Labour’s former energy spokesperson, Caroline Flint, has urged the government to spend money from the proposed shale wealth fund on insulating UK homes.
Speaking in an adjournment debate in parliament this evening, Ms Flint said the proceeds from fracking tax revenues should be ring-fenced for energy efficiency measures that would reduce future dependence on fossil fuels.
She told a handful of MPs at the debate:
“We could look forward to a day when we are not dependent on fossil fuels by reducing our long-term energy use.
“A shale wealth fund could provide an opportunity to enhance a large scale retrofit of the UK’s housing stock, protecting households from future energy prices rises.”
Ms Flint, who has supported the development of UK shale gas, said the wealth fund was not an immediate solution because, as she put it, “We are some years away from receiving significant tax on profit from shale”.
But she said her idea of a “warm Britain fund” would have a “specific purpose, one that everyone could see the point of, a big picture idea that counts and whose impact can be clearly seen”.
A consultation ended last month on government plans for a shale wealth fund, which it said would be based on 10% of tax revenues from gas production. Ministers have estimated this could amount to £1bn over 25 years.
At the consultation launch, Theresa May said some of the money should be paid to households in shale gas areas. Opponents of fracking have said this amounted to a bribe and have questioned the government’s figures.
This evening, the Thirsk and Malton MP, Kevin Hollinrake, whose constituency is largely covered by shale exploration licences, said the greatest impacts would be above the ground, in noise, traffic and light pollution. He argued:
“Some of the financial benefits should go directly to some of the householders that suffer the biggest brunt of those difficulties.”
But Ms Flint said developers should mitigate undue impacts and there were many ways in which to compensate people living near shale gas wells.
She said spending on energy efficiency could stimulate growth, jobs and innovation and help the UK prepare for a low-carbon future.
“UK building stock is a long way from the low energy housing stock that the UK will need and the challenge is still huge.
“Our communities could benefit in a more profound way, beyond traditional compensation grants.”
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison, said the government expected to publish the result of the consultation by the end of the year.
“Local communities which hold the resources, and therefore support the industry’s development, should directly benefit from doing so. This could amount to as much as a £1bn of extra funding across these regions over time and so we believe that it is local people who should have a say over how to use such funding.”
But Ms Flint urged the government to “think bigger” and warned there had been problems with previous community benefit schemes:
“There can be a danger sometimes that only the loudest voices get heard and I have quite a few local football who get more strips than Manchester United because they’re back every year putting into funds.”