The hot seat looks like it just got cooler for Ofgem’s new chief executive. Leadership is all about timing, and Jonathan Brearley’s decision to mark the start of his tenure at the top by releasing a “decarbonisation action plan” seems to be playing well with industry so far.

The move has got Brearley ahead of growing dissatisfaction across the energy industry and environmental lobby groups about Ofgem’s stance on decarbonisation and the impact on its duties of the 2019 net zero emissions commitment.

While the action plan stops short of requesting a formal change to Ofgem’s remit – something which was called for in a number of industry forums last year – it squarely acknowledges the need to strike a better balance between protecting the interests of current and future customers, and specifically how it can benefit the latter by incentivising the creation of a zero-carbon economy.

Speaking to Utility Week, one industry source described the plan as “an excellent start” – an appraisal Brearley’s embattled predecessor could only have dreamed of towards the end of his run in one of the toughest jobs in regulation.

Other reviews agree that the action plan has sent out an important and welcome message to an industry and investment community that has been crying out for such certainty for years and which was becoming increasingly frustrated with a perceived reluctance at Ofgem to set its policy baseline against the context of the government’s legally ­binding decarbonisation agenda.

Likewise, the report’s critical nod to anticipatory investment will be welcome news to network operators. They have long argued this is the most efficient way to meet future demands for EV charging and heat – investing in vital infrastructure to get ahead of a wave they have been managing, so far, to just about ride.

Brearley’s background – notably his early work at the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the Pathways Project; his designs for EMR (Electricity Market Reform) and, most recently, network price controls – shows he is steeped in the industry and its future challenges.

If he was aiming to convince his industry that he’s the right man for the top job at Ofgem at a transformative time for the sector, he’s certainly made an impression.

What’s key now is how he engages with stakeholders to develop the new regulatory tools and approaches needed to make his vision a reality.

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