By Tim Montgomerie
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The Prime Minister may not have come out of the last 24 hours particularly well but new Energy Minister John Hayes has had a good energy shambles. I wonder if a new star has been born? How many readers have seen (watch this Guardian clip from just after two minutes in), heard or read about John Hayes' performance at the despatch box yesterday? It took the breath away. The sketchwriters all feasted on his performance. Here is a selection of what they wrote...
Donald Macintyre in The Independent: "When the Labour MP Nick Smith congratulated the minister on his "chutzpah" before asking him if his Department had advised No 10 against the very policy Mr Cameron had announced 24 hours earlier, he said (astoundingly given the notoriously bad relations between his Energy colleagues and George Osborne) that it had "a wonderful relationship" with No 10 and the Treasury: "I say, with appropriate modesty, that that relationship has improved still further since my arrival."
The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts was equally amazed: "‘Alacrity and the defence of the common good – the heart of all I do,’ he said at one point, practically clutching his right breast and removing a tear from his eye. ‘Clarity is the prerequisite of certainty, certainty is the prerequisite of confidence and confidence is the prerequisite of investment,’ he said, quite unscripted... The Government would act ‘in weeks, rather than months’. He raised his chin and scanned the Chamber to ensure that it shared his astonishment at the Executive’s sense of urgency."
By Tim Montgomerie
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Today's Sunday Telegraph reports that one hundred Tory MPs have signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging a review of windfarms policy. I understand that the actual number is 101 Tories, 2 Labour, 2 Lib Dems and one DUP.
Posted below is the full text of the letter that was put together by Chris Heaton-Harris MP and people interested in this subject should read Ruth Lea's latest column. She sets out three things necessary to produce a "sane" green policy. It is likely that many ministers - notably George Osborne - are sympathetic to the letter. The problem is the small matter of Coalition government.
"The Rt. Hon David Cameron MP
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
LONDON, SW1A 2AA
30th January 2012
As Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, we have grown more and more concerned about the Government’s policy of support for on-shore wind energy production.
In these financially straightened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies on-shore wind turbines.
In the on-going review of renewable energy subsidies, we ask the Government to dramatically cut the subsidy for on-shore wind and spread the savings made between other types of reliable renewable energy production and energy efficiency measures.
We also are worried that the new National Planning Policy Framework, in its current form, diminishes the chances of local people defeating unwanted on-shore wind farm proposals through the planning system. Thus we attach some subtle amendments to the existing wording that we believe will help rebalance the system.
Finally, recent planning appeals have approved wind farm developments with the inspectors citing renewable energy targets as being more important than planning considerations. Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that it is impossible to defeat applications through the planning system. We would urge you to ensure that planning inspectors know that the views of local people and long established planning requirements should always be taken into account.
CHRIS HEATON-HARRIS MP AND 105 OTHER MPs"
By Joseph Willits
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Zac Goldsmith would rather be known by the term "effective backbencher", than "rebellious backbencher". In a BBC Hardtalk interview today with Zeinab Badawi, rebellion and party dissent over Europe and the environment, proved to be the main focus. Although critical of the Government over its handling of an EU referendum, Goldsmith insisted that he remained loyal to the party:
"I have voted with my party more than 90% of the time ... if that is anything other than loyal, then I think we need to rethink those terms"
However, Goldsmith indicated his delight for fighting political causes and holding the Government to account as a backbencher, rather than in the "hellish existence" of a junior minister. "I didn't stand for election in order to have a lobotomy and to be programmed by a party leader", he said.
Goldsmith defended the Government on environmental policy, saying it had been "unfairly chastised" and that "twice as many environmental commitments as anything else ... [are] being delivered". He praised both the Green Investment Bank, saying it was "a step in the right direction", and the Green Deal. Although the Government was "beginning" to understand the priority behind environmental policies, he said, the Green Investment Bank, however, was "not big enough, or soon enough", and it was essential that Treasury got "behind... and turbocharged" the Green Deal.
By Matthew Barrett
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Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, announced his Electricity Market Reform White Paper in the Commons yesterday. The White Paper plans for £110bn of investment in electricity generation over the coming years.
In the questions that followed Mr Huhne's statement, two Conservative Members (coincidentally, both from Hertfordshire) asked critical questions of the Secretary of State:
The full debate can be read on the Hansard website here.
Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson took part in yesterday's question time in the Lords on the Cancun climate change summit.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: "My Lords, I join my noble friend in his satisfaction with an outcome that binds no country to anything at all. In that event, however, does he not agree that the position of the United Kingdom, which, alone in the world, has bound itself legally to a massive decarbonisation agreement at huge cost and by a specific date, is utterly incomprehensible, not to say quixotic?"
Lord Marland, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change: "As I think the noble Baroness said, there are a few cynics in the House, although they might claim to be realists. I believe that the fundamental Conservative principle is that we put the taxpayer first, as the noble Lord so excellently did when I worshipped him as the great reforming Chancellor. However, he also knows that Britain is a great country because it has shown leadership, and this is what we are doing; we are putting Britain at the forefront of this by showing leadership."
I wondered earlier this week here whether Labour MPs would use the Select Committee elections to make life difficult for David Cameron.
They didn't. Instead, they lined up behind the Conservative establishment candidates. Andrew Tyrie took the Treasury Select Committee; Richard Ottaway, Foreign Affairs (a big, big consolation prize, after his defeat in the 1922 Committee Chairmanship election); James Arbuthnot, Defence; Stephen Dorrell, Health; Tim Yeo, Climate Change. Anne McIntosh, who won the Environment Committee, leans towards the left of the Party.
I didn't, of course, see anyone cast a ballot paper. But unless Conservative MPs turned out en masse to vote against the Party's right - an unlikely course of action, given the '22 Executive results - Liberal and Labour support for less spiky candidates provides the only comprehensible explanation of the results.
It would be unfair to view the victors as patsies. Tyrie, in particular, has a track record of independent-mindedness. But ask yourself whether Cameron Towers would prefer the winners to, say, Patrick Mercer at Defence or Peter Bone at Health (let alone Nadine) or Philip Hollobone at Climate Change, and there's only one answer.
Bernard Jenkin and Chris Chope are both seen as men of the right. But Chope's used the Chamber to launch independent-minded assaults on establishment causes, and it's noticeable that he lost out in the tussle for the Public Administration Committee Chairmanship.
John Whittingdale at Culture and Greg Knight at Procedure, both No Turning Back Group stalwarts, are in unopposed. Graham Stuart won what should have been, even if it wasn't, a close-fought battle for the Education Committee.
In his maiden speech, Zac Goldsmith, the new MP for Richmond Park, argued that conservatism has always been green:
"The environment is the defining challenge of our era. It goes without saying—I hope—that without a healthy environment, we have no economy or future. It is the defining, underlying issue, and the basic maths tell us that we are heading in a dangerous direction: a growing population combined with an increasing hunger for resources means that the cost of living will at some point go up. If we take that to its logical conclusion, we will reach a point when conflict is almost inevitable.
We need only look at the facts. We can argue about climate change and our exact contribution to it, although I will not do that now, because other people have already done so today. The world’s bread baskets are being eroded. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fact. There is the destruction of the world’s forests, the loss of species and habitats and the collapse of the world’s great fisheries. These are real issues, and they are not subject to debate; they are matters of fact. They are not niche problems, but fundamental problems. I hope it also goes without saying that as we undermine the natural world and natural systems, we eventually undermine the basis of our own existence.
The cause of many of those problems is also, fortunately, the solution: the market. But if the market is blind to the value of valuable of things, if it is blind to the value of natural systems, and if it fails to put a cost on those things that should have a cost, economic growth can only be an engine of environmental destruction and a process that effectively means cashing in on the natural world until there is nothing left. Nevertheless, the market is the most powerful force for change that we know, other than nature itself. It is a tool, and if we allow the natural world to be plundered, it is simply because we have failed to understand how to use that tool. We need to put a price on pollution, waste and the use of scarce resources, and we need to invest the proceeds in alternatives. I do not think that green taxes should ever be retrospective—we have seen too much of that—and I do not think that the green agenda should ever become an excuse for raising stealth taxes. We have seen too much of that as well. However, whatever we do introduce must be real, not synthetic. We need rapid change.
Read Mr Booker's full column here.
