Utility Week

Utility Week 18th October 2013

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

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Community Disconnector Going postal It's been a tough fortnight for energy companies, what with Ed Miliband publicly declaring that the big six energy companies are "ripping off" customers. Exactly how this is being done, or to what degree, or how Ed or anyone else can possibly know this, is all rather vague. It seems to be one of those ideas pulled from a sack labelled "What I reckon" rather than one labelled "What I've worked out". Still, it catches the public zeitgeist, so we're told, which is resentful that energy and water companies were privatised in the first place and doesn't believe that the profit motive should apply for essential services. Maybe. Despite this outpouring of public angst, Disconnector notes that the sale of a 60 per cent stake in Royal Mail met with no such public inhibitions. In fact, on the day, more than £30 billion from institutional investors and members of the public was left chasing £2 billion-worth of shares. At the time of going to press, Royal Mail shares were trading at a cool 50 per cent above their sale price. The public's attitude to privatisation seems ambivalent: sometimes hot, sometimes cold, depending on whether we think there's any money in it for us. So, welcome to our world, Royal Mail. Goodbye Postman Pat, and hello Lazy Larry the Shiftless Postie. You'll take your place with Greedy Bankers and Fat Cat Utilities in the pantheon of public hate figures. No further rise in the cost of postage will ever be justifiable, regardless of the rate of inflation, and we will all expect the company to invest in the latest technology to deliver the quickest and most efficient service possible, but we won't expect to have to pay for any of it. Oh, and of course we'll all agree that it was outrageous to have flogged if off in the first place, just as soon as we've sold our shares and trousered the profits. There's space for diamonds It all boils down to money, as it so often does. Hard to get hold of, and hard to keep hold of too, in Disconnector's experience. If only the stuff grew on trees, eh? Or fell from the sky. Hold on a minute… what's this the great man reads about diamonds falling from the heavens like rain? Ye Gods, if it's true it could be the answer to a lot of our prayers. Dr Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Mona Delitsky of California Speciality Engineering swear that it is true and that more than 1,000 tonnes of diamonds fall from the skies every year. There's a catch, of course (isn't there always?). While diamonds do indeed fall from the skies, the skies they fall from are over Saturn and Jupiter, and therefore even more inaccessible than the ones buried here. Boo! Bye to Benyon If there's one man who doesn't have to fantasize about diamonds falling from the sky, it's former water minister Richard Benyon. If he doesn't relax with his feet propped up on a sackful of diamonds, it's only because he chooses not to. The Conservative MP for Newbury is billed as the wealthiest MP in Parliament. He's also the greatgreat-grandson of Victorian Tory prime minister Lord Salisbury and can trace his ancestry back to William Cecil, a political adviser to Elizabeth I. Among his properties is the Englefield Estate, between Newbury and Reading, comprising a grand house, stables, 20,000 acres and an airfield. It was the last that was the cause of pain for Benyon recently. Just hours after being sacked from his ministerial post at Defra, he found out that vandals had left a trail of destruction at Englefield, which culminated in them driving a jeep into three light aircraft kept on the estate, one of them a vintage Cessna. The jeep was left ablaze and the insurance company with a bill for more than £1 million. The great man (Disconnector, not Benyon) is both appalled and impressed. Appalled that vandals should trash Benyon's stuff, and impressed that the bill could top a million quid. If vandals trashed Disconnector's estate, insurance would only have to cough up for a garden shed. 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 Straw dog? Is he or isn't he? The new water minister, I mean. Richard Benyon is definitely out, but is George Eustice in? On the day of the reshuffle on 7 October, Defra named him as the new guy on its website. Subsequent phone calls would only get a tba. It's not exactly a ringing endorsement of the new man (if indeed he is the new man). Doesn't say much about how seriously the government is taking the Water Bill, either. Oh, and just to add salt in the wounds, the only photograph being circulated by the government's spin meisters show Mr Eustice pictured not beside a reservoir but with a cow. Hold on a minute, now who's this fellow Dan Rogerson that everyone's talking about… Subscriptions:  UK £543 per year, Overseas £655 per year fhcustomerservices@ abacusemedia.com 3,580 Average circulation Jan–Dec 2012 UTILITY WEEK | 18th - 24th October 2013 | 31

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