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Energy White Paper to reveal official strategy for sustainable heat

The Energy White Paper will reveal details of the Government’s strategy for sustainable heat, says the minister charged with reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. Ian Pearson, climate change and environment minister, made the revelation at the launch of the Green Alliance’s Manifesto for Sustainable Heat in the House of Commons last month. Mr Pearson also revealed that the Government is publishing its biomass strategy, in May, on the same day the white paper is launched. The Government has faced criticism from the industry, opposition parties and environmental lobbyists for not placing sustainable heat at the heart of its energy policy aims. Detractors argue that while the Government has recognised the need to revisit its energy policy, it has concentrated its efforts almost exclusively on the electricity sector, which produces only a third of the UK’s carbon emissions. However, despite almost an equal amount of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions coming from heat, there is currently no official strategy for sustainable heat. This policy blind spot, critics say, is compounded by the Government’s refusal to expand the role of the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) to include heat. Ofgem has no remit to tackle competition in the heating market beyond gas, and there is no regulatory framework for supporting the supply of heat from alternative sources. In the draft Climate Change Bill, the Government set itself a legally-binding target of reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, yet critics maintain that without addressing these two crucial issues, it is in danger of missing this. Mr Pearson accepted the charges, but countered by saying these issues would be addressed with the forthcoming publication of the Energy White Paper. “There is more that we need to do as a Government when it comes to heat,” he admitted. “Heat will become a major part of the Government strategy when we move forward. “I accept that the Energy Review was disappointing with what it had to say about heat. However, the Energy White Paper will address a number of these issues and will lead to significant improvements in this area.” He added: “Biomass heating also has a role to play in the future energy mix. We are intending to publish a biomass strategy which will be published on the same day as the White Paper.” Mr Pearson said the Climate Change Bill would provide the glue that holds everything together. “The Climate Change Bill will drive a more joined up approach to heat,” he said. “The targets that we have set will drive this forward. I think you need to see the Climate Change Bill as part of a wider, clearer coherent approach and heat will be part of this.” Gregory Barker, shadow environment minister, remained unimpressed. He accused the Government of not being on top of its own Climate Change brief. “A cultural inertia exists in the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Treasury,” he said. “There are terrific people who work in these organisations. However, I don’t think enough people are signed up to the Change Agenda. There appears to be a lack of urgency and I think we need to see a sea change in play in the culture at Whitehall before this area is adequately addressed.”