On Friday East Surrey MP and former Shadow DEFRA Secretary Peter Ainsworth sought a second reading for the Green Energy (Definition and Promotion Bill). Here are some highlights from his speech:
"There is at last cross-party agreement—something that I have long sought—on the need for Government action to put in place measures to liberate the pent-up ingenuity, creativity and capital of businesses and markets, and the public’s pent-up enthusiasm to engage with delivering real power to the people by decentralising the way in which we create and use energy in this country.
The opportunities before us are enormous. Rebuilding the economy as if the earth mattered is an enormous task, but it brings together an array of interlocking benefits—not just sustainable economic growth and safe green jobs, but enhanced global and national security, improved social justice at home and abroad, and a more thriving and robust natural environment. I think that the whole House will agree that bringing those things together is a worthy task, but it will require vision and courage, relentless attention and, above all, hope. In that mighty context, this little private Member’s Bill may seem a trifling affair. It is indeed a modest Bill—modesty befits private Members’ Bills—but I believe that if it succeeds, it will play its part in helping the clean energy sector to grow, and helping all of us citizens to find it easier to play our part in the green revolution.
Update: Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Greg Clark has issued a press release on this story.
Rather like rock stars who take a private jet to play at an event condemning the evils of climate change, Whitehall departments sometimes fail to practice what they preach, as John Redwood has uncovered:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many UK Ministers and officials attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan on 13 December 2008; and what method of transportation each used. 
Joan Ruddock: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Poznan in December 2009, known as the 14th Conference of the Parties (or COP14) was attended by two Ministers and 45 officials. Delegates attended from different Departments across Whitehall to ensure the full range of issues could be addressed by UK experts. Of the total, 33 delegates attended from the Department of Energy and Climate Change
All emissions resulting from DECC's international commitments are offset. In April 2006 the UK developed a Government Carbon Offsetting Fund (GCOF) as part of the wider UK Sustainable Development Strategy to meet the commitment to offset emissions arising from official and ministerial air travel."
What with all the hot air that will have been expended at the conference, that's quite a contribution.
This country used to run half the globe with a handful of Classics graduates.
On another note, there can be little doubt after the last few months that John Redwood should serve in the next Conservative Cabinet.
Greg Clark commented:
"The Copenhagen talks later this year are clearly vitally important for getting an international agreement on tackling climate change. But it is astonishing that the Government would need to fly out 46 delegates to represent Britain, not least because of the carbon footprint.
The creation of a Department for Energy and Climate Change was meant to co-ordinate the Government's approach to this important issue. Clearly this is not yet working as a third of the delegates were from other Government departments."
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Greg Clark also responded to a ministerial statement on coal and carbon capture and storage yesterday.
Energy Secretary Ed Miliband announced that up to four new coal-fired power plants will be approved if they include technology to trap and store CO2 emissions underground. At first the technology would apply to just a quarter of the stations' output.
Herewith highlights from Mr Clark's speech:
"I thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement. I know from our exchanges that he is an avid student of my policy documents, and he knows how long the Conservatives have been trying to persuade him and his predecessors to give Britain a lead in carbon capture and storage. Sadly, that leadership has now passed to China, Germany and the USA. It is two years since the Government’s characteristic dithering led to the collapse of BP’s CCS project at Peterhead. That work is now being done in Abu Dhabi.
A year ago, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition set out the policies on CCS that Britain should adopt: to build a network of pipes and connections that would allow captured carbon dioxide to be transported from generating plants to areas of storage in the North sea; to equip at least three new coal plants with CCS technology, financed by Britain’s share of receipts from the EU emissions trading scheme; and to introduce an emissions performance standard that would limit emissions from any new plant to the equivalent of those from a modern gas-fuelled power station.
Our criteria remain those against which today’s announcement must be judged, but let us be clear why the statement was so urgently needed. After 12 years, Britain's energy policy is as much of a horror show as our public finances, and for the same reason: the Government did not fix the roof when the sun was shining. We have known for more than a decade that a third of our generating capacity is to be turned off during the current decade, and that there is no remotely adequate plan to replace it with a low-carbon alternative. We have known for many years that North sea oil and gas are in decline, but our gas storage capacity is grossly inadequate. During the cold snap last February, storage dropped to just four days’ worth. No other major European country generates less of its electricity from renewables, although we have some of the best wind, wave and tidal resources in Europe. If anyone thinks that the Government’s handling of the economy was an aberration, let them look at the mess of their energy policy. While we welcome the Secretary of State’s Damascene conversion to Conservative policy, it is from that appalling position that we now need to recover.
