By Sarah Newton, Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth.
Every day I speak to families concerned by the rising cost of living. They tell me that it is energy bills that are hitting the hardest.
The carbon-based energy sources we have relied upon for decades are becoming more difficult to extract, more expensive to buy, and are frequently affected by the swings of an increasingly volatile international energy market.
If we are to liberate households from rising energy prices, we must first liberate our energy supply from the international carbon market. To do this we must develop a comprehensive domestic energy package, drawing on a range of renewable technologies. This week the Energy Bill set out a plan for the future. A plan for renewing our ageing energy infrastructure so that it is fit for the 21st century.
In an uncertain world, by generating more of our own energy in our own country, we will be able to insulate ourselves from shocks in international energy prices.
The coalition Government has introduced a raft of policies to reduce the dreadful daily waste of energy. The Green Deal enables homes to fund energy efficiency measures. The Electricity Market Reform (EMR) programme and the Green Investment Bank, are designed to encourage investment in renewable energy production and energy efficiency products.
This investment in clean domestic energy sources is paying off – renewable energy production in the UK grew by 27% last year alone. Over 10% of the energy now supplied in the UK comes from renewable sources.
Every week in my constituency I see people choosing to use the Government's measures to create a more sustainable future for themselves and their communities. Penair School in Truro has an inspirational programme of turning their food green and paper waste into energy. Their investment in a biomass boiler will save them £13,000 a year in waste disposal charges.
I am seeing the growth of companies developing and installing renewable energy across my constituency, growing high quality and sustainable jobs at the same time. Mount Wellington, a former tin mine, is a centre for ground heat, solar and tidal energy and neighbouring United Mines has planning permission to play host to the UK's first deep geothermal power plant. Geothermal energy is a renewable, virtually carbon-free source of power derived from the ground's natural heat, pioneered in Cornwall.
Falmouth is playing an integral role in the new South West Marine Energy Park, the new designation of the South West coast as a marine energy centre. Falmouth's FabTest facilities, which use the calm waters of the Fal to test the efficiency and functionality of new marine energy technologies, form an important part of the park.
Many people, whilst supportive of renewable energy technologies, have understandable concerns about inappropriate onshore wind turbine developments, and the impact they have on the surrounding landscape.
Since being elected I have been campaigning for the reforms announced last week. These reforms will ensure that communities are in the driving seat as decisions on future turbine applications are made. Concerns about the visual impact of turbines will be given far greater weight within the planning system and developers will be required to work hand in hand with the community as schemes are developed. Communities hosting onshore wind should benefit from lower electricity bills and investment in their community.
Applications for large scale solar arrays on good quality farmland have been causing consternation and I am pleased that the Energy Minister Greg Barker MP, recently restated the clear policy that solar panels should be on rooftops and brownfield sites.
Looking more widely, this week Regen SW published a renewable manifesto. The Manifesto for the South West sets out a comprehensive plan to secure further growth in local green industries, with the aim of creating a further 34,000 jobs. Delivering lasting energy security for our country and keeping energy bills down is a huge challenge but one with a great deal of opportunity for the UK to innovate and generate new technologies and new jobs.