Blog: Got the fear about our energy future? Join the club

As our bizarre summer finally breaks into heat – the weekend’s mix of sunshine and downpour seems quintessentially British, i.e. totally bonkers – the turning weather has pushed my thoughts […]

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By Vicky Ellis

As our bizarre summer finally breaks into heat – the weekend’s mix of sunshine and downpour seems quintessentially British, i.e. totally bonkers – the turning weather has pushed my thoughts onto the next season.

Autumn, season of mists – and one of the biggest bits of policy to hit the energy sector in at least a decade. It doesn’t look likely to be a mellow few months.

The Lords’ working group on the draft Energy Bill has expressed “serious doubts” about some pretty major parts of it. They called reform a “Herculean” task.

Now virtually everyone under the sun has taken a pop at the Contracts for Difference, the mechanism which will set prices for energy depending on where it has come from. It’s almost easy to become numb to the voices of alarm.

But the Lords’ report finally gave me the chills.

The frightening bit is how much of the legislation could be drafted effectively behind closed doors and ministers could end up with the power to dictate prices – something the Lords say they do not see happening “in any credible way” even with help from the system operator.

Not to be rude about the current bunch at the control panel – Messrs Davey, Hendry and Barker – but if the LORDS can’t be sure they can do this CfD job, how on earth can we?

They’re not even the ones we should worry about. It’s the future ministers we should keep an eye on. Which potential politicians are being groomed as we speak by businesses looking to get the best price, in the hope one day they might make their way onto the Cabinet table?

Jeremy Paxman has written convincingly on how politics is now a profession, where good looks and media acumen often come at the expense of industry expertise.

When an MP actually has some experience in their field they can – conversely – be vilified for their “bias” – see Energy Select Committee chair Tim Yeo’s trolling by the Mail as the latest example.

British politics appeared to have turned a corner on the long and winding road to more transparency after the expenses scandal and the Leveson inquiry.

But if we put such ludicrous power into the hands of ministers without the proper checks offered by passage through Parliament, we can’t really be surprised when things go wrong.

Just got the fear? Welcome to the club.