Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
First of all, I thank the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) for securing this debate and I commend him on his frequent contributions on energy-intensive industries. We are very fortunate that we now have a formidable group of Stoke MPs who work as a team and bring forward issues, and get results as well, which I have noticed in the main Chamber. I commend them for that.
Sustainable energy and greener energy debates are becoming more regular and I believe that it is important that we move with the times, which can start with ensuring that energy-intensive industries have the correct means to progress. Just this morning, probably coincidentally, but none the less importantly, I had the opportunity to meet the independent networks association. Its chief executive is Nicola Pitts and it is one of the UK’s leading independent utility network owners and operators, driving industry collaboration and innovation to shape the future of the UK’s energy and water sectors. It is in the business of ensuring that we can be more energy-efficient with electricity and the use of water, both for the industrial sector and for healthy homes—I chair the all-party parliamentary group on healthy homes and buildings. I commend that organisation.
I had a quick look through the early-day motions before the debate progressed and I noticed that three particularly promote the issue of heat pumps. I commend early-day motion 675, which the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) has put forward; early-day motion 677 on Home Energy Scotland; and early-day motion 681 on Invinity Energy Systems. That tells me that there is a great interest in the issue, not just from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South but from everybody else here in Westminster Hall today and perhaps even among those who were unable to attend the debate.
The UK should take great pride in our energy-intensive industries. Our main businesses of that kind are dedicated to food, pulp and paper, iron and steel, and basic chemicals. The UK’s manufacturing and industrial sector accounted for 60% of total consumption, along with another 16% for chemical manufacturing. The UK industrial sector is made up of some 35% electricity and 39% natural gas, according to Gazprom Energy.
I will give an example not from my own constituency, but of a company that many of my constituents work in. I refer to the recent work done by Bombardier Spirit AeroSystems in east Belfast. It received approval to develop a new £85 million project to develop energy from waste through an EFW gasification plant in the constituency of my Democratic Unionist party colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson). It is a tremendous idea and I am sure that it is one that the Minister is well aware of. If he is not, perhaps he can get more information on it. It gives an example not only of what we will do in Northern Ireland, in my neighbouring constituency, but of what can be done elsewhere.
That £139 million plant can process 120,000 tonnes of refuse-derived fuel, comprised of non-recyclable fractions of commercial and industrial waste per annum, to generate electricity and heat. Although I appreciate the extreme finance that firms will need to advance to this level, the benefits are much more energy efficient in the long term. When it comes to the net zero carbon targets, this is one that we should be aiming for. It is crucial that we take the future into consideration when discussing greener energy for our industrial firms. The Full Circle Generation facility in Belfast has aimed to process 140,000 tonnes of waste per annum, but it takes an initial 400,000 tonnes of rubbish for the facility to operate at full capacity. It is particularly exciting, innovative and futuristic; it is something we should be looking at.
The cost aspect is giving large firms little incentive to switch to cleaner energy strategies, but there must be more discussion between the BEIS Minister and the firms so that they can meet in the middle, because there needs to be a compromise sometimes. Perhaps the Minister could give us his thoughts on how that could be achieved. Additional funding must be allocated to help energy-intensive industries decarbonise. That is essential in ensuring that we meet our 2050 carbon zero promise set at COP26. As stated earlier, energy-intensive industries make a great contribution.
We must support our energy-intensive industries within the UK if we want to encourage global firms to come here. We want to see that happening, too. Perhaps the Minister, in his response, could give us some idea of whether we have attracted many firms to come here and invest. I think we have, but it is always good to put it on the record and say what we have done. I have recently been made aware that an industrial firm that set up in China is considering coming back to the United Kingdom because of the price of containers. That is a step forward, although we all know of small businesses in our constituencies—I have many—that are threatened with difficulties because of that price structure. However, we must do more to entice other firms to come back to the UK. One way we could do this would be by taking a lead role in green firms, giving them the funds they require to make this happen. That would also improve local job opportunities for those who aspire to work in the manufacturing industry.
I call on the Secretary of State to ensure that priority finance is given to large industrial firms to give them that jump start in creating greener energy-intensive industries. The cost is a crucial aspect, and I would argue that it puts firms off improving their energy efficiency. There are small but useful steps that the BEIS Minister can take and, given our recent promises at COP26, I do believe these should be taken accordingly.