The Government's rhetoric has changed on energy, but not its policy

October 17, 2011 11:08 AM

David Cameron and Chris Huhne have written for the website MoneySavingExpert.com this morning and argued that "everything that can be done will be done to help people bring their energy bills down". It is a fine sentiment but not matched by their actions. They are continuing to impose regulations that will drive up bills, and are no friends of consumers. Attacks on energy companies are thinly veiled attempts to distract from politicians' complicity in rising in energy prices by attacking a sector which will enjoy higher profits as a result of the regulation they have put in place.

Prices have risen for a number of reasons including instability in the Middle East; rapid rises in demand with strong growth in major developing economies; and climate regulation. But with instability in the Middle East subsiding for now and oceans of shale gas being discovered there should be every reason to be a bit more optimistic about the pressure on households easing a little. Unfortunately, they are going to have to pay for hundreds of billions of pounds in investment under draconian climate regulations, in order to meet Brussels targets. Citigroup estimates suggest Britain has to invest around £200 billion. That is far more than our European competitors, let alone the rest of the world:



Paying for that investment will require the energy companies to make more profit. That will drive up prices by over 50 per cent in real terms according to Citigroup. Even with greater efficiency, they think we will have to pay over a third more in dual fuel energy bills in real terms, and that is before paying for the extra insulation.

There is no way of making £200 billion cheap. Fiddling around the edges trying to bring down energy company margins might help some people in the short term but won't address the fundamentals.  Any politician who was serious about helping to bring energy bills down would reconsider some of those regulations and targets. There are a few ways they could do that: stop picking losers and giving extravagant subsidy to the least efficient sources of power; scrap the renewable energy target and just focus on the emissions target; scrap the new carbon price floor that Credit Suisse think will mean £7 billion more in profit for energy companies while just shifting emissions from Britain to other European economies according to the IPPR.

If they want to be more ambitious, and really do all they can to ease the burden on consumers, they could rethink the fundamentals of our energy policy. Instead of trying to deploy expensive sources of energy now we should focus on research. Even if we were happy to pay higher prices for our energy, major emitters aren't going to do the same so developing new alternatives is the only way we make a practical contribution. After all, our paltry under two per cent of global emissions won't make much difference to the climate. There is a lot more detail on how to do that in Let them eat carbon.David Cameron and Chris Huhne have written for the website MoneySavingExpert.com this morning and argued that "everything that can be done will be done to help people bring their energy bills down". It is a fine sentiment but not matched by their actions. They are continuing to impose regulations that will drive up bills, and are no friends of consumers. Attacks on energy companies are thinly veiled attempts to distract from politicians' complicity in rising in energy prices by attacking a sector which will enjoy higher profits as a result of the regulation they have put in place.

Prices have risen for a number of reasons including instability in the Middle East; rapid rises in demand with strong growth in major developing economies; and climate regulation. But with instability in the Middle East subsiding for now and oceans of shale gas being discovered there should be every reason to be a bit more optimistic about the pressure on households easing a little. Unfortunately, they are going to have to pay for hundreds of billions of pounds in investment under draconian climate regulations, in order to meet Brussels targets. Citigroup estimates suggest Britain has to invest around £200 billion. That is far more than our European competitors, let alone the rest of the world:



Paying for that investment will require the energy companies to make more profit. That will drive up prices by over 50 per cent in real terms according to Citigroup. Even with greater efficiency, they think we will have to pay over a third more in dual fuel energy bills in real terms, and that is before paying for the extra insulation.

There is no way of making £200 billion cheap. Fiddling around the edges trying to bring down energy company margins might help some people in the short term but won't address the fundamentals.  Any politician who was serious about helping to bring energy bills down would reconsider some of those regulations and targets. There are a few ways they could do that: stop picking losers and giving extravagant subsidy to the least efficient sources of power; scrap the renewable energy target and just focus on the emissions target; scrap the new carbon price floor that Credit Suisse think will mean £7 billion more in profit for energy companies while just shifting emissions from Britain to other European economies according to the IPPR.

If they want to be more ambitious, and really do all they can to ease the burden on consumers, they could rethink the fundamentals of our energy policy. Instead of trying to deploy expensive sources of energy now we should focus on research. Even if we were happy to pay higher prices for our energy, major emitters aren't going to do the same so developing new alternatives is the only way we make a practical contribution. After all, our paltry under two per cent of global emissions won't make much difference to the climate. There is a lot more detail on how to do that in Let them eat carbon.

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