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The UK Energy Market, a Year in Words, from Miliband to CMA

energy news12 months ago…

It’s 24th September 2013 and Ed Miliband, leader of the Opposition Labour party is addressing his Brighton party conference; he announces his intention to invoke a “20 month freeze on household energy bills” if his party triumphs in the 2015 General Election.

Cue some memorable and polarised quotes, a history making investigation and no little rancour. We share the best of the last 12 months of hyperbole here to commemorate the anniversary of that conference speech.

Instant reaction

The biggest crisis the energy industry has faced since privatisation” (Peter Atherton, an analyst at Liberum Capital)

“[Freezing energy bills would mean to freeze costs which in turn would mean] stopping global wholesale costs from rising, withdrawing from investment and abandoning the green tax burden” (nPower Chief Executive Paul Massara).

A recipe for “economic ruin” (Then Centrica Chairman Sir Roger Carr)

“The lights could go out” (Energy UK, the energy suppliers’ trade body, Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and Eric Pickles, the Communities secretary).

“[Black-out warnings should be taken] with a pinch of salt”. (Then Cabinet Minister Michael Gove)

“The political pressure [has] increased with Ed Miliband’s price freeze proposal, which has struck a chord with consumers.” (Tim Yeo, Conservative MP and Chairman of the Energy Select Committee)

The response

The government’s eyes fell on Ofgem to take tough action.

Ofgem surrendered meekly and handed over the baton of responsibility to the Competition and Markets Authority to launch their investigation into the energy market.

“Rising bills have played a very large role in bringing us to the point at which the CMA is investigating, but it’s a weak reason from an economic perspective.” (John Feddersen, from Aurora, the energy research company)

The blame

“Over the last ten years until very recently, both governments did not pay much attention to energy prices. This has all crept up on us.” (Tim Yeo)

“They [the Big 6 energy suppliers] became cheerleaders for the [government’s subsidy] policy and neglected to think about the impact on consumers.” (Peter Atherton)

“[The Big 6 energy] Companies have started to engage on costs for consumers, but it’s way too late.” (Peter Atherton)

“When there is a price rise, people do not know if it’s justified because it’s not transparent.” (Richard Hall, from the Citizens Advice Bureau)

The crux

“How will we continue down the road of massive investment if the customer base is unwilling to pay for it?” (Angela Knight, Energy UK)

Happy anniversary Ed

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