In the 12 years covering the energy sector and now the world of net zero, I have seen many things. But I have to admit the news that Jacob Rees-Mogg is now the Business and Energy secretary floored me!
I have never met the man and I would be surprised if I will, however he is now our energy secretary and indirectly in charge of the policies that determine our wonderful sector and crucially, the net zero future of this country.
Greenpeace and others, bemoan his views on man made climate change and also his links with oil companies but I hope he can put that aside, he must think national policy first, not personal politics. I don’t find him the most personable of people but who knows? Perhaps he will surprise us all.
What is not a surprise is, as I predicted, a bailout for the energy sector to be announced today. If you watched her inaugural Prime Minister’s Questions, Liz Truss set out a vision to tackle the energy crisis with cash and more energy security including nuclear and oil and gas.
She dodged the question of who pays for it all, reiterating she didn’t believe in windfall taxes and that the energy sector should invest more, without fear of profits being hoovered up by HMRC.
If you have a free market it should operate as such but these are extraordinary times. It’s like wartime.
We do need the energy companies to invest, however they cannot get away with the fact that the price of power has reaped huge profits this year. We are in a crisis and the companies must take a moment to think. To empathise with those of us not so fortunate.
I know so many people in the energy sector and they are good people, who work hard and care about their society. The shareholders are a different matter but can’t they see, taking massive profits out at a time like this, when people face a winter choice of heat or eat, is immoral.
It’s also short term thinking. If we cripple the taxpayer with huge debts how will we have the cash to back the big energy security build we need?
I would hope Liz and new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, have the guts to say, energy companies you cover the cost of the bailout but, crucially, for a set period perhaps just this fiscal. They can recoup the profits in the longer term with government backing for big infrastructure projects.
We do need nuclear, plenty of it. We need for now, oil and gas, which we should get from our North Sea with carbon capture but again with caveats on timescale for extraction. We must build more renewables and explore new storage solutions in tandem.
And most importantly we must CUT OUR USE of energy.
Efficiency must become the priority for her government. We must invest in insulating older homes, building net zero estates in the future and using technology to regulate our use.
We cannot and must not turn away from net zero. We can’t slow down the pace of transition which is already lagging behind where it should be.
Liz Truss, Ress-Mogg and the energy giants have to get this right and they have to do it now.
Somehow, sadly, I suspect short term thinking may rule the day, let’s see later…