Politics, populism and practicality

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Adam Barber
October 18, 2013
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This content is from our archive. Some formatting or links may be broken.
Politics, populism and practicality

If politics is a performance, then this past week has all the ingredients of an Elizabethan drama.

There’s been the usual cast of characters - the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s been the multitude of plot lines, muddled lives and misinterpretations. There have even been a couple of dastardly organisations thrown in, to boot.

Sadly though, while fiction and fairy tales are restricted to the stage, this latest political performance risks becoming more than just another pantomime dame.

And in doing so, it demonstrates the very real consequences of meddling with something as critical as a domestic energy market.

In this instance it’s the UK energy sector that’s once again at the sharp end. In reality however, the situation could easily be transposed across a whole multitude of different countries, to create a similarly chilling commercial effect.

So what’s happened and who’s upset the apple cart?

Sadly, no one individual or organisation can be singled out. It’s never that easy. Although when taking a moment to step back from the minutiae of the debate it’s quickly apparent that there’s a series of interconnected issues that are only exasperated by a communications vacuum that’s failed to be tackled by those at the top.

In real terms, what that means is that, playing out against a wider drive towards domestic decarbonisation and energy security, we’ve got the conflicting challenges of driving up future investment, while driving down consumer bills.

Two highly charged areas of debate that, while indirectly connected, need not be as closely aligned as many would have you think.

Whatever the case, that’s not stopped SSE from deciding to call time on all future power and energy investments until after the 2015 election, following a political promise made by Labour Party leader Ed Milliband to freeze energy prices, should his party return to power.

It’s a move that, in the more immediate future, could threaten the 504MW Galloper wind farm, while putting further Round 3 projects in doubt.

Nevertheless, it’s the longer-term impact that this has on future investor confidence that ought to be of greater concern. And more specifically, it’s the way in which the utilities are portrayed and lambasted that must be addressed.

Sure, the Big Six have been reporting some bumper profits in 2013. And sure, nobody – least of all the hard-pressed consumer – likes an energy bill price hike.

However, a capitalist market needs to be able find its own level. And while short-term political interference might win quick votes, it does nothing to address the real issue of what people are really willing to pay for.

As is the case throughout Europe and around the world, the painful truth is that a move towards energy security and decarbonisation simply doesn’t occur overnight. It doesn’t come without a significant upfront investment either.

Populist talk about the so-called ‘cost of living’ might command front pages, but let’s be careful not to confuse the knee jerk reaction of the consumer with the need for future energy investment.

In addressing critics earlier in the week, SSE suggested that the most recent price rise was never a good thing to do but argued that if it became the catalyst for a debate about future domestic spending and investment, then that’s no bad thing.

Time then for greater clarity and leadership vision – not just from the utilities but also from the politicians and the investors – who, collectively, all stand to gain.

Investment in energy generating infrastructure is never easy and it’s always a bit of a performance. However, let’s try to share and celebrate the future energy vision. Otherwise we risk turning a critically acclaimed hit into a farce.

If politics is a performance, then this past week has all the ingredients of an Elizabethan drama.

There’s been the usual cast of characters - the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s been the multitude of plot lines, muddled lives and misinterpretations. There have even been a couple of dastardly organisations thrown in, to boot.

Sadly though, while fiction and fairy tales are restricted to the stage, this latest political performance risks becoming more than just another pantomime dame.

And in doing so, it demonstrates the very real consequences of meddling with something as critical as a domestic energy market.

In this instance it’s the UK energy sector that’s once again at the sharp end. In reality however, the situation could easily be transposed across a whole multitude of different countries, to create a similarly chilling commercial effect.

So what’s happened and who’s upset the apple cart?

Sadly, no one individual or organisation can be singled out. It’s never that easy. Although when taking a moment to step back from the minutiae of the debate it’s quickly apparent that there’s a series of interconnected issues that are only exasperated by a communications vacuum that’s failed to be tackled by those at the top.

In real terms, what that means is that, playing out against a wider drive towards domestic decarbonisation and energy security, we’ve got the conflicting challenges of driving up future investment, while driving down consumer bills.

Two highly charged areas of debate that, while indirectly connected, need not be as closely aligned as many would have you think.

Whatever the case, that’s not stopped SSE from deciding to call time on all future power and energy investments until after the 2015 election, following a political promise made by Labour Party leader Ed Milliband to freeze energy prices, should his party return to power.

It’s a move that, in the more immediate future, could threaten the 504MW Galloper wind farm, while putting further Round 3 projects in doubt.

Nevertheless, it’s the longer-term impact that this has on future investor confidence that ought to be of greater concern. And more specifically, it’s the way in which the utilities are portrayed and lambasted that must be addressed.

Sure, the Big Six have been reporting some bumper profits in 2013. And sure, nobody – least of all the hard-pressed consumer – likes an energy bill price hike.

