It was hardly the ideal Christmas present for utilities.
News of a December general election may have heralded the end of the draining parliamentary impasse, for now. And we can all finally dare to dream of moving forward on the big issues, such as an energy white paper. But the political landscape has never been so unpredictable – not least for those water and energy companies staring down the barrel of nationalisation.
Ironically, the country goes to the polls in the same week that the deadline falls for gas networks to submit their final business plans to Ofgem, 9 December. And shortly after the 12 December vote Ofwat will be revealing its final determinations for PR19.
Yet if “McDonnellomics”, as the shadow chancellor’s historic economic reforms have been dubbed, end up winning the day, life in the industry will be wholly different on the morning after the election. Which, as some wags have pointed out, is Friday the 13th.
In the run-up to such a crunch moment it’s not easy for utilities to shape their corporate visions for the future.
At an operational level it must remain business as usual. Industry cannot afford to be distracted from keeping the taps running and the lights on. But higher up, as some Utility Week sources revealed this week, the advent of polling day is creating real concerns – both around the uncertainty it brings and how a change in government could affect investment.
Investors are worried about the future value of the assets they are currently in charge of. Likewise, companies want to know how they will be able to access capital – be it private or public.
All are exercised about whether they will be able to deliver on the far-reaching commitments they have made to regulators, and ultimately government, in their business plans.
On the plus side, industry has long been in upheaval mode. It knows the world has moved on, and that it must adjust to the climate emergency and transformative technology.
More unsettling for the sector is the fear it could potentially soon answer to a government applying management and oversight approaches more relevant to the 1970s and 1980s – such as having boards loaded with worker representation.
Along with the swathe of industry manifestos flooding in, comes a call for strong, independent leadership to continue if industry is to move at any speed towards net zero.
That would get my vote.