Letter from Catherine Mitchell, Professor of Energy Policy, Exeter University: Jonathan Ford asks whether Britain’s energy market resembles a poorly thought-through PFI scheme. The answer, of course, is “no” – it is nothing like a private finance initiative, of any kind, and of whatever quality of conception. Britain is in the midst of a profound energy system change that is benefiting consumers by promoting popular low-carbon generation, cutting energy waste and breaking the oligopoly of the big six. The idea that this can be driven without strategic investment in specific technologies is for the birds. The price falls in wind and solar energy that Mr Ford notes would not have happened without this investment. More worryingly, he fails to note that environmental and social levies on bills have cut bills, by funding energy-efficiency measures. A system of levies that more than pays for itself in the short term while also driving major strategic change is not to be dismissed lightly. The government is right to encourage competition. But in a democracy we cannot and should not base energy policy purely on economic theorising. Public support for combating climate change, for energy efficiency and for renewables, means politicians are democratically obliged to drive a system transformation; that the transformation also benefits energy bills makes it additionally welcome.
FT 1st Dec 2017 read more »