Biomass Strategy 2023: Cross Sectoral Sustainability Framework

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 15th November 2023

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness knows that I do not agree with her on this. The biomass that is used for generation in the two main plants is sustainable. There are very strict sustainability criteria attached to it, and the generators are measured against those criteria by Ofgem.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the commitment to the cross-sectoral frame- work, provided that it is statutory rather than voluntary. Does the Minister regard this as a significant change from the Government’s previous position, when they decided to appoint a senior member of Drax management to the Climate Change Committee that advises government on biomass policy at a time when Drax had received £11 billion in public subsidy for biomass?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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There has been no significant change in government policy. The sustainability criteria for biomass have existed for a while now, in concert with other biofuel strategies across government. Of course, if we can take the opportunity to make those criteria even better and even more sustainable, we will do so.

Climate Change Policies

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 20th September 2023

(10 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness has been resolute in her support for nuclear and does a fantastic job in advocating for it. I am very happy to give her the reassurance that she is looking for. Of course, again, the nuclear industry was left to decay under the last Labour Government. We have resumed it through building Hinkley Point, and we are about to take a final investment decision on Sizewell. I know the noble Baroness is particularly keen on the announcement of Great British Nuclear. These are all contributing towards our climate change goals. Nuclear will provide us with cost-effective, CO-free power for many years into the future.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government have a track record on stuff like this. In 2015, George Osborne cancelled zero-carbon homes about six weeks before it was due to be implemented and when housebuilders had already geared up for its implementation. We lost 10 years of opportunity for net zero-compliant homes and warmer homes for people. The Tory Government have done it again with a major U-turn on their policy on home insulation, boilers and electric vehicles, against the advice of everyone, including the manufacturers and business. What will the Minister say to his colleague, Chris Skidmore, who did the net-zero review for the Government? He came to the conclusion that not enough was being done and is incandescent with rage at the likely announcements this afternoon. What is plan B when we are going to lose another 10 years on the path to net zero?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We will not lose another 10 years on the path to net zero. I outlined our policies earlier. For the sake of repeating them again, we are still committed to net zero and to meeting the carbon budgets; we have an excellent record. We are committed to meeting the 2050 target. We will continue to advance on that path, but we will do so in a fair and proportionate manner that takes people with us rather than by imposing things on them.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble and learned Lord knows I have tremendous respect for him and there is a great deal of sense in what he says. If we are getting into a discussion about the sunset, it is my view and the Government’s view that we can do all of this, given the current sunset. Work is under way across Whitehall in the new business department on employment law and in Defra on environmental regulations to do exactly that.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will give way in a second; let me answer the previous point before the noble Baroness makes another. I think it is perfectly possible and work is under way in the business department and in Defra, which have many of these retained EU laws, to do precisely that. As Committee proceeds, I hope to be able—maybe I will not be able, but I will do my best—to convince the Committee that we will be able to do this in time, with the given sunset. I give way to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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Would the noble Lord perhaps admit that the only way in which the timetable can be met is by not undertaking the sort of consultation we have come to expect, and indeed enjoyed, during the passage of all this legislation over many years, which has resulted in it being EU retained legislation? My personal sphere of knowledge is the work in Defra. I am desperately worried that many of the things emerging from Defra that are purportedly a replacement for EU law are not being portrayed as that when they come out, and they are not being consulted on in any way whatever. I do not believe that the EU retained law workload can be done by Defra in time without it being a fait accompli by Ministers that is not consulted on and does not go through a process in this House that allows us to have any influence on it. So I would like the Minister to assure us that there will be a full process of consultation that can be contained by the deadline.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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“Yes” is the answer to the noble Baroness’s question. All new regulations will be subject to a period of consultation. I have to say, with great respect, I would have a little more sympathy for the noble Baroness’s argument had any of these regulations been introduced into UK law in the first place with a period of consultation—but, of course, we all know they were not. Many of the people complaining now that these regulations are so valuable never said anything at the time about the process by which they were introduced. But I accept that is a difference of principle between us.

As I said, our high standards do not and never have depended on EU law. Ministers will have the power to preserve such retained EU law from the sunset where appropriate. Building on some of the earlier points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, this includes Ministers in the devolved Governments. As such, it is the Government’s contention—I suspect it is one that will not draw much sympathy from the Opposition—that there is simply no need for any carve-outs for individual departments, specific policy areas or sectors, particularly when I have been able to reassure the Committee on the principles of maternity rights and employment law as a whole.