There were questions on Energy and Climate Change yesterday.
Henley MP John Howell (right) asked about fuel poverty:
"Given that the term “fuel poverty” does not seem to have been used once in yesterday’s Budget statement, can the Secretary of State confirm that Warm Front will be sufficient to address Age Concern’s assessment of the Budget that its failure to tackle fuel poverty will continue to leave more pensioners out in the cold?
Edward Miliband: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman—and, of course, the Conservative party cannot support any of the measures that we took on public spending, because as we know it is completely opposed to increasing public spending at this time. The measures that we took on housing, including specifically £100 million for energy efficiency in the social housing sector, will help precisely some of the most vulnerable people in our country. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will announce in a written statement this morning an increase in the maximum Warm Front standard grant from £2,700 to £3,500. I think that will be widely welcomed, alongside other improvements in Warm Front, because it is helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I am very proud of the record of what we are doing to help some of the most vulnerable people in our country who are facing fuel poverty."
It is, of course, a lie to say that you can't freeze or even cut a department's overall expenditure whilst concurrently increasing spending on certain individual projects.
Shadow Secretary of State Greg Clark went on the same issue:
"The Secretary of State knows that the coverage of the Warm Front scheme is limited, but does he accept that for most homes investing in energy efficiency saves money on fuel bills?
Edward Miliband: I do, which is why we unveiled plans in February for “pay as you save” insulation, whereby people will be able to spread the costs of energy efficiency measures over a number of years; it will not be linked to the person in the house but to the house itself, so that the costs can be spread over 20 years or so. Therefore, part of the savings from the energy bills will be able to be used to fund to kind of insulation that we need. We have very ambitious plans for 7 million houses to have whole-house refurbishment by 2020 and all houses to have it by 2030. Unlike the Conservative party’s plans, those are costed plans; they have been worked through and they will work.
Greg Clark: Yesterday, Greenpeace described the Secretary of State’s plans as strikingly lacking in ambition. If he accepts that savings can be made through investment in insulation, why, when households will face higher tax bills for years to come, is he resistant to our policy, which would give every home in the country an entitlement to £6,500-worth of immediate energy efficiency improvements, paid for from the savings that people make on their fuel bills? Why is he resisting that?
Edward Miliband: I will explain this to the hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change wrote him a letter—he may have replied, but I am not aware of his reply. His proposal is that £6,500 will be available to every household in the country. That would cost £170 billion up front. As far as I can see, he has no idea where that £170 billion will come from and how he will raise it. I hope that he comes forward with that. I look forward to his having interesting discussions with the shadow Chancellor about how £170 billion of funding will be provided. I think it is the largest uncosted commitment made by the Conservative party, but of course it is not the only uncosted commitment that the Conservatives have made, and it shows that they simply cannot be trusted with the nation’s finances."
Yesterday saw Wells MP David Heathcoat Amory introduced a debate in Westminster Hall, on the subject of nuclear energy. Herewith some extracts from his speech:
"Due to a combination of short-sightedness and wishful thinking, this country faces a looming energy gap between future demand and supply, because we have been decommissioning our nuclear power stations without replacing them. Many stations have already been decommissioned, and the rest will largely disappear in the next 10 years. Coal has also declined in importance: many coal-burning stations are increasingly obsolete and will fall victim to the tightening regulatory system, particularly the EU large combustion plant directive, which will take them out of service. So far, the difference has largely been made up by burning more gas. Incidentally, the so-called dash for gas was largely the reason why the Government were able to claim that they had complied with the Kyoto commitment on carbon dioxide stabilisation. That happened anyway, because gas produces less carbon dioxide per unit than does coal, and was nothing to do with what the Government had done elsewhere.
