Utility Week

UTILITY Week 25th September 2015

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12 | 25TH SEPTEMBER - 1ST OCTOBER 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Lobby Election / Party conferences T hese are interesting times for the UK's three main political parties – and all those observing what they will do next. The Conservatives are unleashed; Labour has been reborn; and the Scottish National Party (SNP) explosion sees us in a very differ- ent political landscape to the one we inhab- ited in May. Following a brutal few months of cuts to renewables subsidies, a revolution in the Labour Party, and an SNP gearing up for Scottish Parliament elections, utilities are betwixt and between, because clear policy for their sector looks thin on the ground. With calls for clarity growing from the industry, the conference season presents an opportunity for politicians to provide some answers, although the political gaming is just beginning. Conservatives unleashed Having shared power with the Liberal Demo- crats in the last parliament, the Tories are no longer hamstrung (or reined in, depending on your political viewpoint) by their former coalition partners. With this new freedom, energy secretary Amber Rudd has wasted no time in getting renewable energy costs under control. She has swung the axe with gusto at the Depart- ment of Energy and Climate Change, leaving the solar, wind and biomass industries, in particular, nursing some substantial wounds as she "gets to grips" with the £1.5 billion Levy Control Framework overspend. Operators in the renewables industry say this has hit investor confidence – and the EY attractiveness index appears to reflect this with the UK falling out of the top ten for the first time. Investors, developers and the industry at large are all calling for clarity and It's party time As political leaders hone their barbs in preparation for the party conferences, Mathew Beech identifies the key policy positions of the three major parties, ahead of these annual agenda-setting events. Policy & Regulation Utility Week Lobby produced in partnership with: certainty to allow them to plan ahead know- ing the rules of the game will not change. Rudd says cost is key, and more specifi- cally the cost to consumers, who she says are being put first by the government. Scaling back subsidies also plays well in Tory heart- lands where onshore windfarms are anyway viewed by many with outright hostility. The subsidy elephant – and many claim if it gets built it will be a white one as well – is new nuclear and Hinkley Point C. EDF has yet to make a final investment decision, but the path will have been considerably smoothed by the British government's deci- sion this week to guarantee £2 billion of the cost of the project to try and entice EDF's Chinese partners to commit to the project. On the water front, minister Rory Stewart has been noticeable only for his silence. All he has said is that opening up the water mar- ket in England is a priority. The water com- panies will be extremely interested in what he has to say, when he does speak out. The utility agenda generally is likely to be a background conference issue for the Con- servatives. Their focus will be on areas where they think they have the upper hand: the economy and national security. But despite being down the pecking order in Manches- ter, knowing where the party of government sees policy going over the next five years remains. Labour reborn From the Milishambles that was election night through the divisive and fractured leadership contest, the Labour Party has undergone a difficult rebirth. Veteran le-winger Jeremy Corbyn – although overwhelmingly backed by party members is a controversial figure. On shale… On renewables … On Scotland… "Personally, I hope that, over time, unconvention- al gas sites will go ahead." David Cameron – Conservative "Our collective aspira- tions must lie with a greener vision of Britain." Jeremy Corbyn – Labour "Scotland is an energy powerhouse but we have very lim- ited powers on energy policy." Nicola Sturgeon – SNP

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