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Speaking up in the second reading of the Energy Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19th December, Nia Griffith MP stressed her disappointment that there is no 2030 decarbonisation target in the Bill, nor sufficient emphasis on reducing demand and energy efficiency measures. She went on to warn against over-reliance on imported gas, leaving us vulnerable to its price hikes and interruption of supply. She also stressed the need to get things right for energy-intensive industries or risk making them uncompetitive. She expressed her support for the Severn Barrage, and called for the removal of barriers to independent and community generators to allow them to take part and contribute to energy sources in this country.

Speech in Parliamentary Hansard below:

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): First, I must register my disappointment that there is no decarbonisation target for 2030 in the Bill; the Government is ignoring the advice of their advisers on the Climate Change Committee, who have consistently recommended a target for 2030 of 50 grams of carbon per kilowatt-hour. A sector-specific target for 2030 would give investors a clear signal about the direction of energy policy after 2020 and encourage greater investment in the UK-based supply chains. I hope that that can be remedied in Committee.

I am also concerned about the lack of emphasis on energy saving and reducing demand. Such measures by no means take away from the urgent need to increase generating capacity, but they have a significant role to play. Reducing demand and improving energy efficiency reduce the overall generating capacity that is required. It also reduces bills for consumers when their homes or businesses are made more energy efficient.

The Government’s decision to end the Warm Front programme is short-sighted. It contrasts sharply with the Welsh Government’s commitment to energy efficiency through the Arbed programme which makes energy efficiency improvements to homes.

The Welsh Government must be commended on their commitment to renewables. It would be nice if they had the opportunity to take charge of renewables up to 100 MW, but perhaps that, too, will be discussed in Committee.

No one denies that we need to rely on gas for electricity generation in the interim, but it is a mistake to see gas as a quick and easy solution at the expense of renewables. First, there is a problem of the security of supply. Relying on gas makes us dependent on supplies from abroad, but we cannot be sure that supply countries will always want to supply us or that they will not increase prices significantly. The domestic consumer may find that they have all their eggs in one basket because, if gas prices rise, the price of electricity that is produced from gas will also rise, which will be a double whammy. We seem to be wasting the opportunity to use gas for its versatility—it can be transported as gas and used as such, rather than used for electricity generation—and we must look carefully at that balance in the Bill.

As secretary of the all-party group for the steel and metal related industry, let me move on to energy-intensive industries. It is vital that appropriate help is given to those industries, many of which are making significant investments in upgrading their equipment and reducing their energy demand, which is clearly in their interest. At Port Talbot, for example, Tata Steel has spent more than £60 million on the waste gas recovery scheme, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 240,000 tonnes per annum, and its new blast furnace will be 10% more efficient than previous models.

If we are to keep heavy industry in the UK and stop carbon leakage—allowing our steel to be replaced by imports from countries that are less strict on emissions—we must get things right for energy-intensive industries. As the Bill goes through Committee, it is essential that the Government stick to their pledge to give sufficient consideration to protection against the rising cost of energy from electricity market reform. Tata Steel paid £13.9 million in 2011 in renewables obligations and feed-in tariffs, which will rise to £26.4 million in 2013. That risks making steel in the UK uncompetitive compared with other European countries.

What measures—if any—are the Government considering to compensate for the impact on energy-intensive industries of existing pre-EMR renewables subsidies, the renewables obligation and small-scale FITs? What analysis has been made of the impact of the proposed capacity mechanism and increased balancing costs on industrial electricity prices, and how will energy intensive industries be compensated for that?

In conclusion, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr Hain) on his support for the Severn barrage, and I hope that such support will be found more generally. It disappoints me significantly that the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) has taken to opposing the barrage and whipping up opposition, rather than engaging constructively and looking at ways to make it a valuable project. I congratulate my new hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) on his contribution to the debate, and I emphasise his point that we must remove barriers to independent and community generators to allow them to take part and contribute to energy sources in this country.