First published in Industry Link – 29.09.15

Writing this autumn edition, following as it does the long parliamentary recess, is always tricky. Whilst the PM’s well deserved holiday(s) provide riveting gossip
column material – Cameron eats Pringles on EasyJet etc – major energy policy announcements, the bread and butter of this column, are thin on the ground.

I could of course dissect the Labour party leadership election – which would be infinitely more interesting – but this is outside my remit. That said there have been some important developments since Parliament returned following the general election. In particular the Chancellor has delivered his Stability Budget and launched the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

The CSR will report in late November and will identify further savings the Government believes are necessary to eliminate the deficit by 2019-20.

Since (unprecedently) officials have been asked to model two scenarios of 25% and 40% savings in real terms, this could have a major impact on non-protected Government departments, not least our friends at DECC. This is important because the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s funding makes up the bulk of DECC’s overall expenditure.

As the trade association for the nuclear industry we have therefore argued strongly that the review should recognise decommissioning and cleaning up the UK’s legacy safely, securely and cost-effectively as a national priority, and act accordingly. Quite simply major progress has been made over the past decade since the NDA was created and any pause to the process could prove very costly in the longer term, both to the country and the nuclear supply chain.

Readers will recall that in the two year lead up to the general election energy prices were a hot political potato, and in a bid to defuse the issue the Coalition Government referred the matter to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CMA has finally published its provisional findings, identifying the main problem as engaging customers in the retail market and, importantly from our perspective, concluding that competition in the wholesale gas and electricity markets worked well.

Whilst this will probably not put the story completely to bed – electricity prices are too politically charged for that – the report concluded there was no negative impact from vertical integration and therefore no case for reverting to the pool system. The removal of this threat to the status quo is helpful from a nuclear new build perspective.

More good news came from Amber Rudd, who told the Energy and Climate Change Committee in July that Government were committed to building new stations to maintain nuclear’s proportion in the mix, and she anticipated ‘a happy conclusion’ to the Hinkley Point C investment decision later this year. Hopefully therefore my next column will be reporting good news!

Despite my assertion in the first paragraph, it would be remiss of me, given its importance, not to conclude this column with a few remarks on the nuclear implications of Jeremy Corbyn’s election.

For the last few years the NIA’s presentations have emphasised the bipartisan support for new nuclear, and until the past few weeks our expectation was this would continue post-election. This seemed eminently reasonable given the support on the Labour benches and the fact the current policy was initiated by them (in the 2008 White Paper).

Recent developments have dramatically illustrated the need to avoid complacency. In parliamentary debates over the past few years there have only been a handful of Labour politicians opposed to nuclear power. However one of them is now at the top of the party.
Jeremey Corbyn has said he is ‘passionately opposed to nuclear power and nuclear weapons in equal measure’.

Mr Corbyn has emphasised these are his thoughts rather than firm policies, and they could well change, if the experience of Chris Huhne or Ed Davey are any precedent, when he is exposed to the arguments.

It will however be important for nuclear supporters within the party to make the energy security, climate change and industrial case for new nuclear stations without delay.

Peter Haslam, Public Policy Adviser, NIAPeter Haslam
Head of Policy

Introduction to the Labour Shadow Energy Team

Following Jeremy Corbyn MP’s election as leader of the Labour Party in mid-September, he appointed some of his closest allies to shadow cabinet positions. This included the rising star of the left, Lisa Nandy MP, who became Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Nandy replaces Caroline Flint MP who held the post for four years. Corbyn has provided Nandy with a diverse group made up of six Shadow Ministers, more than double the size of the Government’s front bench energy team. The future of Labour’s policy on civil nuclear energy is undecided, but one thing we do know for sure is they are keen for costs to come down. We expect there to be shifts in policy positions from the shadow cabinet in the coming months. We may even see changes in the way policy is developed with the removal of open policy forums.

The Labour Party put new nuclear back on the agenda. Since taking her post, Nandy has stated there is a role for nuclear but not at any cost. Nandy has made initial challenges on the cost of Hinkley Point C, in her Labour Party Conference speech and most recently calling for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to hold an inquiry to look into this matter. Meg Hillier, the Chairman of the PAC is yet to respond to this request.


Lisa Nandy MP | Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

MP for Wigan since 2010, Lisa Nandy is tipped as a rising star of the left of the Labour Party. She previously served as Shadow Minister for Civil Society. Her main focus in Parliament was previously on education, charities and the Olympics.

Since becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Nandy has said

“There is a role for new nuclear power stations to provide us with low-carbon power supplies but not at any cost.”

Barry Gardiner MP | Shadow Energy Minister

Barry Gardiner has been the MP for Brent North since 1997. He held several junior ministerial roles during the previous Labour Government and served on the Energy and Climate Change Committee during the last administration. Gardiner also served as Ed Miliband’s special envoy for environment and climate change from 2011 to 2013.

He has voted in favour of civil nuclear energy, but is sceptical of the economic case. In 2013 he stated that he supports nuclear “it is needed as a baseload source”, but had concerns around the high costs associated with the new build programme. Since becoming part of the Shadow Energy Team, Gardiner has said nuclear should and must be part of global decarbonisation mix.

Dr Alan Whitehead MP | Shadow Energy Minister

First elected as MP for Southampton Test in 1997, Dr Alan Whitehead is a strong nuclear critic. He was a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee for six years and is also chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group.

Despite having a strong voting record supporting nuclear and Labour’s energy policy, he has been vocally anti-nuclear, emphasising concerns around the high costs of new build and decommissioning. He previously led an anti-nuclear campaign when nuclear was first put back on the agenda by Tony Blair in 2006.

Clive Lewis MP | Shadow Energy Minister

Clive Lewis is the youngest MP in the Shadow Energy Team, elected in May 2015 for Norwich South. Before entering Parliament he was a BBC News reporter. Since entering Parliament he has been seen as close to Corbyn, and was one of his early backers. He became a member of the Public Accounts Committee in July 2015, but has since stepped down to take this role.

On nuclear, Lewis is anti-trident, but has yet to voice his views on civil nuclear. He has close links to Unite and recently tabled a question about NDA pensions asking for the Secretary of State to meet with relevant trade unions.

Harry Harpham MP | Shadow Energy Minister

MP for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough since May 2015, Harpham joins Lewis as of one of the newly elected MPs to join the Shadow Government. Harpham’s is a former miner, and previously worked for former MP David Blunkett, both as his researcher and his election agent.

Following his appointment as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Nandy, Harpham said

“Climate change and energy prices are matters which affect us all, and over the next few years politicians will face serious choices over the future of energy in Britain. From fracking and funding for renewables to carbon capture and the role of nuclear power.”

Baroness Bryony Worthington | Shadow Energy Minister

Baroness Worthington became a Peer in 2011, and joined the Shadow Energy Team in the House of Lords during the previous administration. She is a leading expert on climate change policy and carbon trading, previously working for Friends of the Earth and, separately, helping draft the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Baroness Worthington has recently voiced support for fracking, believing the move away from coal will reduce the UK carbon emissions. On nuclear, she has moved from being anti-nuclear to supportive, becoming a strong advocate for Thorium. She is the patron of the Alvin Weinberg Foundation.

Lord John Grantchester | Shadow Energy Minister

Christopher John Suenson-Taylor, 3rd Baron Grantchester joined the House of Lords in 2003. He has previously served as an Opposition Whip.

On nuclear he has raised questions on the high costs of the new build programme and concerns around the progress of Hinkley Point C.

dowlingRachel Dowling
Public Affairs Executive