Tag Archives: energy

Improving consumer knowledge in the energy industry

As a liberal, I am not in the business of banning many things. I subscribe to the idea that knowledge is power, and that by providing consumers with more information, positive outcomes can be achieved. For a market to be competitive, consumers must have information, and we know that competitive markets improve outcomes across the board.

In the food industry this has already happened. If you look on a packet of crisps, it will show you how many calories there are, how much salt as well as a whole host of other nutritional information. According to this report, the US is going to start labelling GMO foods with a smiley face. 

Because of this, consumers are able to make choices and we are seeing a downward trend in calorie consumption. However, we don’t do this in a lot of other markets, including the energy industry.

With the energy industry, it is difficult for consumers to get information about the product that they are buying. Consumers are using comparison sites, which help to an extent, but unless each utility company is researched, it is tricky.

This is where policy makers can come in, and it could act as a nudge mechanism for consumers.

YouGov surveyed 2,000 UK consumers and found that consumers would pay on average up to 10 per cent more for a sustainable product. The same report, which can be found here, found that 40 per cent of consumers already consider the sustainability of the product when they buy.

This is where we can reform the energy industry. Not with price caps like Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have put forward, which would only serve to reduce the supply from smaller energy providers. 

Instead, we could compel energy providers to produce some sort of guidance for the consumer regarding the sustainability of the product. Which countries are the main producers of the energy? Is it sustainable? What method of extraction was used to get the energy? That type of thing. 

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LibLink: Robin Teverson: It is the fuel poor who are destined to feel the post Brexit chill

There are many ways in which Brexit will harm the poorest people in our society. The cost of heating their homes is one which Lib Dem Peer Robin Teverson highlighted in a article for Politics Home this week:

The good news is that excepting a major failure in replacing the Euratom regime that regulates our nuclear power sector, and if we manage to replicate Euratom’s nuclear cooperation agreements with our overseas nuclear equipment and fuel suppliers, Brexit blackouts are not the threat.

But even here there is little room for complacency. Our home-grown replacement for Euratom – the beefed-up Office for Nuclear

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Lynne Featherstone writes: Smart consumers: the bedrock of the clean energy revolution

“Our roofs will power our washing machines. Our cars will be charged at home. Our homes will be warm without turning the heating on. Our energy will be British, it will be clean.”

This is the vision Tim Farron set out as part of our strategy for Britain to lead the clean energy revolution.

A smarter energy system is a key piece of the puzzle, which will mean this vision can be delivered.

Academics such as Professor Dieter Helm have frequently talked about the potential of this change to improve how our energy systems work. Not only will smarter energy benefit our environment and help to reduce our carbon footprint, but it will support economic growth, innovation, competition and choice in the energy market.

Today, our interaction with energy is simple. We pay for the energy we use, often sticking with the same energy supplier for many years.

Many consumers pay far too much for their energy as a result.

But how we buy energy could be very different and lead to far cheaper bills.

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A policy solution to poverty-promoting pre-payment meters

It is frequently asked how we reach the lower paid and those in poverty who have made up a large proportion of whose who may have been disenfranchised or chosen to vote for UKIP in the past. A big part is about getting the message across in a way which isn’t patronising or condescending but it’s also the day to day issues that need addressing. Liberal democrat policies need to be addressing these issues.

Those who have struggled financially, having fallen in to arrears, or are in rented accommodation are highly likely to be placed on pre-payment meters for their energy needs. The BBC today reported that these customers are likely to pay on average £220 more a year than customers who are not on the pre-payment meters.

The Ofgem report released today promised:

Those on pre-payment meters, who are among the most vulnerable and least likely to switch, will be protected by an interim price cap which will save them around £75 a year from next April.

I don’t think this goes far enough, pre-payment tariffs will still average a cost of around £145 more a year and, furthermore, the use of the word ‘interim’ highlights that the cap is not even a permanent reduction to pre-payment tariffs. This potentially means that pre-payment tariffs may become even more unfair after any proposed cap expires.

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WATCH: Alex Cole Hamilton on the SNP’s “smog and mirrors” and singing the recycling song

This week, Edinburgh Western and Lothian list candidate took part in a Scotland 2016 debate on energy and the environment. After his success at getting in John Swinney’s face on tax, expectations were high, and he didn’t disappoint.

Here are some of his highlights:

Pointing out that the SNP consistently miss its climate change targets while they cut the budget for measures to tackle climate change.

“There is no question in the climate change challenge which shows that tracking is part of the solution”

Describing SNP MInister Fergus Ewing’s justification of a planned cut to Air Passenger Duty as a “smog and mirrors approach”

Outlining the Liberal Democrat plan to make sure houses are energy efficient and warm.

Explaining how good habits on recycling are being embedded in today’s children – and singing the song his 4 year old sings every day at nursery. Whether that latter part was entirely necessary, I’ll leave to your judgement.

