There had been plenty of speculation about the energy announcements that were going to be made by the Shadow Energy Team at the Labour Party Conference. Of all the Shadow Cabinet in recent months, Caroline Flint has been the most vocal and damaging to government. But nothing could have prepared the industry for Ed Miliband’s announcement of a freeze on energy prices for 20 months from the General Election in 2015 if a Labour Government is elected.
Recently, the position of protecting the consumer and championing the fear of rising bills has been able to develop into clear challenges to the energy industry. There has been a steady attack on Government too on the delivery of energy efficiency measures, the lack of a 2030 decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill and the need for greater transparency in the market. Specifics of a renewed commitment to abolish Ofgem, calls for the so-called ‘Big Six’ to be broken up and a return to an energy pool have all played a major part in their conversations over the Conference.
But a freeze in prices really did rock the boat (or the yacht as Miliband would suggest). There are rightly concerns about such a policy but there can also be no denying that consumers are demanding more clarity on what makes up their bills and why prices continue to rise.
At our fringe event, Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex MP spoke about the huge infrastructure need. A focus on the word ‘need’ came throughout his conference fringe event discussions that there was no ‘nice to have’ options for our energy future demanded essential decisive action to deliver an affordable, secure and sustainable energy future.
There was cohesion from the Shadow Cabinet on energy too with Ed Balls attacking the “dithering, delay and inaction” on policy now with reaffirmation of the Labour commitment to legislate for a 2030 decarbonisation target and greater borrowing powers for the Green Investment Bank. Both additions to the discussion that Caroline Flint welcomed when asked if she was concerned about the potential for future involvement of the Treasury in energy policy as seen in the current government.