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London lowers energy bills

01 November 2013


Shining example: St John's vicarage, Wembley 

Shining example: St John's vicarage, Wembley 

CHURCHES in the diocese of London reduced their energy consumption by 22 per cent between 2005 and 2011, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, told the House of Lords this week.

Speaking during a Report Stage debate on the Energy Bill on Monday, Bishop Chartres, who chairs the C of E's environment campaign Shrinking the Footprint, said that he was "particularly proud" that the new vicarage at St John's, Wembley, had been awarded "the highest score ever under the code for sustainable homes" in 2012.

"We have invested in a mixture of retrofit measures to address the heating and lighting of a stock of buildings that were not originally built with energy efficiency in mind," Bishop Chartres said.

"Renewable technology and behavioural change have helped an institution such as ours, which emits as much carbon as a large supermarket chain, to use energy more efficiently, while maintaining open buildings. . . We represent people who are seriously anxious to support the government policy and to operate in the most efficient way."

The energy and climate-change minister Baroness Verma praised Bishop Chartres for "the great energy reductions he has achieved, which just shows that behaviour change towards energy usage can make a huge amount of difference."

One clause in the Energy Bill provides for a pilot electricity-demand reduction scheme. Bishop Chartres had tabled a "constructive and supportive amendment", laying down specific reduction targets, saying that "a nine-per-cent reduction in overall electricity demand could save the equivalent of the output of four power stations in one year."

The Bishop's amendment was withdrawn after the Lords agreed a government amendment to the same clause, requiring a report on the "operation and effectiveness" of the pilot to be made to both Houses.

Bishop Chartres also criticised the energy companies' billing practices: "Many of those in fuel poverty . . . pay inflated prices through meters in their homes, and the current position, whereby the more energy you use, the more likely it is that the tariff will be reduced, is surely unsustainable, as well as unfair.

"This Bill, which I heartily support in the main, provides an opportunity to reflect on the wider costs of our energy habits and how to make the best use of our resources, without penalising the poorest in our society. In the UK, 6.5 per cent of households say that they cannot keep their homes warm, as against 1.5 per cent in Sweden. The figures for children living in fuel poverty, at 1.6 million, are especially alarming."

Christian Aid has described the narrow rejection of an amendment tightening the Bill's decarbonisation target as "a vote for continued confusion in the UK electricity sector". The aid agency's senior adviser on climate change, Dr Alison Doig, said: "The Lords' vote will further delay the UK's search for a cost-effective way to achieve our vital commitments under the Climate Change Act."

The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, is co-signatory of an amendment that will be debated later at Report Stage, calling for greater transparency for consumers, so that energy bills will show in detail the different amounts that go to environmental levies, administration costs, wholesale energy costs, and other categories. The Lords will resume their Report Stage debate on Monday.

Question of the week: Has your church reduced its energy bill in the past few years?

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