Friday, February 03, 2012

New energy secretary must fight on behalf of the only growing industrial sector in town

Ed Davey

Edward Davey, the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, was previously the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs at the Department for Business, Investment and Skills.

Mr. Davey's record

Funnily enough, (like myself, and Kenneth Clarke, Geoff Hoon and Ed Balls) he attended the independent Nottingham High School, in the year above Ed Balls, whom he may have had to discipline when he was head boy in 1984.

He was born in nearby Annesley Woodhouse, where some of my relatives still live, but there our paths diverge.

Having obtained an MSc degree in economics from Birkbeck College, London, at which time he presaged Gordon Brown in proposing that the Bank of England be made independent, he became a management consultant until narrowly becoming the MP for Surbiton in 1997, in which seat he has remained ever since.

Mr. Davey is not widely known for supporting measures to fight climate change, or the low carbon economy.

He sat on the fence during the recent debates on the Daylight Saving Bill, for example, but other than that, during the last session of Parliament, been silent on these issues, although he is on record as saying that "tackling climate change is absolutely critical".

Judging by his record, he is likely to play his cards close to his chest.

For example, in response to a Parliamentary Question about the content of lobbying meetings held between his previous boss, Vince Cable, and representatives of EDF Energy and RWE nPower, he said, flatly, "We do not propose to publish the notes of these meetings as they contain commercially confidential information. It is essential to the trust on which meaningful dialogue with business is founded that companies are assured that Government will respect commercial confidentiality".

So much for transparency in government.

He arrives at the Department for Energy and Climate Change to find a large in-tray: the details of energy market reform and the Green Deal energy efficiency programme must be ironed out, together with the Energy Company Obligation and the pressing question of tackling fuel poverty and high energy bills.

Promoting the low carbon industry

Overridingly, it is expected that DECC should promote the interests of the low carbon industry in the UK.

It is astonishing, for instance, that the Government has made no evaluation of the size of this sector, its turnover, employment and the contribution it makes to the gross domestic product, as admitted the other day by Mr. Davey's former colleague, Mark Prisk, the Minister for Business and Enterprise at BIS.

I can tell him: in 2009/10 was estimated at around £116.8 billion and it provided around 914,000 jobs.

Given the 2010 GDP of the UK at £1,421.7bn, it provides 8.2% of GDP.

This makes it a considerable earner, and should give Ed Davey the ammunition he needs to fight the Treasury's demands for budget cuts.

But the potential of the industry is even greater: consultants K-Matrix have forecast that the sector promises over 5% average year on year growth over the next five years, and so provide a significant boost to the UK economy.

For this reason alone, never mind climate change, Mr. Davey should seek out, encourage, subsidise and promote the most likely-to-become profitable areas of fledgling low carbon technology and services, be this in the carbon financing and allowances trade, resource efficiency, energy efficiency or renewable heat and marine energy.

His experience at BIS and his economics background should be invaluable here.

Mr. Davey, unlike Norman Lamb, who was tipped for the job and who has demonstrated substantial awareness of climate change, will have a steep learning curve in this respect.

Judging from my inbox, the low carbon industry is already falling over itself to offer its support and advice.

Not averse to controversy, (he was suspended from parliament for a day for ignoring a warning from the deputy speaker, and, once told his party that it was "time for tea with the Taliban"), he will need to be prepared to use this quality of forthrightness to fight the good cause in his dealings with the Treasury.

I wish him the best of luck.

1 comment:

hostuniversal said...

Maybe he should join the Westmill Community Solar Farm Do-Tank, Tuesday 7th Feb: energy change, climate change, culture change - growing energy and momentum Wouldn't a bad way to ignite a positive outlook and meet the people actually making local power generation a reality, nationally