Former Eon boss warns policy changes, Brexit and the snap election are stunting investment in the UK

Politicians have “severely damaged” investor confidence in the UK and the energy sector, according to Eon UK’s outgoing chief executive Tony Cocker.

Speaking yesterday at a National Skills Academy for Power (NSAP) conference, Cocker stated that unpredicted policy changes, including the decision to remove the levy exemption certificates for renewable schemes, alterations to the feed-in tariff regime, and the “unfortunate response” to the Competition and Markets Authority investigation have spooked investors.

Cocker also said Brexit and the “unnecessary election and the result” have further eroded investor confidence.

“This has really shaken the renewable part of our business but also across the entire sector as others will look at it and think that if they are making a change there, they could make changes elsewhere.”

He urged the new government to act to stabilse policy and reduce the risk premium investors are now costing into any UK ventures.

Cocker said: “The risk premium of investing in the UK has increased so legislators, please go back to consistent evidence-based policy, stable policy direction, to drive down that risk premium.”

This would return the UK to a position where “we were seen as the best country in which to invest” Cocker reasoned.

This is not the first time Cocker has raised concerns about a shift toward populist policy making in the place of plans developed with “deep evidence and consultation”.

In a recent interview with Utility Week, the industry veteran said that a decline in “evidence-based policy making” was causing the international investor community to ask “does the UK still believes in competitive markets?” 

At NSAP’s event Cocker added that Brexit is also likely to exacerbate a skills crisis in the energy sector by making it more difficult to find skilled employees.

He said: “The sector’s ability to attract colleagues from outside the UK, from across the European Union – will be curtailed by Brexit.”

Cocker highlighted the “very competitive” nature of the job market, and the need for the power sector to attract 220,000 new employees by 2020, “a very big numbers challenge”.

Cocker has now formally passed over leadership of Eon UK to his successor Michael Lewis.

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