News from DECC recently seems to be about exits. The departure of Mr Hayes in circumstances that left some cynical tongues wagging has now been followed by some key departures amongst officials and advisers. Still reeling from the departure of the architect of the EMR Jonathan Brearley and the key figure behind the Energy Bill Ravi Gurumurthy we now hear that the PM’s energy adviser Ben Moxham is off to the Cabinet Office.
Mr Moxham, David Cameron’s respected adviser on energy and the environment had become frustrated at the slow pace of progress it is reported. He was of course famous for also saying a couple of years back that that the arguments from DECC that a 30% rise in electricity bills by 2020 would be offset by lower energy consumption through energy efficiency were "unconvincing". Perhaps the policy quandary that he presented back then is the cause of this slow pace.
The departure of Ravi Gurumurthy is also significant. He was Head of Strategy at DECC and much respected for his strategic view of policy issues. Perhaps he felt his role had been taken over by the Treasury?
Jonathan Brearley, Director of Energy Strategy and Futures at DECC had his departure signalled by a no show at a conference he was set to speak at. He was the architect of the Electricity Market Reform White Paper which set the course for the Energy Bill. How ironic that in the week that its carry over into the new Parliament was announced in the Queen's Speech these men should be leaving. Indeed the spin on the Speech made it sound as if this were a new Bill instead of one that was over half way through the Commons already.
The crux of the issue seems to be renewables policy and in particular the nervousness of the Treasury over potential costs, especially for offshore development. Their response to every energy policy proposal now is "but what will this mean for bills"? A reasonable position but some might argue you need to spend more now to save much more later - the fundamental point made by Sir Nicholas Stern.
So the political and policy architects of the fundamental building blocks of our energy policy have now all departed. Charles Hendry last September and now his key officials. Indeed Mr Hendry's replacement had to go in what some might have seen as a counter attack from the Lib Dems.
Meanwhile there were rumours that the PM had appointed Peter Lilley, a figure who has passionately and intellectually argued against climate change, to his new Policy Group chaired by Joe Johnson. Lilley said this week in the Spectator that “Global temperatures have failed to rise for 16 years. Recent measures of how much global temperature rises as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases are far lower than is built into climate models.”
Mr Lilley wrote in his article that "If we give in to the green lobby, Britain will drift into an energy crisis." He then set out that the "Only way is Shale".
He added that "the scandal of official reluctance to develop Britain’s shale gas potential is at last beginning to surface. It may prove to be the dress rehearsal for the ultimate drama — the inexorable collapse of our whole energy strategy." He also compared shale gas fears as similar to the MMR scare.
Mr Lilley now advises the PM on energy issues. A PM who said he wanted to lead "the greenest government ever". That might explain why Messrs Moxham, Brearley and Gurumurthy felt the need to move on. Who knows?