We are now only a few months away from the UK General Election and, at this stage, it seems to be one of the most unpredictable for a long time, if not ever. In fact, one report that I saw analysed 10 different possible outcomes for who would form the next government covering majority or minority governments for both the larger parties and then a whole raft of different coalitions.
The election is being fought on more predictable grounds with things like the economy and the NHS coming to the fore. Every now and then another topic seems to dominate the media coverage and so far energy hasn’t been one of them. I hope that at some stage in the next few weeks it does get an airing as the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is going to face some interesting issues in his or her in-tray. I think that the following will be near the top:
- How is the UK oil and gas industry responding to the low oil price and what can Government do to create a stable and supportive investment climate? This folder will, I imagine, recommend a quick visit to No. 11 Downing Street.
- What will be the outcome of the complete investigation of retail energy supply and how should the government of the day react given that, since the investigation was launched, competition has increased and prices have decreased?
- What progress is being made on implementing the recommendations of the Wood report to secure the long term stewardship of the North Sea assets to maximise long term recovery?
- Is the much vaunted Electricity Market Reform actually going to secure the UK’s security of supply over the next couple of winters, and then put us on the road to decarbonising the electricity sector in the next couple of decades? This brief should recommend a long, hard and rigorous look at the capacity margin in the next two years.
Of course on the climate change side of the department the issues are no less serious as the new government will be taking part in the Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Paris later in the year where the subject of an international agreement on emissions reduction is, once again, on the agenda.
Here things seem a bit more positive in that the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats parties have signed a joint pledge. This didn’t get much coverage as it was swamped by a megaphone debate on tax avoidance so I thought I would provide a link to the agreement, see www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Leaders_Joint_Climate_Change_Agreement.pdf
When I step back and think about the next few weeks I am reminded of the alleged Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times”.
On 3 March, the EI will be hosting a pre-election energy question time in London with representatives from the political parties. This debate will provide delegates with the opportunity to engage in the discussion and express your own views on energy policy issues.