Yesterday our first conference Energy Live 2012 was heralded a success, not by me, but by our readers and those who were there.
It was bold and at times a tad bonkers for this sector but the risk we took in terms of banning powerpoint, using innovative video and interacting with the audience seems to have paid dividends. With more than 450 delegates I was delighted the hard work all the team at ELN towers put in behind the scenes over the last few months really paid off.
But it’s not just innovative formats, brave questions and good wine that makes a great conference. It’s content. That content was due to the honesty of our speakers. It’s very easy to say those in power are often unaccountable and if ever there was a charge of being out of touch you could certainly level that at the energy industry but yesterday showed that was changing.
Volker Beckers, Sara Vaughan and Neil Clitheroe stood up and took criticism from the audience and tried to engage on the behalf of npower, EON and Scottish Power. Showing at least three of the big 6 are true to their word about being more open. We did ask SSE, EDF and Centrica to participate too by the way, they declined.
We heard from Juliet Davenport of Good Energy one of the smaller players growing into the sector pushing the case for more supplier choice and from Basil Scarsella the man who runs the transmission network getting power into your homes and businesses owning up that they would have to do a lot to cope with a low carbon future.
But most of the headlines were grabbed by Ed Davey. To have the Energy Secretary at our first conference was great. He was told to stick to three minutes without notes and powerpoint and then to take questions from the floor for a further half hour. Many Ministers I’ve inteviewed over the past 20 years would have refused such a format, many would have waffled and filled to reduce the time to face awkward questions, many would have simply not shown up.
To his huge credit he faced the music. He answered questions as directly as a Cabinet Minster can, made the case for his policy positions and explained the pitfalls and positives of coalition government. He even had the humour to handle the ribbing I gave him on occasion and he did all this during the week where his authority was called into question by his Tory junior, John Hayes and he’d just brokered a nuclear deal with Hitachi that made many of his green supporters balk.
So is ELN now Ed Davey’s biggest fan club, no of course not. We’ll still hold him to task as we do all those in energy policy but yesterday proved that our Energy Secretary has the guts to front up and be bold and open. He faces a rocky time when the new Energy Bill comes out later this month but it’s clear he has grown into his role over the past 11 months and is certainly ready to make decisions.
You may not like them but decisions need to be made and it’s no bad thing that Ed’s got the head to make ’em.