Monthly Archives: November 2012

What are we to make of the bizarre events in Whitehall where the prime minister has personally intervened to block the appointment of David Kennedy, the highly respected head of the Committee on Climate Change who had been chosen by a formal civil service process as permanent secretary of the troubled Department of Energy Climate Change. In the classic manner this piece of bad news was slipped out on the day of the Leveson inquiry, when most attention in the media was focused elsewhere.

Some issues are very unclear and deserve answers: Read more

First Minister Alex Salmond, left, favours growth of wind power. Getty Images

The Treasury does not agree with the level of subsidies being offered but has been forced partially to back down because of the political imperative of keeping the coalition together. The secretary of state Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat, believes in setting medium-term targets on emissions but has been forced to back down and to accept a time-limited policy, which will be reviewed again after the next election. The result is that no one believes the policy being published this week is the right answer, or that it will endure beyond 2015. Read more

Is David Cameron playing politics with energy bill? Image by Getty

When in doubt, kick the can down the road. That is what has happened with the UK energy bill after weeks of bitter negotiations between the Treasury and the department now known across Whitehall as DoSAC – after the disfunctional organisation in the television comedy series The Thick of It.

A couple of weeks ago, I said the bill would seriously disappoint some participants in the debate. The conclusion as announced – and we will only see the detail next week – seems likely to disappoint everyone.

The core decision is that long-term policy is postponed until 2016, after the next election. But the energy business does not work to election timetables or four-year horizons. Most investments are designed for decades, and in some cases, such as nuclear and power generation, the payback for investors won’t come until 10, 15 or even 20 years into the project. The investors, it is always worth remembering, are not men in black hats but ordinary people trying to decide what to do with our collective savings – in particular our pension funds. Read more

Anglo-French relations could hamper negotiations over UK nuclear power stations. Image by Getty

Another European summit, and another step in the progressive disengagement of the UK from the core of Europe. I wonder if the UK government appreciates the impact of what is happening on the real world of business? Let’s take just one example. Relations between Britain and France are at a very low ebb. No one is throwing plates but there is now a mood of mutual indifference, which, as anyone who has lived through a bad marriage will tell you, is worse.

I was in Paris this week visiting the Banque de France. The Banque’s senior management were as ever exquisitely polite, but the sense of distance from the UK was unmistakeable.

Anglo-French relations are always complicated but the current round of problems really began with Franςois Hollande’s visit to London at the end of February. Mr Hollande was at that time a candidate rather than Le President de la Republique. He was clearly ahead in the polls and judged likely to win by the most experienced observers of the French scene. But Mr Cameron, usually a model of politeness when it comes to personal relations, refused to see him. Read more

For an interesting and creative perspective on the changes that are occurring in the energy sector take a look at the material being put out by Alexa Capital. Alexa is the brainchild of Bruce Huber the long-term guru of the renewables business at Jefferies.

To illustrate what the report is about let’s start with a question – why has the power sector, particularly in Europe, lost so much of its value when electricity demand (other than from nuclear generation) continues to rise? Read more