You can watch Alex’s highlights below:

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Featherstone: Lib Dems will fight to protect renewables sector

Lynne FEatherstone 2007 Brighton conference by Liberal DemocratsEnergy and Climate Change spokesperson Lynne Featherstone has accused the government (perfectly reasonably) of making “ideological cuts” to the renewables sector. Speaking ahead of a Lords debate on the Energy Bill tomorrow, she said:

Liberal Democrats have made changes to the Government’s Energy Bill in the House of Lords, and will be fighting to protect onshore wind subsidies in the debate.

We will be fighting to keep these changes, which will help protect our renewable energy industry in the face of brutal Conservative cuts.

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LibLink: If I’m Lib Dem leader, we’ll oppose fracking

Tim Farron has been writing for Politics.co.uk about his desire to see the party change its policy on fracking. The headline is entirely misleading, because what he actually does is show respect to the party’s processes by saying he’ll ask the Federal Policy Committee and Conference to reconsider the issue. But why?

The UK should not be pursuing another fossil fuel source, when there is so much potential for renewable generation from tidal and hydro that is still untapped. I would like the party, through the federal policy committee and the conference, to think again about our existing policy on fracking.

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Opinion: Three things the Lib Dems can ‘own’

 

It seems to me that elections are fought not in the currency of policies but actually perception.

I feel that in the election campaign, where we actually talked about ourselves (on those rare occasions) we tried to take credit for the economic recovery. However, given that the Tories have always held that ground, they won that argument before it even began. As a result, voters who wanted a continuation of the past five years didn’t think to vote Lib Dem, they instead thought to vote Tory. It shouldn’t seem so baffling after all that people who voted Lib Dem last time chose to vote Tory this time if they were so thrilled about the outcomes of the coalition.

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Robin Teverson writes … Doing cold smarter

 

In the world of politics, energy is all too often around building shiny new power stations – whether gas or nuclear.  Rather more positively it is about renewables – erecting wind or solar farms, and wind arrays off-shore.

Just recently, with Lib Dems in Government and in charge of DECC, we’ve got rather more sophisticated. Nowadays we also think about the demand side of the equation. Why not spread demand more evenly and avoid having to build all that expensive excess capacity?  Or even better, increase energy efficiency to such a degree that we don’t need to generate so much power and heat in the first place.

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Ed Davey writes … Warmer, cheaper, greener homes for people in rented properties

warmer homesToday marks a landmark achievement for Lib Dems in government. Up to 1 million tenants renting energy inefficient leaky homes will be able to benefit from new regulations and so enjoy warmer homes and cheaper energy bills.  Clearly this will particularly help the fuel poor: those living in the leakiest privately-rented homes already need to spend an average £1,000 a year more to keep warm compared to the average home.

These new regulations will deliver two important changes:

  • From April 2018 private landlords will not be able to rent out properties which do not meet minimum energy efficiency standards; and
  • From April 2016 residential private landlords can’t unreasonably turn down a tenant’s request for energy efficiency improvements. This will mean landlords have to accept the request if they can get help through widely available support like Green Deal finance,  the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), or grants from the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.
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Davey: Stop short-termist meddling in the energy markets

The FT reports comments by Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey aimed in part at George Osborne over recent interventions by the chancellor into the energy market:

George Osborne has been accused by a cabinet colleague of damaging the energy sector after the chancellor threatened “action” against companies which failed to pass on falling oil prices to consumers.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, said he did not know exactly what Mr Osborne was proposing and that such criticism of energy companies by politicians would “damage markets, investment and our economy”.

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LibLink: Ed Davey promises no blackouts this winter

Ed Davey Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterInterviewed in the Sunday Telgraph, Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, said that he had asked the energy regulators for extra contingency measures to cut consumption in event of a cold winter or more power station failures.

Emergency plans will be announced tomorrow in which hotels will be paid to turn down refrigerators and factories paid to make staff work overnight to cut energy consumption and prevent blackouts this winter.

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Opinion: Generating electricity – why we should push for renewables, not fracking

Green wind farmThis article is about how we generate electricity in the UK, and makes the case for electricity generation to be 100% carbon-neutral, and to be frack-free.

Climate change remains one of the greatest risks of our age. We know that the climate is changing: we can either accept the risks and take what comes, or we can mitigate the risk by using technology to end our dependency on fossil fuels. Liberal Democrats campaign for the latter.

In 2013, figures for the UK and the whole EU for electricity generation are as follows:

energy sources

On these figures, we have some catching up to do. Many would think that given the particular advantages of wind and tides our islands have, we would be doing more than catching up – we would be leading.

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Don Foster MP writes… Justifiable NIMBYism?

I  suspect I’m not the only one to be delighted and relieved about the announcement this week about new protections to be put in place that will restrict “Fracking” in sensitive areas.

