UK

A number of well-sourced reports over the past two days suggest that, as predicted, we are on the edge of a deal for the construction of new nuclear power stations in the UK.

The champagne corks however are not quite popping either in Whitehall or in Paris. Read more

There is absolutely no need for an energy shortage in the UK, but the indecision of policy makers is making serious problems over the next few years ever more likely. There is no shortage of supply – but the raw materials of the energy business – such as gas and coal, or for that matter wind – have to be converted into power to produce the electricity which is essential for a complex modern economy. If the power stations are not in place electricity can’t be produced. Read more

Shale gas drilling rig near Blackpool, in north-west England . Getty Images

I spent the holidays in Wales, dodging the odd shower, and contemplating the potential if someone could invent a technology that, short of massive hydro-power schemes, could convert rainfall into power. Wales would undoubtedly be the Saudi Arabia of rain power.

But Wales may not have to wait for new technology to become an energy producer again. The country looks set to be one of the main centres in the UK for the rapidly expanding shale gas business.

One of the most significant events of 2013 for the energy sector in the UK will be the publication of the next report on shale gas prospects across the country from the British Geological Survey. Well timed leaks of part of the report, which appeared just before the chancellor’s statement in December, have already suggested a significant increase in the resource base available near Blackpool. Read more

Wholesale gas market faces investigation. Getty

The announcement of an inquiry into the wholesale gas market in the UK reflects the increasing concern about the way in which pricing structures operate in a business with a limited number of powerful players. It would be wrong to prejudge the specific inquiry. What matters is that the sector as a whole needs to regain consumer trust.

From the wholesale electricity business and retail gas supply, to the negotiations between the government and private sector over subsidies to wind and nuclear power generation, there is a culture of complexity with too many decisions taken in private. The commitment to transparency from the new energy minister, John Hayes, is very welcome and long overdue. Read more

Japanese company Hitachi buys into nuclear

The news that Hitachi has paid what seems a high price for the Horizon franchise to build new nuclear stations in the UK is good news for the industry. Hitachi has a strong balance sheet and a good technical record – untarnished by Japan’s Fukushima incident. The deal is a tribute to the Department of Energy and Climate Change officials involved and to Number 10′s strong support for the nuclear programme.

Now, only two questions remain. What price will UK consumers pay for nuclear generated power and who will fund EDF’s initial investment in Hinkley Point.

After a long and successful campaign to make nuclear power acceptable within the UK the companies involved in the industry seem to be jeopardising further progress by refusing to spell out the detailed costs of the new nuclear stations they want to build. Read more

The news that Areva and the Chinese company Guangdong Nuclear Power Group have pulled out of the bidding for the Horizon franchise to build some of the UK’s next generation of nuclear power stations was unsurprising. Areva is not an operator of nuclear stations and the government is reported to have made clear to the companies that while Chinese investment was welcome, a Chinese operator was not. Read more

By the end of this week bids must be in from the consortia seeking to develop the UK’s new generation of nuclear power stations. It is decision time but the irony is that the key decisions will be taken in Paris rather than London. Read more

Short of appointing Jessica Ennis as head of government relations it is hard to think what more EDF could have done to get the UK government to give them the go-ahead to develop new nuclear power stations in the UK.  But still no decision has been taken on the crucial issue of pricing structures.  Almost every other potential investor has tired of waiting and pulled out of the game.  How much longer will EDF wait ? Read more

Wanted.  Permanent Secretary for the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change.   Key attributes – a thick skin, a blind eye and the ability to wield a sharp knife.

The speed with which the appointment process has moved since the resignation of Moira Wallace was announced at the unusual hour of 8pm on the evening of July 19th and the direct involvement of Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the home civil service, are signs of the concern felt at the top end of Whitehall about what is happening in DECC and the way in which the Department has lost its way.   Putting things right, however, will need something more than a change of personnel. Read more