Policy & regulation

May's shock announcement offers the chance for a rethink on energy policy positions which are out of touch with the UK's interests and Tory sentiment, says David Blackman,

They say a walk can clear the head. In Theresa May’s case, it seems to have done the trick. After spending five days in Snowdonia before Easter, the prime minister came down from the mountains to make today’s dramatic announcement that she will be holding a snap general election on 8 June.

Shortly, a vote to dissolve Parliament will take place and so called ‘purdah’ rules will kick in, putting all government business on hold.

For utilities, the big outstanding announcement is the mooted cap on energy prices in the consumer green paper, which had been expected within the next few weeks.

The paper may have bitten the dust, but expect its thinking to feed into the Conservative party manifesto.

The election provides an opportunity for fresh thinking in other areas. It could allow, for example, the Conservatives to water down their opposition to onshore windfarms. While the delivery of the nuclear programme remains bedevilled by teething troubles, the case for onshore wind continues to grow stronger. A report last week suggested that up to 1GW of capacity could be installed without requiring any subsidy thanks to plummeting costs.

The Tories had legitimate worries about UKIP, which has made opposition to windfarms one of its signature policies, at the time of the last general election. However, the UKIP electoral threat has faded since last summer’s EU referendum, providing May with more room for political manoeuvre. And, according to a recent poll, even though windfarms are hated in the Tories’ rural heartlands, a majority of the party’s voters actually support them.

If May is serious about keeping the lights on and bills low, she should use the upcoming election to start building a policy that has more to do with the national interest than appeasing her own backwoodsmen. 

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