Geological evidence shows that fracking could lead to a significant disruption to the hot water spring waters on which the tourism of the World Heritage City of Bath depends and could damage the water pressure without which we could see buildings in the city collapse.

Even though the latest British Geological Survey Maps show that the three main areas where large amounts of shale oil and gas exists lie nowhere …

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Our Climate Change bulldog #slfconf

Ed Davey Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul Walter
WARNING: Contains strong hagiographic content, which some readers may find disturbing.

On Saturday, while much of the country was enjoying the sunshine, I spent two hours studying and listening to The Right Honourable Edward Davey MP FRSA.

In the wonderful surroundings of the new headquarters of Amnesty International, Ed addressed the Social Liberal Forum conference on “Energy and climate change – the balance between state and market”. He was then interviewed by four bloggers: Jonathan Calder, Matthew Hulbert,

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Ed Davey MP writes…Investing in green energy

offshore wind farmToday I published the Government’s first ever ‘Energy Investment Report’.  It shows how Liberal Democrats in Government have delivered on jobs and investment in energy – particularly green energy – and shows the plan we now have for this to continue for decades to come.

Let me be clear – investment in the energy sector has not been a ‘nice to have’.  We inherited a legacy of energy underinvestment from Labour and we’ve spent the last four years turning this around.   The sheer scale of the investment has already …

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Are the Greens to the Lib Dems what Ukip is to the Tories?

image“As Ukip is to the Tories, so can the Green party be to the Lib Dems.” That’s a sentence I wrote here, almost seven years ago, on 3rd November, 2007.

In The Times, Sam Coates has looked at how the quiet rise of the Greens in recent months – the party polled just ahead of the Lib Dems in May’s European elections – might hurt the Lib Dems at the May 2015 general election.

An analysis of the European election results shows the Green vote strengthening and consolidating in the

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The Independent View: Smart policy is backing smart energy

Onzo Smart Energy Meter Kit DisplayEnergy policy continues to be central to the political agenda and on consumers’ minds, with the average energy bill now topping £1300 and more than 2 million homes living in fuel poverty.

Research published this week by the Smart Meter Central Delivery Body shows the extent of current dissatisfaction with the way we buy energy.  More than half of the 10,000 respondents to our independent survey said they do not trust any energy supplier, while 41% think they are paying for more energy that they consume.

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Ed Davey MP writes… An onshore wind cap makes no sense

A few wind turbinesRarely a week goes by without an onshore wind story appearing in the media – normally negative, with some Conservative source trying to undermine this important source of renewable energy. The past few weeks have been no different.

First, let’s set the record straight. Liberal Democrats in Government will not accept a cap on onshore wind. Of course what other parties choose to put in their manifestos is a matter for them. But this Coalition Government is not changing tack on onshore wind or renewables and we will not …

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Edward Davey writes… Gas profits

Gas flame burning, creative pictureLast year I asked Ofgem, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) & the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to start producing annual competition assessments which will look at the way energy companies operate in detail.  They will also set out any actions they deem necessary.

The first of their reviews will be published this Spring and I have just written to them outlining new evidence I want to be considered as part of their investigations.

Essentially the new evidence focuses on the profits some energy companies are making …

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Energy: What Lib Dem members think about the price freeze and new nuclear power station deal

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.
Would you support or oppose the following policies…?

64% oppose energy price freeze

… Freezing energy prices for 20 months from May 2015, while reviewing the regulation of energy companies

    7% – Strongly Support
    16% – Support
    Total support = 23%
    34% – Oppose
    30% – Strongly Oppose
    Total oppose = 64%
    12% –

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Ed Davey nails Labour’s energy price freeze: “Prices go up, small, independent competitors go out of business, the big six is created again. Well done, Mr Miliband!”

Here’s Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey highlighting one of the many flaws in Ed Miliband’s promise to freeze energy prices in today’s Guardian interview:

ed davey energy prices

(Hat-tip: John Rentoul in The Independent: Quotation of the Day.)

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Ed Davey MP writes… Hinkley Point C – a big step forward for energy decarbonisation

Today I announced that we have reached an outline commercial agreement with EDF to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset.

I know this will cause a wide range of reactions within the party. Most will welcome this very significant step forward in our plans to decarbonise our energy sector. A substantial minority I know will be disappointed. Before outlining the terms of what I believe is a good deal for the British consumer let me repeat what I said at the Glasgow conference as to why I have changed my mind and now believe that nuclear has …

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Ed Davey MP writes… Labour’s energy policy is a con

Energy-bills-006“There is no such thing as a free lunch” was one of the first things I learnt in economics. But it seems that Ed Miliband thinks there is. He seems to believe that you can have freeze energy prices for 20 months with no adverse impacts. It may have seemed a politically smart thing to do leading into the traditional period of energy price increases. But it is likely to have really harmful consequences. In short, it’s a con.

