MPs voted against including a decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill yesterday, despite Labour’s attempt to force the issue.
The party tried to add an amendment which would set a 2030 target to decarbonise the power sector in the Bill. However this failed when MPs voted in the House of Commons last night, with 206 votes against the amendment, to 279 in favour of the Bill without a target.
The vote came after a long and heated debate in the House of Commons, where Energy Secretary Ed Davey held off a barrage of criticism for not including a 2030 target.
Currently a target will only be set in 2016 although many businesses led by trade group CBI have called for one as soon as possible.
Opening the session in the Commons, Mr Davey declared: “This is not just an energy Bill; it is a growth Bill. I believe it can lead to new jobs in every region and nation of our country.”
He said if MPs voted for the Bill, “they will be voting to give the British economy the long-term boost it needs.”
Although he admitted he was “sympathetic” to the demands for a 2030 target, the Lib Dem stressed investors needed certainty from the price support for low carbon energy such as the Contracts for Difference, suggesting they wouldn’t get this if the second reading didn’t happen.
When challenged by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas on why the Energy Bill “enshrines” a dash for gas, Mr Davey retorted: “I reject the notion that our policy supports a dash for gas and I absolutely reject the suggestion that the Bill is designed to do any such thing. On the contrary, it is designed to reform our electricity market.”
Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint railed against a delay to the target: “There is simply no good reason for putting the decision off for another four years. Ministers have to understand that any delay in setting a target does not just fail to reflect the urgency of the situation that we face, but will make it more difficult and expensive to achieve.”
Although he later went on to vote for the Bill as it stands, energy select committee chairman Tim Yeo also called into question the certainty it will give: “Investors seek higher returns to compensate for the extra risk of investing in long-term assets in a country where energy policy appears to be subject to short-term changes. That is one of the reasons we need a carbon-intensity target in legislation.”
Despite the complaints, the votes in favour of the Bill meant its second reading was complete and it now goes on to the Committee stage for approval.