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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Community Disconnector Bribing us with our own money Who'd have thought that Ed Miliband could have ignited such a political firestorm? The Labour leader doesn't have Tony Blair's gift of oratory and rarely shines in the Commons when he tries to impose his authority, but he appears to have pulled a blinder with his promise to freeze energy prices for 20 months if he wins the next general election in 2015. The announcement may have left the energy companies stunned – not to mention any commentator trying to envisage how it might actually work – but it's gone down a treat with the proles. The front page of last week's Sunday Times declared that Labour had leapt into an 11-point lead in the polls. In response, chancellor George Osborne has promised to freeze fuel duty for the next two years. It's all rather unedifying, really, to have the country's leading politicians involved in such self-serving and ill-thoughtout attempts to bribe the voting public. In Osborne's defence, at least he's only cancelling a planned tax rise, so at least he's bribing us with our own money rather than asking oil companies to pay for his largesse. than Ecotricity founder and chief executive Dale Vince was chiding the would-be premier for not going far enough. "It was taxpayer's money that built our energy infrastructure, that built the grid in Britain, and the big six energy companies have profited greatly from it since privatisation. Well, now that infrastructure needs replacing, the privatised model is becoming unstuck," roared Vince. "Renationalising could well be a solution. We certainly need some way of repatriating our energy bills, of turning those bills into an updated grid and new sources of energy – rather than profits going out of the country through some of the big six, four of which are foreign owned." Crikey. Of course Vince takes it as read that any renationalisation programme would leave him and his mates still in full ownership of their windfarms while the greedy big boys will have their power plants wrenched from them. The real problem is that people really, really don't like paying high energy bills. They don't want to pay for rising wholesale gas prices. Or smart meters. Or grid upgrades. And they don't want to pay for, er, green energy. Disconnector is not sure that Dale is wise to fan the flames. Small is not always beautiful A bird in the hand... But not everyone in the energy industry has come out against Ed's Big Idea. No sooner had Miliband's words left his mouth The big problem for energy companies is that they are unloved. While it's probably true that the lack of transparency over pricing is not responsible for high energy bills, it's definitely true that a lack of transparency over pricing means it's impossible for energy firms to prove it. What they need to do is get serious about winning hearts and minds, and Disconnector is not talking about sponsoring the tombola at the local Round Table. No, what's needed is something more spectacular, such as saving a small animal from certain death – preferably a furry one, but if not, the feathered variety will do. This is a lesson that's certainly been taken on board by Virginia Dominion Power in the US. Somehow a seagull managed to get its wing caught up in the power cable of a transmission tower operated by the company, leaving the bird flapping and squawking forlornly for 24 hours, 50m up, as small children looked on – doubtless tearfully. Rather than being sensible and blasting the thing out of its misery (getting hold of gun is easy in Virginia – just ask a p asser-by), the company sent up a helicopter, with an intrepid rescuer balanced precariously on a makeshift platform hung between the landing runners, who plucked the bird off the cable and put it in a basket ready for pet hospital. Seriously, the whole thing became a viral hit on You Tube: http://bit.ly/1bowKeT. Now that's the way to get good press! Feeling blue? Spotted in the lobby of the Conservative Party conference. The question to the faithful was "Who do you think was a better leader of the party?" Not a ringing endorsement of our Dave, then. Feed-in tariff The Tories are losing the battle… of the conference canapés. Labour and the Lib Dems had a decent showing on the food front, but the grub in Manchester has been met by grumbles from the faithful. Bugger austerity, where's my lunch? No show The Gas Forum had to cancel its annual conference, scheduled for this month, and was in no doubt about who to blame: energy secretary Ed Davey, who turned down an invitation to speak. A clearly peeved Gas Forum said it was "unfortunate" Davey seemed uninterested in the wholesale gas sector. Editor:  Ellen Bennett, t: 01342 332084, e: ellen.bennett@fav-house.com; Energy editor:  Megan Darby, t: 01342 332087, e: megan.darby@fav-house.com; Features editor:  Karma Ockenden, t: 01342 332086, e: karma.ockenden@fav-house. com; Reporter:  Mathew Beech, t: 01342 332082, e: mathew.beech@fav-house.com; Reporter:  Conor McGlone, t: 01342 332083, e: conor.mcglone@fav-house.com; Production editor:  Paul Newton, t: 01342 332085; Business development manager: Ed Roberts, t: 01342 332067, e: ed.roberts@fav-house.com; Sales executive: Nicky Shaw, t: 01342 332070, e: nicky.shaw@fav-house.com; Publisher:  Amanda Barnes, e: amanda.barnes@fav-house.com. General enquiries:  01342 332000; Subscriptions:  UK £543 per year, Overseas £655 per year, t: 01342 332011. ISSN: 1356-5532. Registered as a newspaper at the Post Office. Printed by: Buxton Press, Palace Road, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 6AE. Published by:  Faversham House Ltd, Windsor Court, Wood Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 1UZ Subscriptions:  UK £543 per year, Overseas £655 per year fhcustomerservices@ abacusemedia.com 3,580 Average circulation Jan–Dec 2012 UTILITY WEEK | 4th - 10th October 2013 | 31

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