DECC

The announcement that the Department of Energy and Climate Change – along with half a dozen other Whitehall ministries – has accepted another reduction in its budget under the latest spending review will be celebrated only by the energy companies and their lobbyists. A weak department has been weakened further with its negotiating capability undermined at a critical moment.

Most of DECC’s £3bn budget goes to meet its statutory obligations – including nuclear decommissioning costs. Those obligations can’t be cut so the burden falls on the “discretionary” areas of policy making which include negotiations around the vexed issue of Electricity Market Reform. Cuts and natural wastage, which leaves a significant number of posts unfilled, mean that the department is now seriously understaffed for these negotiations. There is big money at stake and for the companies no expense on staff and lobbyists is too great. The secretary of state has been supine in accepting the cuts without challenge. Read more

Ed Davey, secretary of state for DECC

Ed Davey, secretary of state at DECC, outside his ministry

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is about to publish forecasts suggesting that gas prices could rise by up to 70 per cent over the next five years. This is scaremongering nonsense, and shows just how out of touch the Department is with the realities of the international energy market. Officials appear not to have consulted the industry or the traders. In reality the odds are that prices are just as likely to fall as to rise for three distinct reasons. Read more

The UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change has a new permanent secretary, as predicted before Christmas. The elegantly orchestrated process, along with a comparable process at the Home Office has reasserted the independence of the civil service appointments process. Sir David Normington, the first civil service commissioner is providing to be more than a match for Francis Maude, Theresa May and the others who want to make senior civil servants political appointees.

Stephen Lovegrove, the new man at the DECC, has a number of challenges to overcome. Read more

The announcement that Areva are to join with China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company to bid for new capacity in the UK represents a bold statement in favour of globalisation and against established judgments of national energy security by the UK government.

The traditional view has been that the UK’s strategic resources should be under the control of nationally controlled or “friendly” entities.   When BP’s privatisation in the 1980s failed in the face of a market downturn and more than 20 per cent of the shares were picked up by the Kuwaitis, Mrs Thatcher reacted vigorously and the Kuwaitis were forced to sell down.

The main concern has been Russia. Read more