Tuesday, 15 January 2013

UK #Energy bill will not keep the lights on unless key questions are answered


On Tuesday, MPs scrutinising the energy bill sink their teeth into the detail for the first time. The bill is pivotal to the UK's energy future, and – as we will tell them when we give evidence – a number of serious challenges face the MPs responsible for making it work.

This is a bill to keep the lights on while decarbonising our economy at an affordable price. And it matters for customers just as much as it matters for business. There is a still a long way to go before the bill becomes law, but some key questions already loom large as we get ready to deliberate the finer details.

Firstly, will the government be able to deliver on all of the responsibilities it is taking on itself? The powers in the bill effectively give government the power to decide which generation technologies are built, at what scale, where, when and by whom. This is a remarkable amount of intervention, basically amounting to public sector procurement.

With this in mind, parliament will have to consider the government's track record on long-term procurement in areas such as private finance initiatives, defence contracts and rail franchises (the list could go on …) It will also need to consider whether the new powers would allow too much scope for political intervention or procrastination in vital investment decisions. As someone who works for a company investing around £4m a day in Britain, I am perhaps understandably nervous on this, given the track record in 2012.


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