The massive switch to gas burn cannot continue for ever, and is becoming expensive. There were significant price rises last year, which have not been fully reversed, and which created a lot of grief both domestically and industrially. Also, gas reserves around our shores are declining—it is not just North sea oil that is running out—and we are having to import more and more gas. Indeed, we will soon be overwhelmingly dependent on imported gas from countries that, by and large, are unstable, unfriendly, or both. Many of those gas-exporting countries clearly use their energy exports as a foreign policy tool. Russia is a good example of that. Europe, as a whole, is very dependent on Russian gas, but those supplies are interruptable, and this country is at the end of the pipeline.
The Government are relying on another source of energy that is based largely on make-believe—a vast expansion in renewables. We are now committed to deriving 15 per cent. of all our energy requirements—not just electricity—from renewable sources by 2020, but we currently derive only about 2 per cent., and we are nowhere near getting to 15 per cent. within that time scale. That commitment is legally binding and will be in treaty law. We know that EU law is superior to national law, but I do not know who will go to prison when these commitments are not fulfilled—it will probably be another lot of Ministers in the future. Today’s Government are signing up to a specific, legally binding commitment that is not attainable.
Shadow Enviroment Minister Greg Barker has asked the Government an interesting question about clean energy:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his Department’s research and development budget in support of research into clean energy is in the next 12 months. 
The Technology Strategy Board has a current portfolio of 76 collaborative projects (worth ca £140 million) on emerging low carbon energy technologies. Following two recent calls in Carbon Abatement Technologies and Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Technologies, further funding will be committed in the next 12 months. It is also expanding its portfolio in areas relating to the low carbon agenda through a range of initiatives including Innovation Platforms—one focused on Low Carbon Vehicles is coordinating over £100 million of public sector support to accelerate the market introduction of ultra low carbon vehicles.
In addition, DIUS has committed to provide up to £50 million pa (through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Technology Strategy Board) to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), to be matched by industry partners. ETI is establishing a portfolio of development projects in low carbon energy technologies.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change also provides some funding through the Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF) for clean energy research. The annual budget for the ETF and its component programmes, including the Carbon Trust, will be agreed in due course."
What do you think? Should this be left to the market? Or should the Government be investing more? Are other forms of energy cleaner than they are given credit for? Is 'clean energy' a meaningless term?
All feedback welcome - I'm an ignoramus when it comes to science!
Mr Hendry expressed profound concern about the issue:
"This is without doubt an extraordinarily important issue. As the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) has just said, the passion it generates is equally strong among Members in all parts of the House; Members in all parties are extremely concerned about fuel poverty and serious in their efforts to combat it. Rather than in any way denying that there is an issue to address, we are all looking for the best way to do so.
I greatly welcome the constructive approach taken by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome. We welcome his willingness to say that we should look to achieve a band C level of energy efficiency rather than a band B level if that would make it easier for the Government to accept the Bill. We also welcome the Bill’s broad nature. It is extremely important that it addresses issues of microgeneration and does not just deal with energy efficiency and energy conservation. It is crucial for us, as a nation, to start to address all those issues with greater clarity and determination.
We all broadly welcome the Bill’s objectives, and I think we can also all agree that fuel poverty has generally been getting worse over recent years and that home energy efficiency in this country is nothing like good enough.
We are not on track to have secure energy supplies, low-carbon energy generation or affordable energy, and those three requirements matter very much to this House and to the country outside. The thinking behind this Bill is an attempt to address a couple of those particular challenges. The Government’s fuel poverty strategy has called for the eradication of fuel poverty in vulnerable households by 2010, and in all households by 2016 in England and a little later in Scotland. In an intervention, the Minister said that she was concerned that the Bill advanced an “absolutist position”, yet the Government’s target was to abolish all fuel poverty by 22 November 2016. One cannot get much more absolutist than that, although I know that she has not specified whether it is intended that that will happen before lunch or after lunch on that date.
The Government’s figures on fuel poverty only go as far as 2006, and they show that 3.5 million households were in fuel poverty then, compared to 1.8 million in 2005. The estimate is that 5.5 million households, or 9 million people, are now in fuel poverty. There are some 23,000 excess winter deaths, as they are unattractively called, each year as a result of fuel poverty, and the situation is becoming ever more challenging. The annual dual fuel bill is now £1,100, up from £572 in 2003. Every 1 per cent. increase in fuel bills pushes another 40,000 people into fuel poverty. We are all genuinely concerned that the reductions in people’s domestic energy bills have not happened anything like as quickly as the increases that we saw a while ago.