On 30th July 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, took part in the Committee Stage debate of the Government’s Energy Bill. He spoke in support of an amendment to the Bill tabled by Lord Cameron (moved by Lord Roper), which related to the regulation of domestic microhydro power. Following the debate on the amendment, it was wirthdawn by Lord Roper.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I very much support the amendment. This may well be the last time I speak in this Committee and I thank the Minister for the way in which she has conducted herself and for writing to me with answers to some previous questions that I raised.
In addition to the reasons which have been so clearly enunciated, I would like to inject into the discussion the issue of culture, because much of what we are about in energy policy in this country is working on a change of culture. It has become a fashionable word. The Second Reading of the Financial Services Bill was all about changing the culture of banking and financial services, and that is absolutely right. However, the same applies in the energy realm. The sort of installations that we are talking about are relatively small in themselves but speak more widely.
I will digress very slightly to a non-domestic instance. In Chester in the 1920s, the tram system was powered by a small hydroelectric plant on the River Dee. The University of Chester, where I am president of the council, is in the process of bringing that hydroelectric plant back into operation, partly to satisfy its obligations to HEFCE vis-à-vis its green credentials but also as a very reasonable project in itself. It will have a cultural impact in Chester quite beyond the actual electricity component of the project, and I think that the same will apply in the circumstances we are discussing.
There is something about hydroelectric power that goes with the grain of the countryside and nature rather better than windmills and some of the other things we are doing. We should do more to encourage local use of natural resources. If the projections about future rainfall are right, there will be even more rain flowing into our rivers to power these microhydro projects. Although I cannot comment on the precise terms of the amendment, it seems to me that the spirit of it is absolutely right at the present time.
Lord Roper: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I was particularly interested by the intervention of the right reverend Prelate. The role of communities in developing microgeneration, although slightly different from the case of houses, is quite important, and we have seen a number of other useful examples of this. I believe that it is a way of making an important contribution to renewables that does not necessarily have too many disagreeable environmental impacts, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said in his intervention. From the points that he made, I now understand that this is an area where some more unintended consequences may occur; the impact on anglers and others was something to which I had not previously given full consideration.
I am also grateful to my noble friend the Minister for her full and detailed response, in which she explained the context of the non-domestic rating of microhydro. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, will want to read the Minister’s reply. Although I wish to withdraw the amendment at this stage, he may wish to return to the issue on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 55B withdrawn.