Many commentators have already pointed out that energy companies will be free to …

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Ed Miliband’s speech: 5 thoughts on what it means for Labour, Tories, Lib Dems and the 2015 election

Ed MilibandI listened to, rather than watched, Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour party conference yesterday. On the up-side that meant I missed the three hammy mid-speech standing ovations (shades of IDS c.2003); on the down-side it accentuated the peculiar whooping of some of the more excitable delegates (calm down, it’s just a politician talking). In its own terms — getting noticed for its content rather than simply as an impressive no-notes memory feat — it was an undoubted success. Matthew Parris in The Times rather brilliantly captures the flavour:

Crikey

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Opinion: Labour’s energy freeze is terrible economics but excellent politics

Ed Miliband announced in his keynote speech to Labour Party conference that, if elected, he would force energy companies to freeze energy bills for 20 months.

Now obviously, from an economic liberal  perspective, this makes no sense.

Freezing energy costs is precisely the wrong way to go about dealing with the cost of living problem in this country. By freezing income while costs rise in the global upturn & the population expands to require greater supply, Miliband is depriving the energy companies of the capital they need to invest in the expansion of the system.

This will inevitably drive the energy supply industry …

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The Observer claims Lib Dems officially ‘blast fracking’ – no!

Balcombe FrackingToday’s Observer splashes with “Liberal Democrats blast environmental damage caused by fracking.” Not quite.

We’ve had quite a lively debate here on Lib Dem Voice on the merits and demerits of fracking (Gilbert, Boddington).  In the Observer article Tony Helm suggests that Liberal Democrats have rejected shale gas extraction. As I said not quite.

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Chris Huhne lands £100k a year job at US energy firm. And why not?

huhne_harris_floodsThe Independent reports the story of Chris Huhne’s new role:

Disgraced former MP Chris Huhne has been hired as the manager of an energy firm just months after being released from prison. The Government’s ex-energy and climate change cabinet secretary has been working as the European manager of Zilkha Biomass Energy since July, according to the company’s website.

He was jailed in March for eight months along with his ex-wife Vicki Pryce for swapping speeding penalty points so he could avoid a driving ban, but the pair were released in May.

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Opinion: Shale Gas exploration – Why a cautious approach is the right one.

Many Liberal Democrats will, like me, have read with wry amusement the reaction of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph and some Tory MPs to the local opposition to Cuadrilla drilling in Balcombe in Sussex and the potential of fracking in their area given their previous hysterical support for fracking and shale gas.

Clearly there are a number of groups who are taking the opportunity to mount a vigorous campaign against fracking with, for example, the publication of a map of a “licence to frack” raising fears of fracking taking place across the country. In fact the so called …

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Opinion: The Dark Satanic Wells of Fracking

Like many enthusiasts, I’m looking forward to the bombastic Last Night of the Proms, one month today. And I bet I’ll not be alone in bellowing out the words of England’s most popular anthem, Jerusalem.Blake Newton Fracking

Two centuries ago, William Blake began writing his epic poem Milton, including perhaps Jerusalem, while living in Felpham, Sussex. A few years later, he was back in London where the streets were being illuminated for the first time by gas lamps. The coal gas of Blake’s era gave way in the late 1960s to the cleaner supplies from the North Sea. Now we are witnessing the third coming of gas – hydraulic fracturing of shale. And this takes us directly back to Sussex, where protesters are mounting a blockade against fracking at Balcombe.

Green campaigners’ passions flare at any mention of fracking. The Campaign to Protect Rural England seems less certain that fracking is out of order, at least as a temporary energy fix. But it is at one with the Financial Times in believing that Balcombe is far from the best place to start. The drilling site is within the protected High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty and, even though the blockade is being led by eco-activists, most villagers say they are opposed to fracking in their parish.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGordon Lishman 23rd May - 11:34am
    Thanks to contributors. A few thoughts on people's comments, although if LDV will allow me, they may come in several tranches: Phil: You're right, of...
  • User Avatarexpats 23rd May - 11:25am
    David Raw 23rd May '18 - 10:44am...........According to the Guardian, “The EU has leapt ahead of the UK in the pursuit of free trade deals...
  • User AvatarNeil Sandison 23rd May - 11:20am
    Anyone who has been following Grenfell could not fail to notice what happens when communities become dislocated from those who have authority over them or...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 23rd May - 10:59am
    Lord Greaves - The current position is that there are no rules on maternity leave for candidates. This led in my case to me having...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 23rd May - 10:51am
    Gordon - thank goodness. A piece which is the perfect antidote to the totally uninspiring "parish magazine" school of FOCUS.
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 23rd May - 10:47am
    Thank you for sharing this Elizabeth.