Utility Week

Utility Week 4th October 2013

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

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Policy & Regulation This week Ed Miliband's plan to freeze energy bills described by Conservatives as 'a price con' Osborne slams Labour 'fag packet' policy The chancellor George Osborne has attacked Ed Miliband's plans to freeze energy bills as something "you draw up on the back of a fag packet". In his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference Osborne: Labour's energy policy has 'unravelled' in Manchester, Osborne also said that Labour's energy policy had "unravelled". He added: "Any politician would love to tell you that they can wave a magic wand and freeze your energy bill. Everyone wants cheaper energy. So we're legislating to put everyone on the cheapest tariff." The chancellor went on to say the government would pursue "new sources of energy like shale gas" and the development of new nuclear generation. Miliband's plans were also attacked by climate change minister Greg Barker as "worse than a gimmick; it's a price con". Barker added that the policy proposed last week by the Labour leader was not "the solution to the dominance of the big six", adding, "now they want to put up the barrier to entry so high with their new red tape regulator that no-one will ever rise to challenge them. "These energy giants are of Labour's own making and if Ed Miliband were to win we would be stuck with them in a groundhog day of rising energy bills, and failed Harold Wilson-style government intervention." The minister said the government had helped to bring down energy bills, with the Warm Home Discount scheme helping "hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families and pensioners", while the Green Deal was still in its "early days" and making its "first steps". Water Competition in homes 'a possibility' Competition in the domestic water sector is a possibility in the future, according to the environment secretary Owen Paterson. Speaking at a WWF-UK fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, the environment secretary said domestic competition "can come down the road". However, Paterson said domestic competition will not be introduced in the Water Bill. "I think you have got to have universal metering and we're not going to have that," he said, responding to a question from Utility Week. Despite this, Paterson added commercial competition will help drive down prices: "The first thing is there will be trading of water at the wholesale level. "That will lead to competition, and that will lead to new entrants coming in providing water." Energy Next Ofgem chief could earn £205k The next chief executive of Ofgem will earn up to £205,000 a year including bonus, the job advert has revealed. Alistair Buchanan's replacement will be expected to provide "strong, visible and dynamic leadership" and "create an empowered, dynamic and inclusive culture" at the regulator. The full-time leadership role attracts a salary of around £190,000 and an annual bonus of up to £15,000. New chair David Gray took up his post on 1 October and will be involved in the appointment of the chief executive. The closing date for applications is Monday 7 October. Water Bad debt will be left up to companies Water firms will remain responsible for dealing with bad debt after its omission from the Water Bill, according to the environment secretary Owen Paterson. Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Water Group (APPWG) fringe meeting on Tuesday, Paterson said bad debt had been left out of the Bill because it was for each individual company to sort out. He said: "It is down to companies to manage bad debt, and some frankly are better at handling [it] than others." Colin Skellett, executive chairman of Wessex Water, said: "The Bill had more in than the draft, but compared to the White Paper there are some things that I think we can pick up outside of the Bill." Political Agenda Mathew Beech The Conservatives have gone to great lengths to show they are up to speed on the "cost-of-living crisis", as Labour would call it. "For hardworking people" is the tagline of their party conference, and the debates around energy and water have been stressing that Tory reforms will lead to a better market, which in turn will bring down prices – for both households and businesses. And of course they hope these reforms will keep them in government after 2015. "Tories claim competition will keep energy honest" After a deafening silence on the first day, the Conservative response to Ed Miliband's energy bill freeze promise was on the whole, a considered one. Energy minister Michael Fallon said: "Our policy, our answer to Labour last week, is more competition and wider consumer choice. Labour talks about the big six – we'll make companies compete with simpler tariffs, easier switching and by backing new entrants to come in against this." He said these new entrants should act as a second tier of suppliers: "We need competition. Competition is what keeps this thing honest." But, unlike Labour's aim to "break the big six", the Conservatives acknowledge the need for big players with "the big balance sheets to do your investment". The Water Bill has been a topic of debate, with environment secretary Owen Paterson saying it will "take the whole industry a step forward". He added that the Bill will "deliver a more efficient water industry; I think it is absolutely right reduced prices will be passed on to consumers". UTILITY WEEK | 4th - 10th October 2013 | 13

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