Utility Week

Utility Week 25th October

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

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Community Disconnector Even God's a critic less of the cost of getting the stuff out of the ground? Disconnector hardly needs to remind readers that it's been a bad week for energy companies. Inflation-busting price rises coming hot on the heels of Ed Miliband's promise to freeze energy prices if he gets to Number 10 virtually guaranteed that suppliers would find themselves in the stocks again. Now even the archbishop of Canterbury is pitching up to lob a couple of rotten tomatoes their way. At the beginning of the week the Most Reverend Justin Welby told sundry journos that people found rising fuel bills "inexplicable". He urged energy suppliers to be "conscious of their social obligations" and told The Mail on Sunday that they should "behave with generosity and not merely to maximise opportunity". "It is not like some other sectors of business where people can walk away from you if they don't want to buy your product," said the holy man. Crikey. You could forgive energy companies for feeling a little paranoid in the current climate. First the media, then the politicians, now even God is wagging a finger, if Welby is to be believed. Disconnector notes that the Most Reverend Welby was a big noise in the oil industry before receiving his call to the cloth. The great man wonders if he thinks the petrochemicals companies have similar social obligations to cut prices regard- Going to ground Talking of getting stuff out of the ground, Welby's exhortation reminds the great man (Disconnector, that is) about a curious story in The Daily Telegraph recently sparked by some of its readers receiving letters from the Land Registry informing them that the church was seeking to register the mineral rights to the earth beneath their properties. Their land was previously owned by the church, and laws dating back to the Norman conquest give "lords of the manor" rights to the church to exploit the earth under property on its former estates. Or so lawyers acting for the church claim. The deadline for asserting any such claim is the end of this month, so church commissioners have been busy: they are seeking to assert the church's ownership of mineral rights beneath up to 500,000 acres of land, an area roughly the size of Sussex. There's not much gold or silver to be had under the ground of most Englishmen's homes, but shale gas? Now that's another matter. In a statement the church said: "This is just a registration and protection exercise to protect existing rights and interests made vulnerable by the change in the law. There are no particular plans to mine under any property." Regardless of the outcome of the legal claims, and of whether shale gas reserves are discovered under the ground of the properties concerned, Disconnector feels sure landowners will be treated with all due "generosity" when it comes to divvying up the proceeds. Caroline Flint, the Labour shadow energy secretary, was due to give the government a grilling over the detail of its deal with EDF Energy for the building of Hinkley Point C, but she missed the debate because she was stuck on a train. Why? A power cut. Ed Miliband take note… Here to serve Ask it and they'll come It was either bravura or hubris, but on the same day as announcing that it was raising gas and electricity prices by 10 per cent, British Gas decided to engage in a big question and answer session on Twitter to gauge exactly what its customers thought of it. "Our customer services director Bert Pijls will be taking part in a Q&A about our price rise at 1-2pm," the company said that morning. "Tweet your questions using #AskBG!" And Tweet they did. For instance, @calloftus asked: "Do the BritishGas board prefer to bathe in £20 or £50 notes?" Whereas @OwenJones84 wanted to know: "What'd happen if a company hiked bills by 9.1% during longest fall in living standards since 1870 then asked for feedback?" At the end of the hour, a chastened Mr Pijls tweeted: "Thanks for participating, I am now signing off, the @BritishGasHelp team will be here until 10 a.m. to answer any further questions #AskBG". Sometimes if you do ask, you do get. 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 Colin Skellett doesn't like the word "utility", he revealed at the inaugural Utility Week Congress last week. It's too stuck in the "big asset" mentality of the past, said the Wessex Water chairman. Now, of course, the sector is all about customer service, so he wants this august publication to lead the charge by rebranding itself as Essential Services Week. Hmm, doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. Party talk At the ENA's 10th birthday bash, shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint quipped that she wished all such invitations involved champagne, cake and "killer heels and killer curves". She was talking about entertainers the Vintage Swing Trio, not industry champions Steve Johnson and David Smith. Subscriptions:  UK £543 per year, Overseas £655 per year fhcustomerservices@ abacusemedia.com 3,580 Average circulation Jan–Dec 2012 UTILITY WEEK | 25th - 31st October 2013 | 31

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