Energy Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to give the noble Baroness a detailed answer in writing but we do not see any particular limit on it. It is what the market will develop. The problem with the noble Baroness’s amendment is that she is seeking, in effect, to get every other customer to subsidise a relatively uncompetitive form of energy production. If community energy schemes are low-carbon and competitive, they will be able to take their place in the generation mix. Many of these community energy schemes are already supported and will continue to be.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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I wonder whether, in writing to the noble Baroness, the Minister could also write to us on a couple of other things, including the number of schemes that have gone through the two mechanisms that were introduced subsequent to the feed-in tariff changes. This would let us see how trends are operating in the market situation that he is describing at the moment; my perception is that it is not producing growth in the uptake of community schemes. The Government must be clear: are they keen on community schemes, seeing them as a real attribute, or are they keen on only commercially competitive ones? If it is the latter, I am almost certain that we will not see many come forward.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are keen on these schemes but, as always, the question comes down to cost. How much we are prepared to subsidise an essentially uncompetitive scheme that is leveraged on the bills of everyone else who is not benefiting from these schemes? That is the fundamental question. I am of course happy to write with the clarification that the noble Baroness asks for.

Energy Prices Bill

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I have referred to the pipeline of solar for which planning permission has already been granted or that is in scope. I think the noble Lord can see that there is a considerable pipeline of solar plants that are already coming on stream and that our target remains in place.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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Would the Minister give way on that point? I hope we can depend on him to make the point to the Secretary of State for the Environment that, if he had a proper land use strategy, he would not have a conflict between wind farms, solar farms and agricultural land. We would have a proper planned process to use our land wisely.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that point. It is now on the record, and I will ensure that it is drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for the Environment. In answer to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, about our negotiations with Norway, following the successful vaccine task force, we have created a new energy supply task force under the leadership of the excellent lady Maddie McTernan. She had such success with vaccines that we have now given her an even tougher challenge to solve. She and her team are already negotiating new long-term energy contracts with domestic and international gas suppliers to bring down the cost of the intervention immediately. The Government are opening negotiations with domestic and international gas suppliers on the prospects of longer term, lower cost gas contracts.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester was wrong to question whether the Bill should include suspension of green levies. In fact, we have not suspended the green levies in Great Britain; £150 of the savings will be delivered by temporarily suspending environmental and social costs being passed on to consumers. They were levied on bills, but they will now be directly funded by the Exchequer under the energy price guarantee. The Whip is telling me that I am running out of time, so apologies if I do not manage to get all the remaining points in. Those costs will be transferred to the Exchequer, so they are not borne by consumers, but they are present and still funded to help us benefit from low-carbon electricity generation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked about community-owned energy schemes, and we recognise the role community and locally owned renewable energy schemes can and do play in supporting the UK’s national net zero targets. These projects help encourage innovation and investment as well as community engagement with the energy challenge.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked about the £100 alternative fuel payment, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. This is designed by reference to past increases in the cost of heating oil in the year to October 2022. We will be monitoring the price of heating oil and other alternative fuels closely in the months ahead to see whether further payments are required at a future point in time. The noble Baroness also asked about the off-grid gas consultation. As I said to her in our conversation, we consulted last year on plans to phase out the use of fossil fuel heating on the gas grid. We have not made any decisions yet on how to move forward. The noble Baroness will be the first to know when those decisions are made and announced.

If the House will permit me just a little bit of time to say something on the important subject of Northern Ireland, I would like to touch on our equivalent support for Northern Ireland, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. In the absence of an Executive, the UK Government are taking steps to ensure that households and businesses across the whole of the UK are able to access support to manage their energy bills. In doing so we are ensuring that households and non-domestic consumers in Northern Ireland receive an equivalent level of support to those in Great Britain. I am sure that will reassure the noble Lord.

To conclude, I am encouraged by the support for the Bill, and I thank, in particular, noble Lords in the Opposition for that. I realise, of course, that on all the various subjects noble Lords have many other points that they wish to make and to put forward, but I think there is general support across the House for the Bill. As always, I look forward to continuing constructive engagement as the Bill progresses through your Lordships’ House.

Emissions Trading Scheme: Transport

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Monday 11th October 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a good point. The ETS already exists for domestic aviation and aviation to the European Economic Area. There is also a separate scheme developed by ICAO, which he referenced. We will need to look at how we implement that in the UK and its interaction with the UK ETS.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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With apologies to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that ambitious action as early as possible this decade is required to reduce CO2 emissions as early as possible. The Minister says that we are moving faster than anyone else, but the Government have stated that the implementation of any expansion to the UK ETS following the first review of the scheme will not happen until 2026. Does he agree that this is far too slow? Can he tell the House why it is utterly unambitious?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said in previous answers, we recognise the urgency of taking swift action on climate change. I repeat: we are moving faster than any other G7 country. I accept that the noble Baroness and other Opposition Members would like to be even more ambitious, but we must look at the implications of that on the competitiveness of British industry and the effect on people’s fuel bills, et cetera. These are important matters and we must consider them in the round.

Climate Change

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Tuesday 7th September 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are certainly committed to action. We have published a number of strategies—the hydrogen strategy and the transport decarbonisation strategy—and the net-zero strategy will be published before COP. The noble Baroness will understand that I cannot give commitments for the Chancellor in the spending review.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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In the face of the IPCC red card to all of us, will the UK Government commit to a faster date than 2050 for achieving net zero and more ambitious targets than the emissions reductions of 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035? The IPCC report definitely pointed those out as needed.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Achieving the targets that we have already set will be difficult enough. I like the noble Baroness’s ambition to go even further and faster, but I think that we will stick with what we have got for the moment.

