Another week, another headline about renationalisation – and this time it’s the networks’ turn. It seems utilities are fated to remain relentlessly in the political spotlight over their ownership this year.
They may have known it was coming, but it is now becoming unnerving, not least because, as this column goes to print, much is being made about the forthcoming European elections, the rise of the Brexit Party and its potential impact on the electoral maths and balance of power at Westminster.
Utilities will not have missed the implications of what it could mean for them if Labour were to ultimately benefit from the fallout and gain more seats, as some parliament watchers predict.
And just as their water company counterparts did last week, networks have now been forced to publicly step up to the plate, argue their corner and shout about their track record, spurred on by the release of Labour’s more detailed vision paper Bringing Energy Home.
Networks claim renationalisation would be turning the clock back, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for an industry that is already transforming and making important progress towards a more efficient, green energy system – one fit for the UK’s ambitious future decarbonisation targets ahead.
They have pointed to the risks of delaying or curtailing the deployment of cutting-edge innovation at a key moment in the climate change battle when the levels of clean energy being delivered are at a record high.
They highlight the widespread concern that such upheaval could damage investment, stability and lead to long-term legal wrangling, and they have reiterated once more why they are the best custodians of such lifeline services.
And all this when time is on no-one’s side.
Those in networks with long memories point out that such systemic change by government (as with privatisation) does not come quickly, nor cheaply. We need only look to the paralysis caused by Brexit to know that nothing has changed there.
As former Labour MP Angela Smith says in her recent interview, rather than talking about who owns networks, shouldn’t we be thinking about what needs to be done?
At a time when decarbonisation is critical, when we have a growing population and a burgeoning demand on supply, it should be the challenges facing networks and water companies that are the focus of everyone’s agenda, not ideologies. This is all too important to get wrong.