Utility Week

Utility Week 27th September 2013

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Policy & Regulation This week Half of the big six have had or currently have staff on secondments at Decc, says government Greatrex: 'Big six staff affecting Decc policy' "The big energy companies may be running aspects of energy policy," according to shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex, following the revelation that half of the big six have had or currently have staff on secondments at the Department of Energy and Open door: but Decc denies conflict of interest Climate Change (Decc). The information released by the government following a freedom of information request showed four members of staff from EDF, Centrica Energy and RWE Npower Renewables have worked at Decc since November 2008. Two EDF employees were posted with Decc from November 2008 to April 2010 and from November 2010 to May 2011; the secondee from RWE Npower Renewables worked at Decc between July 2012 and July this year, while Centrica Energy has a member of staff still in the Decc offices until June next year. Greatrex said: "It is deeply concerning that it appears that the big energy companies may be running aspects of energy policy", adding energy policy is "not about doing favours for the industry". He added: "It is essential there are safeguards to prevent suggestions of conflicts of interest in secondments from industry to a government department that is clearly struggling to get on top of its own policy agenda." A Decc spokesperson said: "Secondees bring with them knowledge and expertise which are vital to helping Decc do its job effectively. There are contractual measures in place to make sure that any employee seconded into Decc is not placed in a position where there could be a conflict of interest." Electricity Support is short for Isle of Lewis cable A long-delayed undersea cable to the Isle of Lewis looks set to be snuffed out after government proposed insufficient support for Scottish island wind generators. The £780 million link can only go ahead if there is guaranteed to be enough generation on Lewis to make it worthwhile. However, the high cost to connect to the transmission network is one of the main barriers to more than 300MW of consented projects getting investment. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) last week proposed a guaranteed power price of £115/MWh for Scottish island wind. That is higher than the £100/MWh offered on the mainland. It is expected to be enough to bring on Orkney and Shetland projects but falls short of the £129/MWh independent consultant Baringa said the Western Isles needed. Decc's consultation stated: "We recognise that this level of support may not bring on all of the potential projects, and therefore may not of itself provide sufficient support for all potential transmission links. However, this is the case for all technology bands." Highlands and Islands Enterprise head of energy Audrey MacIver welcomed the step towards extra support, but said "we do have concerns about the level". The development agency had been pushing for different rates reflecting the needs of the three relevant island groups. SSE's network company SHE-T submitted a "needs case" to regulator Ofgem in June for the interconnector. An SSE spokeswoman said that case was still under discussion. Water Labour will seek a social clause for Bill Labour will seek to introduce a social responsibility clause to the Water Bill as it passes through Parliament. This was one of four key Bill changes shadow water minister Gavin Shuker said his party would like to see when he spoke at the All-Party Parliamentary Water Group meeting at the Labour conference this week. Shuker listed compulsory social tariffs, transparent management of tax affairs and open reporting on employment of apprentices among the things the social responsibility clause would require of water firms. He warned the current consensus on water between consumers, government and the industry "could break down" if prices rose, assets failed or problems wrought by climate change were not responded to appropriately. Political Agenda Mathew Beech Following a surprisingly quiet Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, the Labour bandwagon rolled into Brighton. The key theme for the whole conference – and not just the Labour energy team – has been the rising cost of living. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umanna delighted the crowd with his attack on the Conservatives. "Costs are rising, wages are falling, yet the government doesn't seem to care," he told delegates on Monday. "Is Labour sowing the seeds of a Lib Dem coalition?" Shadow chancellor Ed Balls also attacked the coalition for failing to help the "squeezed middle", but went on to commit a future Labour government to introduce a 2030 decarbonisation target and "unlock billions of pounds in new investment in renewables, nuclear and clean gas and coal technology". Balls was also critical of the Conservatives' handling of the Green Investment Bank, saying it has been unable to borrow the funds it needs, adding a Labour government would give it the "powers it needs to do its job". The green agenda is also taking a prominent place at the conference, and it is something the delegates are proud to be pushing – they see it as a weakness in the Conservative Party and one that needs to be exploited. What has been noticeable has been a lack of criticism directed at the Lib Dems, who at their conference positioned themselves as a "party of government". Could it be that, fearing another hung parliament after the general election on 7 May 2015, the party is sowing the seeds of a potential LabourLib Dem coalition? UTILITY WEEK | 27th september - 3rd octoBER 2013 | 13

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