Biomass Electricity Subsidies: Deforestation

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Thursday 20th May 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said, the biomass strategy will review all those factors. We want to continue subsidising biomass only if there are genuine carbon savings, if it does not contribute to deforestation and if it is produced in a sustainable way.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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I hate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, but my reading of the science is that it is uncertain. There is little science looking at the impact of biomass extraction in Europe, particularly in Estonia. In America and Estonia, we have clear evidence of declining numbers in protected species and biodiversity. Is the Minister aware that 500 scientists have written to protest to President Biden and the European Commission about those continued activities? Does he agree that the comparison between biomass electricity generation and other technologies should be made not with fossil fuels, which we know are poor in their performance, but with other green technologies?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The different contributions from noble Lords in this debate have illustrated that this is a contentious subject. There is much debate in the scientific community. The noble Baroness referred to the 500 scientists who have written to the US Administration. Other scientists take different points of view. That is part of the nature of the debate but it is our view that biomass, when compared to fossil fuels, is considered to be a renewable, low-carbon energy source. The carbon released from the organic material was sequestered recently from the atmosphere, compared to fossil fuels where the carbon was sequestered hundreds of millions of years ago. We will continue to follow this debate and explore the issues further in the biomass strategy. If we continue with policies supporting biomass—it is an if—we will take all these factors into account. We want to make sure that there are genuine carbon savings, that biomass is sustainable and that there is no long-term damage to the areas referred to.

Domestic Energy Efficiency: Retrofitting

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Monday 1st March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the £1.5 billion green homes grant scheme was launched by the Chancellor last July with a target of 600,000 homes. It was going to reduce carbon, create 16,000 jobs and tackle fuel poverty. The Prime Minister extended it for a year in November, yet here we are in March with it on the verge of being scrapped. As the Minister said, fewer than 25,000 grants have been made and less than £100 million of the £1.5 billion has been spent. What lessons will the Government take from this total failure into a much-needed plan B?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are of course always keen to learn lessons. I acknowledged in the previous answer that there have been significant challenges in getting the scheme up and running, but I assure the noble Baroness that considerable effort is going into improving its performance.

Green Homes Grant Scheme

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are not downgrading the quality requirements, but the noble Lord makes a good point. We have had a number of these schemes over the years and we will look at what we can do in the future as well.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Oates, made a very good point: this needs to be a long-term scheme that gives the supply chain confidence to invest in and expand the workforce and create new green jobs. Can the Minister assure me that, in collecting the data that he says will come from the applicants, he will look at the assessment needed not only of the scheme’s contribution to carbon reduction but of its contribution to reducing fuel poverty in less well-off households? Can he tell us when we will see what proportion of households whose applications have been approved are in receipt of benefits and what proportion are landlords whose applications will benefit their tenants?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We have already listened to feedback and announced the extension of the scheme until March 2022. We will always listen to feedback. I gave the figures earlier for the number of applications that have been received. In due course, we will a provide further breakdown of those figures.

Fossil Fuels: Business

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Thursday 19th November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a very good point. We recognise that currently the costs of decarbonisation technologies are very high in many industries and many businesses are unable to pass on the increased costs of decarbonisation to consumers. That is why we are working very closely with industry and addressing this is one of the key aims of our industrial decarbonisation strategy.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as a pensioner of the Environment Agency pension fund, which co-chairs the transition pathway initiative. The TPI report shows that no oil and gas company can yet claim to be aligned with the Paris agreement. Does the Minister agree that accelerating the phase out of petrol and diesel cars in the UK will do little to impact the global oil and gas market in which UK-based multinational oil and gas companies operate? Will he tell the House what real leverage there is in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan on these global companies to drive faster and better delivery by the aim of Paris in their global operations?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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In the transition, the North Sea will remain a strategic asset for the UK providing high-quality jobs. We are working closely with the sector to support its transition. The noble Baroness will get more details in the upcoming energy White Paper and the North Sea transition deal.

Committee on Climate Change: Progress Report

Debate between Baroness Young of Old Scone and Lord Callanan
Wednesday 1st July 2020

(4 years ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I very much agree with the noble Baroness that heat pump technology requires support. In line with our commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions, we consider the role of heat pumps in driving down emissions extremely important. This includes large-scale heat pumps. We have the clean heat grant, designed as part of a wider package of measures to support the decarbonisation of heat. The focus of the scheme is on supporting the supply chains that will be needed to phase out the installation of high-carbon fossil fuels in heating and take it off the gas grid.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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I take forward the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, about zero-carbon housing. Can the Minister assure the House that all of the recovery schemes announced by the Prime Minister yesterday will be subject to a net-zero carbon test and a biodiversity recovery test to ensure that we do not lurch from the Covid crisis immediately to the climate change and biodiversity crisis?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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The noble Baroness makes an important point and, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, we will be setting out our plans, publishing a heat and building strategy in due course. We will take these important points on board.