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Utility Week 5th June 2015

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12 | 5TH - 11TH JUNE 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Lobby Election / Party conferences C onservative energy minister Amber Rudd may have breathed a sigh of relief following the Conservative majority election win. But while coalition wrangling within the Department of Energy and Cli- mate Change may be in the past, the rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and contin- ued opposition from Labour means energy policy will remain under pressure. Key to understanding how the govern- ment will be challenged over the coming five years is the formation of the Energy and Cli- mate Change Select Committee and the Envi- ronmental Audit Committee, both of which will be finalised by the end of the month. The SNP has been granted leadership of the ECCC, a position previously held by out- spoken Tory MP Tim Yeo, and this could offer the party a vehicle for advancing its drive to Committees rule The leadership of two important select committees will be decided in a fortnight, and the SNP is a shoo-in for some top jobs. Jillian Ambrose and Lucinda Dann report. have a greater say on energy policy. The Con- servative pledge to cut onshore windfarm subsidies is likely to be a bone of contention for the Scottish MPs, who are committed to generating renewable energy to meet 100 per cent of Scottish demand by the end of the decade. The SNP has also pledged to turn its back on shale gas and nuclear development – both key energy ambitions for the Conserv- ative government. On the environmental front, Labour is set to take leadership of the EAC, so the energy industry is unlikely to become less of a bat- tlefield in the years to come. Sources speaking to Utility Week from across industry and politics have narrowed down the top three likely candidates to lead the charge on each committee, ahead of the 17 June leadership vote. Policy & Regulation Energy and Climate Change Committee Mike Weir, SNP In many ways Mike Weir is the natural choice to head up the energy committee as one of the few SNP MPs with over a decade of significant experience in both Westmin- ster and energy policy. Weir first joined parliament in 2001 and from 2005-10 was SNP spokesman on busi- ness and enterprise (which included energy) and the environment. From 2010-15 he focused on energy specifically and served on the ECCC where he was an outspoken critic of the "folly" of the government's Hinkley new nuclear plans. Weir has championed the implemen- tation of social tariffs in combating fuel poverty and, in line with SNP policies, is a firm supporter of wind power, with his constituency of Angus already playing host to a string of windfarms and three offshore projects also proposed off the Angus coast. Weir was also a vocal supporter of the one million roofs campaign by the Solar Trade Association. However, Weir's strong Westminster expe- rience amid a new wave of 50 SNP MPs may lessen the odds of him taking the top spot on the committee. Weir was appointed SNP chief whip, raising doubts among observers over whether he would "double up" while already holding an important leadership role for the party. Energy and Climate Change Committee Callum McCaig, SNP Stepping into Weir's shoes as the party's Westminster energy spokesman is relative newcomer Callum McCaig. McCaig's previous political experience, before ousting Labour from the seat of Aber- deen South, is as party leader for Aberdeen Council. McCaig backed a controversial £140 million Garden City project, designed in part to turn Aberdeen into a "truly 21 cen- tury world energy city", but the plans were rejected. Fresh to his role, McCaig has so far spoken singularly on the subject of fuel pov- erty, a prominent issue in Scotland. Like many new SNP MPs fresh to the halls of Westminster, McCaig is expected to learn fast. But his current lack of expe- rience or gravitas is not the only rea- son the SNP might opt not to put him forward for the role of chair. As one political insider told Utility Week, the SNP may find it can operate more successfully on energy policy if its energy spokesman is free to maintain the party line without needing to express the consensus views of the committee. Given the SNP's strong views on renewables, nuclear and transmission charges, McCaig may already have more than enough on his plate.

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