clear deployment plan. I agree with them; we remain committed to industrial decarbonisation across all nations and regions of the UK. As we work towards net zero, we are clear that CCUS will continue to play a key role in the process. In April 2022, the British Energy Security Strategy restated our commitment to support the deployment of four CCUS clusters by 2030. Following on from a process to select the first CCUS track 1 clusters to be deployed by the mid-2020s, we intend to bring forth further details on the outcome of phase 2 emitter projects in due course.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, asked about the hydrogen levy. The detailed design of the levy is ongoing, including decisions on where it will be placed in the energy value chain. The levy design will reflect wider government priorities and policies to ensure that consumer energy bills are, of course, affordable and that the costs are distributed fairly. We anticipate some public engagement on options for the detailed levy design in early 2023.

I move on to some points that were raised on pillar 2 of the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, and the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, for their positive stance on the independent system operator. We are also seeing that across the energy sector. I was asked about the timeline for implementation. BEIS and Ofgem are currently working with National Grid and the electricity system operator on the next steps. Depending on several factors, including the passage of legislation and continued discussion with key parties, the ISOP could be established by or in 2024.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked about the interaction with Ofgem and National Grid. The Bill actually provides a power to set out a strategy and policy statement for the ISOP; that is where the Secretary of State will set out their direction for Ofgem and ISOP. The Bill also provides for Ofgem to license and regulate the ISOP, overseeing its activities in its capacity as the independent regulator.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the important point about why heat network customers do not get protection equal to that of gas and electricity consumers. That is because heat networks typically buy their energy through commercial contracts, which are not covered by the existing default tariff price cap. However, I am pleased to confirm to my noble friend that the legislation provides the BEIS Secretary of State with powers to introduce a price cap, should it be necessary to protect consumers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blake, asked whether the Bill provides the overhaul needed for the heat networks sector. I very much believe that it does. To address her points on poor design and maintenance, about which I agree, the Bill will include minimum technical standards. It will also introduce powers to regulate decarbonisation; as mentioned, it will also enable powers to set price caps.

The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, asked whether zoning, which will of course be run by local authorities as the most appropriate bodies, can be extended beyond heat networks. Our strategic approach in the Heat and Buildings Strategy follows, in our view, the grain of the market. Our policy levers are aligned to certain points of action; for example, when people are replacing their heating systems. Extending zoning to other technologies in our view risks removing choice for households and businesses when consumer choice over heating technology will be best for the transition.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked about the effectiveness of the price cap. That is a valid question. The price cap remains, of course, a temporary measure until competition in the market improves. BEIS is currently considering what reforms are needed for energy retail market regulation to ensure that the market is resilient and sustainable and continues to protect consumers.

On the points raised that come under pillar 3 of the Bill, the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, asked for more detail on the nuclear decommissioning measures. The proposals do not result in any relaxation in the standards for public protection. Former nuclear sites will continue to be regulated by the relevant environmental agency and the Health and Safety Executive, rather than the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which will regulate health and safety at work activities. She also questioned the reach of the Bill’s core fuel resilience powers. These measures, also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, are intended to be used in a light-touch way to complement the additional voluntary approach. The Government will use these powers in a proportionate way, including providing for certain rights of appeal and consultation requirements.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, raised a question in relation to the disposal of nuclear waste. The Bill makes provision in relation to geological disposal facilities which will encapsulate and isolate radioactive waste at great depths. Nuclear Waste Services, the developer of the geological disposal facility, is confident it can meet the additional requirements from new nuclear as set out in the British Energy Security Strategy.

Moving to the point raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Jones, in their double act, about dumping radioactive waste in the sea, of course, disposal of radioactive waste in the sea is banned by international conventions and let me be absolutely clear that no part of a geological disposal facility will be in the sea. The waste will be isolated deep underground, within multiple barriers, to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity reach anywhere near the surface environment.

My noble friend Lord Howell and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, both asked about small modular reactors. Through the nuclear fund, we are providing funding to support research and development for a small modular reactor design and we are progressing plans to build an advanced modular reactor demonstration by the early 2030s at the latest.

The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, asked whether the Government could make sure that nuclear power is eligible for the renewable transport fuel obligation, including hydrogen produced from nuclear power. I know this is something we have had exchanges on in the past. We believe this would be complex and would require firmer, further evidence for industry to understand how exactly it might be compatible with wider RTFO eligibility criteria.

I welcome my noble friend Lord Moylan’s support for the promotion of nuclear fusion, and I also welcome the support from the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, for the continuation of North Sea oil and gas production. Perhaps he would like to have a word with his noble friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, about this important point, although I welcome her confirmation that she is now apparently in favour of gas as a continuity fuel. My point, which I keep making to the noble Baroness, is that since we produce only about 40% of our own gas in the North Sea and we still import considerable quantities of LNG to be used as a transition fuel, it makes eminent good sense, in my view, to obtain those reserves from our own resources in the North Sea, which of course is of much lower carbon intensity than LNG. I am sure we will continue to have these debates going forward.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
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Will the Minister address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, as well as by me, that the gas we produce in the North Sea no longer belongs to us? It is a global commodity and has to be traded as a global commodity.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It is produced by private sector companies under regulation, and there are interconnectors connecting us to the continent. I am sure that the noble Baroness would want us to support the EU in its time of need at the moment. With our energy terminals, those interconnectors play a crucial role in helping our EU friends with their current difficulties. It is of course a global commodity and the price is set globally. However, if the noble Baroness’s question is about carbon intensity, the carbon intensity of domestically produced resources is much lower than imported LNG. As I have pointed out a number of times before, I fail to see why it is, in her view, more sensible to import gas through LNG rather than getting it from our own North Sea resources. I am sure we will have that debate many times again in future.

Finally, I will deal with the challenge from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, regarding smart meters. I can tell the noble Lord that we have now installed 27 million smart meters in the UK, and the vast majority of SMETS1 meters have now been upgraded with software upgrades to SMETS2 standards, so that they operate exactly the same as SMETS2 meters and provide full smart meter functionality. Only this morning, I met the DCC to review the progress on that upgrade and was told that the number of meters still to be migrated is tiny—a few tens of thousands of early meters that the DCC will continue to attempt to migrate; if that does not work, they eventually may be upgraded to full SMETS2 meters.

I have addressed most of the points raised by noble Lords. I am sure that noble Lords will say if I have not covered all their points, but we will debate these matters further in Committee. Many of the points made were things that noble Peers would like to see happen separately and outside the provisions in the Bill. However, I think that most of the measures received a wide degree of support in your Lordships’ House. I look forward to continuing this constructive engagement and detailed scrutiny as the Bill progresses through Committee.

Bill read a second time.