Guest blog by Chris Watt, Parliamentary Affairs Adviser
The news in recent weeks has been full of the election of Barack Obama as US President, with his slogan of ‘Change We Can Believe In’. Most people might find our Parliament pretty dull by comparison, unless you count the weekly spat between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg at Prime Ministers Questions, which is not at all typical of most Parliamentary proceedings.
But this week, Parliament got very exciting for us here at the Energy Saving Trust. Two vital pieces of legislation were being debated which will have a major impact on progress towards fulfilling our mission of developing a low carbon economy, by leading 60 million citizens to act on climate change. These are the Climate Change Bill and the Energy Bill.
The Climate Change Bill is historic, the first time any country in the world has set down its carbon emissions reduction targets in law. We are delighted that the Government has set tough targets for UK emissions cuts. Home energy efficiency will play a major part in meeting these.
Throughout debates on the Energy Bill, the Energy Saving Trust pressed the Government for a number of important changes. This week’s debates in Parliament saw Ministers bring in amendments to implement these.
Firstly, the role of the energy regulator Ofgem is going to be changed to make sure that one of its priorities is encouraging a sustainable, as well as an economically viable energy market.
The second change to the original Bill, will enable the Government to introduce a feed in tariff to encourage domestic microgeneration. Over the past few months, we, along with a diverse coalition of other organisations, including Friends of the Earth, the Country Land and Business Association and the Trades Union Congress, have been calling on the Government to introduce a renewable energy, or feed in tariff. We managed to gain cross-party support for our proposals, which were moved by Labour MP Alan Simpson and supported by both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Indeed, at our recent Parliamentary event to promote the issue, at one point we had the Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment, Energy and Climate Change Secretary and the entire Conservative Energy and Climate Change team in the same room at once!
Although the Government did not commit to introducing a feed in tariff within a year as we had hoped, it is aiming to have one in place by April 2010. We are nonetheless delighted that Ministers have accepted our arguments that if we are to move to the large scale uptake of domestic renewable energy generation needed to meet our climate change goals, then some sort of incentive for householders is needed.
The feed in tariff amendments were carried unanimously by MPs and at the end of the day, Parliament is where important changes like this take place: changes that we, at the Energy Saving Trust, can believe in, as President Elect Obama might say! Perhaps Parliament is not always so boring after all!