More green energy and more help to keep energy bills down

December 12, 2014 8:30 PM
By Ed Davey

Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change and MP for Kingston & Surbiton writes

Liberal Democrats in Government already have a record of green energy delivery to be proud of. Renewable electricity generation and investment have both more than doubled since 2010 and our reforms will create 250,000 low carbon jobs by the end of the decade. Britain is ranked No.1 in the world for offshore wind investment, onshore wind now produces around 5% of the UK's electricity and solar generating capacity increased by 60% last year.

But is that where the story ends? No, and our ambition outlined in the Autumn Statement last week proves it. The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project is something I asked my Department to look into some time ago. We've now announced the initial talks we've had with the Swansea team will be stepped up a gear and it's possible formal negotiations could start as early as next month.

If this project gets the go ahead then we would see the world's first tidal lagoon project at Swansea, which could be generating green power by the end of the decade. The potential for tidal lagoon power in the UK is huge. It could eventually provide us with 8% of our electricity needs, and what's being talked about at Swansea would provide reliable green energy for over 100 years. The project is being supported by green NGOs including Friends of the Earth, RSPB and Greenpeace.

Additional help for those living in fuel poverty is also something that I and many Lib Dem MPs have been pushing for a long time. This government decided it was time for a new way to measure and address fuel poverty. Changing how we measure it made complete sense as without a meaningful benchmark then how do you begin to identify where fuel poverty exists and target people with the support they need? The point is well made by the measure we inherited from the Labour Government. It was so wide of the mark that it even included the Queen!

The analysis we've already done has revealed that large pockets of fuel poverty exist where households are off the gas grid, ie not able to enjoy the normal supply of gas that the vast majority of us take for granted. Many of the households do of course use alternative forms of heating like electric or oil. The problem is that both these forms of heating tend to be more expensive than gas. That's why it's great news to see the help that Liberal Democrats have pushed for being recognised in the Autumn Statement. A new £25 million pot will help households cut their bills, for example by installing central heating systems which could save them about £400 a year.

The Autumn Statement also confirmed the £100m of new money for the Green Deal Home Improvement Plan I announced at this year's Lib Dem Conference. I will be announcing the full details of this scheme, but I'm giving away no secrets when I say the design will be very similar to the last extremely popular scheme, providing money - not loans - that go towards the installation of a range of energy efficiency measures that will help people cut their energy bills for good and save carbon.

Lib Dem Ministers have delivered green policies galore in this government, but the Autumn Statement proves we're not done yet.