However, a capitalist market needs to be able find its own level. And while short-term political interference might win quick votes, it does nothing to address the real issue of what people are really willing to pay for.

As is the case throughout Europe and around the world, the painful truth is that a move towards energy security and decarbonisation simply doesn’t occur overnight. It doesn’t come without a significant upfront investment either.

Populist talk about the so-called ‘cost of living’ might command front pages, but let’s be careful not to confuse the knee jerk reaction of the consumer with the need for future energy investment.

In addressing critics earlier in the week, SSE suggested that the most recent price rise was never a good thing to do but argued that if it became the catalyst for a debate about future domestic spending and investment, then that’s no bad thing.

Time then for greater clarity and leadership vision – not just from the utilities but also from the politicians and the investors – who, collectively, all stand to gain.

Investment in energy generating infrastructure is never easy and it’s always a bit of a performance. However, let’s try to share and celebrate the future energy vision. Otherwise we risk turning a critically acclaimed hit into a farce.

If politics is a performance, then this past week has all the ingredients of an Elizabethan drama.

There’s been the usual cast of characters - the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s been the multitude of plot lines, muddled lives and misinterpretations. There have even been a couple of dastardly organisations thrown in, to boot.

Sadly though, while fiction and fairy tales are restricted to the stage, this latest political performance risks becoming more than just another pantomime dame.

And in doing so, it demonstrates the very real consequences of meddling with something as critical as a domestic energy market.

In this instance it’s the UK energy sector that’s once again at the sharp end. In reality however, the situation could easily be transposed across a whole multitude of different countries, to create a similarly chilling commercial effect.

So what’s happened and who’s upset the apple cart?

Sadly, no one individual or organisation can be singled out. It’s never that easy. Although when taking a moment to step back from the minutiae of the debate it’s quickly apparent that there’s a series of interconnected issues that are only exasperated by a communications vacuum that’s failed to be tackled by those at the top.

In real terms, what that means is that, playing out against a wider drive towards domestic decarbonisation and energy security, we’ve got the conflicting challenges of driving up future investment, while driving down consumer bills.

Two highly charged areas of debate that, while indirectly connected, need not be as closely aligned as many would have you think.

Whatever the case, that’s not stopped SSE from deciding to call time on all future power and energy investments until after the 2015 election, following a political promise made by Labour Party leader Ed Milliband to freeze energy prices, should his party return to power.

It’s a move that, in the more immediate future, could threaten the 504MW Galloper wind farm, while putting further Round 3 projects in doubt.

Nevertheless, it’s the longer-term impact that this has on future investor confidence that ought to be of greater concern. And more specifically, it’s the way in which the utilities are portrayed and lambasted that must be addressed.

Sure, the Big Six have been reporting some bumper profits in 2013. And sure, nobody – least of all the hard-pressed consumer – likes an energy bill price hike.

However, a capitalist market needs to be able find its own level. And while short-term political interference might win quick votes, it does nothing to address the real issue of what people are really willing to pay for.

As is the case throughout Europe and around the world, the painful truth is that a move towards energy security and decarbonisation simply doesn’t occur overnight. It doesn’t come without a significant upfront investment either.

Populist talk about the so-called ‘cost of living’ might command front pages, but let’s be careful not to confuse the knee jerk reaction of the consumer with the need for future energy investment.

In addressing critics earlier in the week, SSE suggested that the most recent price rise was never a good thing to do but argued that if it became the catalyst for a debate about future domestic spending and investment, then that’s no bad thing.

Time then for greater clarity and leadership vision – not just from the utilities but also from the politicians and the investors – who, collectively, all stand to gain.

Investment in energy generating infrastructure is never easy and it’s always a bit of a performance. However, let’s try to share and celebrate the future energy vision. Otherwise we risk turning a critically acclaimed hit into a farce.

If politics is a performance, then this past week has all the ingredients of an Elizabethan drama.

There’s been the usual cast of characters - the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s been the multitude of plot lines, muddled lives and misinterpretations. There have even been a couple of dastardly organisations thrown in, to boot.

Sadly though, while fiction and fairy tales are restricted to the stage, this latest political performance risks becoming more than just another pantomime dame.

And in doing so, it demonstrates the very real consequences of meddling with something as critical as a domestic energy market.

In this instance it’s the UK energy sector that’s once again at the sharp end. In reality however, the situation could easily be transposed across a whole multitude of different countries, to create a similarly chilling commercial effect.

So what’s happened and who’s upset the apple cart?

Sadly, no one individual or organisation can be singled out. It’s never that easy. Although when taking a moment to step back from the minutiae of the debate it’s quickly apparent that there’s a series of interconnected issues that are only exasperated by a communications vacuum that’s failed to be tackled by those at the top.

