Chris Huhne, the UK energy secretary, stands up to speak to the Liberal Democrat party conference this afternoon. But his audience stretches far beyond a convention centre in Liverpool. The energy industry will be watching, and here is what they want to hear:
Roger Salomone, energy adviser at EEF, the manufacturers association – Nuclear power
A strong reassurance that the coalition is going to push the role of nuclear power and build the right kind of business environment for that. If he demonstrated his commitment to nuclear in front of the Lib Dems, who are the most hostile, that would be a very strong signal.
NB – Salomone’s point about resistance from within the party is going to become clear today in a speech by Simon Hughes, the deputy leader, who will urge Huhne to oppose nuclear power, as my colleague Jim Pickard wites here.
Mish Tullar of Centrica – A fast and broad “green new deal”
What you need to see is not just that the green new deal is implemented quickly but that the range of options you can put into your home is kept as wide as possible.
Leonie Greene of Renewable Energy Association – Renewable heat incentive
We really want to see a clear commitment to the renewable heat incentive, which needs to be brought in in 2011. We know the detail can’t be announced until the spending review, but we really want to see justice given to renewable heat in the speech.
Nick Medic of RenewableUK - Port infrastructure funding
Recent reports that the £60 million funding for the competition may be reduced or scrapped in the Budget have caused real concern among investors, who have stated that this would cause them to review their recent investment decisions. A confrimation that it will go ahead is needed if confidence is to be retained.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com – Immediate notification of price rises by electricity companies
The current arrangement, which gives energy companies 65 days to notify their customers of increases, allows no time for customers to compare energy prices and keep their costs down. We support any moves that will encourage suppliers to tell consumers upfront about price changes rather than being allowed to advise them retrospectively. This would allow consumers to adapt their energy usage and to budget accordingly.
UPDATE 14.08 – We’ve started to get some pre-released comments from the energy department. The dept says:
Ofgem is due to consult with energy companies and other groups next month about ending the practice, which could see the regime changed by the end of the year. But energy companies do have the power to block Ofgem’s changes if there is sufficient opposition.
Mr Huhne [will say] that if energy companies were to block the changes, then he would consult with a view to using his legislative powers to end the practice, which energy companies would be unable to block.
Unfortunately we don’t know what uSwitch makes of this as they are not commenting on the speech itself.
And there’s some helpful advice from his predecessor Ed Miliband too. He lists ten promises he would like to see, but here are his top two:
The Green Deal will have the proper funding, regulatory framework and incentives that it needs to be a success and not a gimmick.
The Green Investment Bank will go ahead with public capital from asset sales as Labour proposed. Without this the Bank will be a hollow PR gimmick unable to support green industry.