17 October 2022
Peter Aldous speaks at the Committee Stage of the Energy Prices Bill

Peter Aldous broadly supports the Bill which will provide urgent assistance to hard-pressed families and businesses, but highlights the importance of avoiding any unintended negative consequences for key objectives such as energy security, the transition to net zero and the full deployment of renewables and low-carbon forms of energy production, which are bringing local economic benefits.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con)

I am largely supportive of the Bill, as there is an urgent need for assistance to be delivered at speed to hard-pressed families and businesses, but it is important to avoid any unintended negative consequences for other key Government objectives, in particular energy security, the transition to net zero and the full deployment of renewables and low-carbon forms of energy production.

My constituents urgently need the support that the Bill will provide, but to regenerate the local economy and create long-term, well-paid jobs, we need investment in offshore wind, nuclear and hydrogen. There are exciting opportunities in the sector throughout east Anglia, and specifically Waveney and Lowestoft, although certain clauses in the Bill raise worries that such investment could be imperilled. I hope that the Minister will be able to allay that unease. The Government are not pursuing a windfall tax on renewables and nuclear generators because they are worried that it would deter investment. Some of the mechanisms proposed in the Bill could have a similar negative impact, and it is important that further clarification is provided quickly. I will briefly outline three specific concerns.

Clause 16, along with schedule 6, introduces the cost-plus revenue limit, which is a cap on the revenue of low-carbon energy generation. There is a worry that this mechanism could penalise investment in clean, cheap and low-carbon generation. To avoid that, there is a need for a reinvestment allowance to channel investment into low-carbon projects, which are needed to meet our net zero and energy security targets, and which will also provide the long-term route map out of the cost of living crisis.

Clause 21 enables the Secretary of State to modify the licences under which energy companies operate. Currently, the regulator Ofgem determines licence conditions. This is an arrangement that works well and has the confidence of investors. Further clarification is required as to the Government’s intentions, and consideration should be given to providing a definitive timeframe through a sunset clause for how long this provision will be in place.

Clause 19 sets out the arrangements for passing on the energy price support from generators to end users. There is a concern that the Bill as drafted does not properly take into account the fact that generators do not all operate in the same way and that they incur differing operational costs.

In conclusion, I hope the Minister can allay these concerns. I urge the Government to liaise and consult with all relevant stakeholders, including energy companies and civil society organisations, to avoid these unintended consequences, which could imperil energy security, decarbonisation and economic regeneration in coastal communities such as Waveney.


Later intervention in the same debate

Peter Aldous 

The past 10 years have been remarkably successful, with the offshore wind industry and the Government working hand in hand. The industry has raised genuine concerns, which I briefly outlined in relation to clauses 16, 19 and 21, about the direction of that relationship and how it is being imperilled. Will the Minister agree to meet the industry and address those concerns as the Bill progresses?

The Minister for Climate (Graham Stuart)

As my hon. Friend would doubtless expect, I regularly meet energy companies. I have absolute confidence.