Political Agenda this week, by David Blackman

“The ding-dong over energy costs is likely to get noisier.”

The temperature of the debate about energy costs rose several notches in this week.

Utilities have been seeking to deflect the ire over rising energy bills onto environmental levies, and energy companies have reportedly launched a fresh bid to push the costs of the low-carbon transition onto the shoulders of taxpayers rather than energy bill payers.

The Energy and Climate Information Unit, a green-leaning think tank, in turn tried to shift the blame for price rises onto the distribution network operators, accusing them of exploiting their local monopolies to trouser excessive profits. The Energy Networks Association was quick to rubbish that analysis as being based on old data.

All of these groups are trying to capture the ear of Professor Dieter Helm, the government’s choice to chair its snap review of energy costs.

The issue isn’t going to dissipate soon judging by last week’s figures from Ofgem that showed the gap between the big six’s standard variable tariffs and the cheapest deals on the market has widened this year.

Helm’s past critiques of renewables suggest that subsidies for more expensive and untried technologies will be lined up for the chop in his review.

However the ultimate call on curbing costs will be made by the government. And the debate on energy costs look set to figure prominently on the sidelines of the political party conferences. As the countdown to the review’s October publication nears, the ding-dong over energy costs is only likely to get noisier.

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