Ed has given energy firms an opportunity

When Ed Miliband took to the stage in Brighton, doing the energy industry a favour was the last thing on his mind. Yet in the ultimate exercise in irony, it may well transpire that the Labour leader’s rabble-rousing speech did just that. It certainly seemed to serve his purpose, with Labour well up in the polls at the weekend. However, for every consumer and media outlet that has cheered Miliband’s lurch to the left on energy policy, there has been one that has seen the massive holes. Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to dismiss it as a “back of a fag packet” gimmick shows the Conservatives aren’t running scared. Indeed, many inside the market and out are saying that such an ill-thought-through policy could never see the light of the day.

But Miliband has opened up the conversation. Two weeks ago, the question of whether environmental and social subsidies should be paid through the energy bill or through general taxation was barely discussed outside the industry. Now, these questions are on every newcaster’s lips. Many energy companies have seized the opportunity Miliband has so kindly provided to put their case, for once. Eon chief executive Tony Cocker wrote an open letter to Miliband: “I’m asking all politicians: Help me to get smart meters into more homes more quickly. Help me to get British homes up to a modern, energy-efficient standard. Help me to get UK businesses on top of their energy use.” It’s a plea repeated across the industry.
Miliband has raised the spectre of a price freeze. But more importantly, he’s given the energy industry a platform to explain just how the consumer’s bill is spent. There are already signs that ministers are listening, with energy minister Michael Fallon indicating a willingness to scale back green costs where possible and Greg Barker opening the door to a delay in Eco.
What will it take to keep the lights on and bills down while doing our best for the environment? What would be the unintended consequences of a bill freeze? Will breaking up the big six’s generation and retail businesses open up the market to competition? Email me at [email protected] or tweet #lightson and have your say in the big debate – started by Ed Miliband.

Ellen Bennett, Editor
[email protected]