Utility Week

UTILITY Week 29th January 2016

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UTILITY WEEK | 29TH JANUARY - 4TH FEBRUARY 2016 | 7 Interview I n between chairing the Energy and Climate Change select committee (ECCC) hearing on future network technologies and appearing in the Liaison Commit- tee's grilling of prime minister David Cameron, Angus MacNeil found time to squeeze in Utility Week. Relaxing on the sofa in his parliamentary office, the ECCC chair and Scottish National Party (SNP) MP for the constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar doesn't strike you as somebody who is constantly busy. However, as he begins talking, the jammed nature of his diary becomes apparent – and it's made all the more congested following recent government announce- ments. The scrapping of the £1 billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition fund, the looming – but again delayed – outcome of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) probe into the energy sector, the work- ings of the capacity market, the constant chipping away at investor confidence, and the small matter of tackling climate change are all on his agenda. Being so busy though, is part of the prize for being a member of the SNP, which enjoyed a stunning general election campaign. It claimed all but three of the 59 con- stituencies in Scotland, and was awarded the chairman- ship of the ECCC as well as the Scottish Affairs Committee. Being selected to take that chairmanship has pre- sented MacNeil with a challenge, by his own admission, but it's one he is relishing. The bulging agenda of inves- tigations to be led by the committee this year (see box), is evidence of this, showing MacNeil's will to be assertive in holding government to account – being a "mirror to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc)". It also indicates that MacNeil will be no so touch follow- ing the hardball approach of his predecessor Tim Yeo, who was not renowned for showing quarter to poor deci- sion making in government or industry. From among the list of investigation topics, it's CCS which is front of mind as MacNeil meets Utility Week. He's preparing to quiz the PM on why the government scrapped the £1 billion competition for the technology at the end of November – something that was "a bolt out of the blue" and all the more shocking because only one month prior the government had told MacNeil and his committee it was continuing to promote investor cer- tainty, and cited the CCS competition as an example. "You have to ask yourself if one hand of government knew what the other was doing? And did one part of Decc know what the other was doing? The PM previously said it was absolutely critical and then it was scrapped." The decision is evidence that Decc is being "held almost as a hostage of the Treasury", he adds. In the government's drive to turn the £75 billion annual deficit into a budget surplus, it is being "penny wise but pound foolish". MacNeil goes on to paint a damning picture of Decc. "It's like a farmer deciding it is too much money in the springtime to spend on seeds, and then lamenting when he has no crops in the autumn." It's clear he holds no truck with austerity. The SNP's ideology supports spending now to grow the economy – and in this case the CCS industry – tomorrow. MacNeil says putting money into the technology would provide a "seed corn", which would ultimately lead to exports and help to right the UK's balance of payments. He continues his scathing criticism of the gov- ernment, saying that cuts to CCS funding, driven by

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