Utility Week

Utility Week 5th June 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 5TH - 11TH JUNE 2015 | 7 Interview I f Angela Knight's stint as chief executive of Energy UK was defined by confrontation, the briefest of con- versations with her interim successor Lawrence Slade makes it clear he hopes the next era will be defined by partnership. Formerly chief operating officer, Slade is a familiar face for Energy UK's membership, comprising a broad church of generators, technology providers and suppli- ers, and for representatives of other stakeholder groups in the UK energy landscape – including newly appointed energy secretary Amber Rudd, who he admits to being "pleased" to see in office. And it's not just the energy secretary he welcomes. At Energy UK's Regent Street offices, aer sharing jokes about the shock outcome of last month's general election – "we had to do a lot of shredding!" – Slade acknowledges that a Tory majority makes life "more straightforward" for his organisation in terms of build- ing clarity on the direction of travel for energy policy. He says it's also good to know the energy industry can "move forward now" without concerns about the impact of a price freeze, and "look at what the CMA [Competi- tion and Markets Authority] comes out with and work with that" as a means for effecting market reform. In short, the election result was "not at all bad for the industry"; indeed, Slade believes the new parliamen- tary term represents a "golden opportunity" to "have a new conversation" with government about what energy policy should look to achieve, by 2020 and beyond, and how this should be communicated to the public. "In the last few years there have been so many brick- bats thrown around the place that we haven't achieved anything," says Slade. "So let's say it's a fresh start, a new government, let's start really having this conversa- tion [about decarbonising the economy] and get people buying into it." The interim chief executive is confident that govern- ment is ready to play its part in this campaign for pub- lic hearts and minds – despite many in the industry still feeling embattled against political fire in a persistently negative environment for consumer trust – and he urges companies to remember what they signed up to in Energy UK's first formal manifesto, which was launched in Feb- ruary. It promised industry would strive for new heights in honesty, customer focus and vigour in addressing the energy trilemma. "I don't want it [the manifesto] to be forgotten," says Slade. "I don't want it forgotten in terms of what we have asked for from a government perspective, but I also don't want it to be forgotten in terms of what we as an industry have committed to do. "There's no point in saying to government on the one hand that they need to be transparent about the poten- tial costs of energy policy if we don't back that up with our own actions. It's something that's got to be worked on in partnership." Slade knows there will be some early trials for this collaborative approach – not least the preliminary find- ings of the CMA this summer, then its final findings, the publication of the fih carbon budget and discussions at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, which are all due to take place this winter. "We know there are going to be a lot of difficult conversations," he says. "We know we are not going to agree with everything the government says and they are not going to agree with everything we say. But let's try and identify those areas where we do all agree and push on them." It sounds simple. But achieving any kind of consensus on what constitutes the "right" way to go about decar- bonising the economy and agreeing which forms of new energy generation should be backed in an arena with as many stakeholders as energy has, remains a difficult task despite the majority government. First off, there's the age-old challenge of developing energy policy that will stand the test of time, beyond this parliament and the next. This of course requires Energy UK to maintain and develop its relationship with Labour (no mention of the poor Lib Dems) so that the risk of seri- ous overhauls to the energy investment roadmap in five or ten years' time is minimised. But in a world post-Scottish referendum, with devo- lution afoot and 56 SNP MPs in Westminster, it also requires some careful thinking about the way in which Energy UK represents the interests and ambitions of the energy sector in each corner of a seemingly increasingly divided UK. Slade acknowledges the challenge, but is not wor- ried by it. "We're all going to be spending a lot more time working with our colleagues in Scotland," he says. "And I don't think that's a bad thing at all." Indeed, Energy UK is taking steps to embrace the impact that devolved powers will have on its operations. Slade reveals that the trade association is in the process of recruiting a Scotland-based team member for the first time, "to help us with having someone on the ground there five days a week". "Scotland has got a tremendous amount to offer in terms of the UK generation story and you can't service

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