Following on from Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices was always going to be a challenge for the Conservatives at their Party Conference. There had been support and derision of his promise in broadly equal measure from those commentating on it. Bold in a political sense for many reasons and challenging in a practical one for many more.
The wise move would be to not try and compete with the announcement and that was the decision Greg Barker and Michael Fallon took too. Instead Barker focused on decentralised energy and turning the ‘Big Six’ into the ‘Big 60,000’. Fallon chose the green levies as the target for his criticism and suggested that the Conservatives would be reviewing all the policies paid for through bills.
The discussions on energy were somewhat muted during the conference, although we managed to get a lively debate going during our fringe event with Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP and Matthew Sinclair from the Taxpayer’s Alliance. Both made their case for being economic sceptics of the impact of climate change policies. Their emphasis was that consumers would dominate any aspect of our energy future. If smart grids are to be successful consumers must be engaged, the system must be easy and it must work for them.
While Labour were notably on top as far as making bold energy commitments go over the conference season, the Conservative grassroots will be happy to see the potential of a review of policy impacts on bills. Whether that will do enough to persuade consumers, who after all are voters, against the back drop of Miliband’s promise remains to be seen.