In real terms, what that means is that, playing out against a wider drive towards domestic decarbonisation and energy security, we’ve got the conflicting challenges of driving up future investment, while driving down consumer bills.

Two highly charged areas of debate that, while indirectly connected, need not be as closely aligned as many would have you think.

Whatever the case, that’s not stopped SSE from deciding to call time on all future power and energy investments until after the 2015 election, following a political promise made by Labour Party leader Ed Milliband to freeze energy prices, should his party return to power.

It’s a move that, in the more immediate future, could threaten the 504MW Galloper wind farm, while putting further Round 3 projects in doubt.

Nevertheless, it’s the longer-term impact that this has on future investor confidence that ought to be of greater concern. And more specifically, it’s the way in which the utilities are portrayed and lambasted that must be addressed.

Sure, the Big Six have been reporting some bumper profits in 2013. And sure, nobody – least of all the hard-pressed consumer – likes an energy bill price hike.

However, a capitalist market needs to be able find its own level. And while short-term political interference might win quick votes, it does nothing to address the real issue of what people are really willing to pay for.

As is the case throughout Europe and around the world, the painful truth is that a move towards energy security and decarbonisation simply doesn’t occur overnight. It doesn’t come without a significant upfront investment either.

Populist talk about the so-called ‘cost of living’ might command front pages, but let’s be careful not to confuse the knee jerk reaction of the consumer with the need for future energy investment.

In addressing critics earlier in the week, SSE suggested that the most recent price rise was never a good thing to do but argued that if it became the catalyst for a debate about future domestic spending and investment, then that’s no bad thing.

Time then for greater clarity and leadership vision – not just from the utilities but also from the politicians and the investors – who, collectively, all stand to gain.

Investment in energy generating infrastructure is never easy and it’s always a bit of a performance. However, let’s try to share and celebrate the future energy vision. Otherwise we risk turning a critically acclaimed hit into a farce.

If politics is a performance, then this past week has all the ingredients of an Elizabethan drama.

There’s been the usual cast of characters - the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s been the multitude of plot lines, muddled lives and misinterpretations. There have even been a couple of dastardly organisations thrown in, to boot.

Sadly though, while fiction and fairy tales are restricted to the stage, this latest political performance risks becoming more than just another pantomime dame.

And in doing so, it demonstrates the very real consequences of meddling with something as critical as a domestic energy market.

In this instance it’s the UK energy sector that’s once again at the sharp end. In reality however, the situation could easily be transposed across a whole multitude of different countries, to create a similarly chilling commercial effect.

So what’s happened and who’s upset the apple cart?

Sadly, no one individual or organisation can be singled out. It’s never that easy. Although when taking a moment to step back from the minutiae of the debate it’s quickly apparent that there’s a series of interconnected issues that are only exasperated by a communications vacuum that’s failed to be tackled by those at the top.

In real terms, what that means is that, playing out against a wider drive towards domestic decarbonisation and energy security, we’ve got the conflicting challenges of driving up future investment, while driving down consumer bills.

Two highly charged areas of debate that, while indirectly connected, need not be as closely aligned as many would have you think.

Whatever the case, that’s not stopped SSE from deciding to call time on all future power and energy investments until after the 2015 election, following a political promise made by Labour Party leader Ed Milliband to freeze energy prices, should his party return to power.

It’s a move that, in the more immediate future, could threaten the 504MW Galloper wind farm, while putting further Round 3 projects in doubt.

Nevertheless, it’s the longer-term impact that this has on future investor confidence that ought to be of greater concern. And more specifically, it’s the way in which the utilities are portrayed and lambasted that must be addressed.

Sure, the Big Six have been reporting some bumper profits in 2013. And sure, nobody – least of all the hard-pressed consumer – likes an energy bill price hike.

However, a capitalist market needs to be able find its own level. And while short-term political interference might win quick votes, it does nothing to address the real issue of what people are really willing to pay for.

As is the case throughout Europe and around the world, the painful truth is that a move towards energy security and decarbonisation simply doesn’t occur overnight. It doesn’t come without a significant upfront investment either.

Populist talk about the so-called ‘cost of living’ might command front pages, but let’s be careful not to confuse the knee jerk reaction of the consumer with the need for future energy investment.

In addressing critics earlier in the week, SSE suggested that the most recent price rise was never a good thing to do but argued that if it became the catalyst for a debate about future domestic spending and investment, then that’s no bad thing.

Time then for greater clarity and leadership vision – not just from the utilities but also from the politicians and the investors – who, collectively, all stand to gain.

Investment in energy generating infrastructure is never easy and it’s always a bit of a performance. However, let’s try to share and celebrate the future energy vision. Otherwise we risk turning a critically acclaimed hit into a farce.

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Not a member yet?

Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.