TISC PN09 0607

TRADE AND INDUSTRY COMMITTEE

COMMITTEE OFFICE HOUSE OF COMMONS
7 MILLBANK LONDON SW1P 3JA

Telephone: 020 7219 5777/5779

PN 9 of Session 2006-07

STRICTLY EMBARGOED: NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST BEFORE 00.01 HRS Tuesday 30th JANUARY 2007

LOCAL ENERGY - A STRONG FUTURE BUT NOT A SHORT TERM FIX

Council tax valuations could inhibit progress

Attn: News Desks, Environment Corrs

Government and local authorities are urged to do more to encourage the various ways in which individuals and communities can produce their own low-carbon energy. The call comes in a report published today by the Trade and Industry Committee 'Local energy€”turning consumers into producers'.

The Committee concludes that local energy is capable of making a major contribution in the long-term to the nation's energy requirements both through electricity and heat. But it is not a panacea for plugging the energy gap faced by the UK in the short to medium-term. Conventional generating capacity, whether recently closed, or due to close in the next few years, will need to be replaced urgently and the grid upgraded if we are to "keep the lights on".

If the UK is to derive full benefit from the potential of local energy, then central Government and local authorities need to do more to reduce obstacles to its adoption by community groups, businesses and individuals. For example, if home-owners' invest in solar panels or wind turbines, or energy efficiency measures, this is likely to increase the value of their properties and result in higher council tax bills. The Committee concludes that given the potential climate change and security of supply benefits of such investments, homeowners should not be penalised in this way.

The Committee is also critical of the obsession with low-carbon electricity at the expense of low-carbon heat. Low-carbon heat is potentially three times more cost-effective as a means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. At the moment only households that fit electricity-generating systems, such as wind turbines, are eligible to receive a reward for their carbon dioxide savings under the Renewables Obligation€”low-carbon heat is not eligible in the same way. The Committee urges the Government to correct this anomaly.

Local energy can be produced in a variety of ways, using either renewable or fossil fuel sources. In many cases these are not new energy sources. What is new today is the technology available to harness these sources and the way in which their use in a modern context presents new benefits by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and contributing to the UK's energy security.

The Committee is also concerned that less than a fifth of local authorities have in place targets for renewable energy. While pioneering councils such as Woking and Merton are leading the way, many are still lagging behind. The Government should ensure all local authorities adopt such targets and follow the examples already set. The Committee also calls on the UK's larger cities to learn from current experience in London in establishing their own strategies for tackling carbon dioxide emissions.

"Local energy is a developing concept with real potential. However, it must be remembered that it is not a panacea that will `keep the lights on' in the short-term. It is a long-term project, which the Government and local authorities must do more to support." said Trade and Industry committee Chairman Peter Luff.

MR LUFF IS AVAILABLE TO COMMENT ON THE REPORT ON 07921 039870 and 020 7219 5006. INTERVIEW REQUESTS CAN ALSO BE MADE VIA LAURA HUMBLE, SELECT COMMITTEE MEDIA OFFICER ON 020 7219 2003 and 07917 488489.

NOTES TO EDITORS;

1. The title of the Committee report is "Local energy - turning consumers into producers." (HC 257)

2. Embargoed hard copies of the report will be available from the House of Commons Press Gallery and the reception of 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA from 12:00 hrs Monday 29th January 2007.

3. Media bids/request for interviews with the Chairman should be directed to Laura Humble on 020 7219 2003/ 07917 488489.

4. For detailed information the Trade and Industry Committee can be contacted on 020 7219 5777/5779.

5. Committee Membership is as follows: Peter Luff MP (Chairman), Roger Berry MP, Mr Brian Binley MP, Mr Peter Bone, Mr Michael Clapham MP, Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas MP, Mr Lindsay Hoyle MP, Mr Mark Hunter MP, Miss Julie Kirkbride MP, Judy Mallaber MP, Rob Marris MP, Anne Moffat MP, Mr Mike Weir MP, Mr Anthony Wright MP