Keep your friends close and your close working relationships closer

The continuing ‘interesting time’ for energy has been increasingly more curious in recent weeks. We’ve seen the not so shocking revelations from Peter Lilley MP and Chris Heaton-Harris MP casting light on the Conservative’s views on the renewables and climate change policy when they were secretly filmed by Greenpeace two weeks ago. There has been the public disagreement on wind energy and renewable subsidies between Secretary of State Ed Davey and his Energy Minister John Hayes. But things really took an odd turn this weekend. 

The awkwardness of bumping into a colleague at the water cooler must be pretty high for Davey and Hayes. Their policy positions are clear, and yet with one being closer to Government policy than the other, the differences are emphasised when one seeks legal action against the other.

Davey already moved to adjust the powers of the Energy Minister when Charles Hendry was reshuffled out so that he was responsible for setting energy policy more broadly than his newly appointed anti-wind colleague. But this was as far as it went as the Prime Minister rejected Davey’s calls to remove the delivery of policy from Hayes’ portfolio too.

It appears though that all is not lost for Davey following news this weekend in the Sunday Telegraph that he has brought in lawyers to look at removing Hayes’ power. Whether they’ll find grounds or not remains to be seen but it is clear that all is not well. In confirming the rumour Davey used the opportunity to rule out a major role for shale gas in the UKs short-term energy mix.

Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary has chosen the opportunity to convey the concerns of investors though that this leaves policy an “utter shambles”. A clear message came across during the Party Conferences this summer, one that has been echoed numerous times since – that industry and investors need confidence in the policy. With the Energy Bill being introduced on Thursday, this is no time for infighting and inconsistency.

In a final jab at Hayes before introducing the Energy Bill and flying to Doha for international climate change talks, Davey is set to approve the construction of a 22-turbine wind farm less than three miles from his Energy Minister’s constituency. It’s unlikely this spat will end soon.

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