Government Advisers Leave amidst Concerns over Direction of Energy Policy

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Key government energy policy advisers have, reportedly, left or transferred their position in recent weeks, further raising concern over the direction of energy policy.  Highlighting a continuing internal struggle around support for renewables and emerging shale gas.

Slow pace breeds frustration

Ben Moxham, the Prime Minister’s adviser on energy and the environment has reportedly either left or transferred to the Cabinet Office after reportedly becoming frustrated at the slow pace of progress.  Ravi Gurumurthy has stepped down from his position as Head of Strategy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) where he was involved in the development of the energy bill.  DECC’s Director of Strategy and Futures, Jonathan Brearley, who had been involved in the development of the electricity market reforms, is also understood to have handed in his notice.

All three were regarded as proponents of subsidising offshore and onshore renewables development to help reduce the UK’s energy based carbon emissions.

Delay to investment?

There is speculation that the moves may be linked to influence from the Treasury over concerns on costs, effectively delaying the proposals.  Critics claim it is attempting to delay investment – particularly in offshore wind – and, instead, concentrate on exploiting shale gas reserves.  A Government offshore energy industrial strategy document, due to have been published last month, is understood to have been delayed after Treasury objections.

At the same time as proponents of renewable energy are leaving, Mr Cameron appears to be surrounding himself with climate change sceptics who are warning him that Britain cannot afford the cost of new renewables.  He recently appointed John Hayes as a minister working directly to him in Downing Street.  In his previous job in DECC, Mr Hayes criticised onshore wind farms and claimed he wanted to put the “coal” back into “Coalition.”

Barry Gardiner, Labour MP and member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, said: “There’s absolutely no question that the Government has been in wholesale warfare over this [energy policy]. The Chancellor seems to have been bought into this ‘theology’ that we’ve got to go down this route of shale gas and it’s the future of this country.”

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