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Mr. Forth: Is not this debate useful? Are we not starting to elicit some really useful information? Thank goodness for the parliamentary process, because the Minister has just reaffirmed that this matter, which is outstanding from the Energy Act, will come to fruition at the end of this month. I am grateful to him. It is important because before we embark on Third Reading we might want to have that document from the Government in order to set a proper context for that debate. That is another good reason why it would have been wrong to rush through a parliamentary stage ahead of the Government producing the document referred to in the Energy Act. I am grateful to the Minister, but we should all think a little about how far we want to rush things before getting that report, which must be relevant to the final consideration of the Bill in this House and in another place.
Mr. Chope: Does my right hon. Friend realise that what the Minister said is no great deal, because under the terms of the provision to which he referred the latest date by which the report has to be laid before the House is 5 April this year? It will have taken seventeen and three-quarter months to produce the report against the 18-month maximum time scale.
Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I cannot understand the reason for the delay, especially as we have known about the Bill and the dates when it would be considered for a long time. I am not really a suspicious sort of chap, so I hope that I do not evince too much suspicion by hoping that the report was not delayed artificially because the promoter of the Bill and the Minister assumed that we would have completed our consideration. Things should have been the other way round. Fortunately, because the House has chosen to debate the Bill properly and in proper detail, our Third Reading may take place after we have the benefit of the report, which would be a huge advantage.
"For the purposes of this section 'microgeneration' means the use for the generation of electricity or the production of heat of any plant . . . which in generating electricity or (as the case may be)
Those are important matters. We are starting to get to the heart of the definition of microgeneration, as originally set out in the 2004 Act and which would be affected by the measures we are discussing.
"other sources of energy and technologies for the generation of electricity or the production of heat, the use of which would, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, cut emissions of greenhouse gases in Great Britain."
I think, subject to correction, that the important distinction is that we are moving towards trying to establish whether microgeneration, in the context of climate changewhich is, of course, the point of the Billis concerned only with renewables as such, or whether there should be a somewhat broader definition of sources of energy and technologies that would cut emissions of greenhouse gases. As I understand it, the two are not necessarily the same.
Given that the typical consumption of a household is between 1 and 3 kW at most, a 50 kW capacity is relatively large for a single domestic unit. That is something that we will have to come to in the context of a different group of amendments. In 2004, it certainly seemed clear not only that renewables were to be included in the definition of microgeneration, but that the definition could encompass sources that would cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
There seem to be important differences between those provisions and amendments Nos. 51 and 52, in the Minister's name. Amendment No. 51 repeats, in essence, the provisions in the Energy Act, noting that
"'microgeneration means the use for the generation of electricity or the production of heat of any plant (which, for this purpose, includes any equipment, apparatus or appliance)which, in generating electricity or (as the case may be) producing heat, relies wholly or mainly on a source of energy or a technology mentioned in subsection (2)".
cut emissions of greenhouse gases in Great Britain? That is an important question, which touches on the definition of microgeneration for that purpose. If we are
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now talking only about the second list, it eliminates, presumably deliberately, other possible sources of energy, either present or future.
Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. What worries me about the approach that has hitherto been taken to the Bill is that it neither serves the Bill nor the cause it espouses well for the Minister and the promoter of the Bill not to give the House the benefit of proper explanations of what they are trying to do. They may think that by remaining silent they will somehow accelerate the Bill's progress and rush it through the procedure, because delay is unacceptablea bizarre interpretation of the legislative process, to say the leastbut in fact they are simply forcing us to try to elicit information through the tabling of amendments and the initiation of debate. They are missing the point that if they had given the House a proper explanation in the first place, it might have made our proceedings much quicker. Perhaps that lesson will be learned by Members, but so far I fear that the penny has not dropped.
I was interested to read a little item in a newspaper recently, headed "The £3,000 mini power station", which relates exactly to what we are talking about. I shall read from it, Madam Deputy Speaker; it will not take long:
"The traditional household boiler could soon be a thing of the past. Ceres Power, the Aim-listed group, has successfully designed and tested a 1kW fuel cell stack that generates sufficient power for the average home.
Fuel cell technology is typically powered by hydrogen but the fuel cell stack developed by Ceres can also produce electricity and heat from natural gas. The boiler, which fits comfortably into the palm of a hand, uses 'combined heat and power' technology. Unlike a conventional boiler that only produces heat, in Ceres's version a chemical reaction generates both heat and electricity. Any excess electricity can be sold to the national grid."
When I read that, I wondered whether the chemical reaction in any way violates the principle that is being set out in the amendments, in the moveas I see itentirely towards what we would broadly call renewables. I concede that it is heat and power technology, but will it, in all the different forms it could take, fit comfortably in the amendments?
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