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DECC Exposed, Potential Conflict of Interest

Department of Energy and Climate Change exposed in potential conflict of interest

Most people would agree that when it comes to decision and policy making, there is merit in having people with relevant industry experience influencing the outcomes. However, not so much when the decision and policy makers are the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the ‘relevant industry experience’ is coming from the main players of the energy industry itself.

Information released by the government, following a freedom of information request on 17th September, revealed that three of the big energy companies (EDF Energy, Centrica – who own British Gas Business, and RWE Npower)

“have had or currently have staff on secondments at DECC.”

A statement released by Labour today said

“it is deeply concerning that is appears that the big energy companies may be running aspects of energy policy… energy policy is not about doing favours for the industry.”

DECC have responded that the experience and knowledge secondees bring to the process actually benefits policymaking.

They claim that their procedures ensure that all secondees are “bound by the professional Codes of Practice relevant to their industry or services provided” and in addition, they sign contracts to ensure that “to the best of their ability that in the course of their duties for DECC there will be no conflict of interest or perception of such.”

This is the least one would expect given the very concept of a secondment is that those undertaking the post return to their original employment after a period of time, and that during the period of secondment, the contract is based on that individual’s judgement and honesty that they are not acting in any way that may be deemed as a conflict of interest.

The industry is already under scrutiny by the government, Ofgem and consumer bodies over its level of transparency and fairness in a competitive arena, however, it is easy to wonder that if the main-players in the industry are among the policy makers, where does this leave the smaller suppliers struggling against the oligopoly of the Big 6?

If there is any truth in these allegations of undue influence, there should be an immediate investigation to safeguard all involved in the industry from consumers to brokers and suppliers, and to reassure the country that the future of energy is heading in the right direction and not being manipulated by those that have most to gain from ever increasing energy prices.

One example is the EMR. If you believe what some economists say about the Electricity Market Reform it is far from suitable and will end up doing more harm than good, but DECC is sticking to its guns and powering on through with the plan.

Who do you believe and whom can you trust? The future of the UK’s energy policy and its impact on our economy is far from clear. Buckle those seat belts people; we are in for a bumpy ride.


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