Mark Thrower has written an excellent editorial in this month’s issue of Energy in Buildings and Industry. While the UK is in the early days following a general election, Mark’s editorial shows the “influence” of civil servants in changing the approach being taken within the ministry to comprehensive promote energy efficiency. We can only hope the new government will take a more positive approach. Your views will be appreciated.
Once a ‘game changer,’ the Energy Efficiency Deployment Office is quietly abolished
The Energy Efficiency Deployment Office has been summarily abolished – just three years after it was launched as his “number one policy priority” by incoming Energy & Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey on his first day in office.
Abolition was not initially announced publicly. Instead it was taken quietly by senior DECC officials just as the last parliament was dissolved, and well before any incoming Ministers’ views could be sought.
Ministers from both parties in the former Coalition Government always seemed to retain rather greater ambitions for the Office than DECC civil servants. This vision perceived it as a visible campaigner right across Whitehall, fighting to combat policies that might deter energy efficiency investments. They also envisaged EEDO as a potential game-changer within the Department itself, historically dominated by energy supply interests (see EiBI March 2010).
At the launch, Davey stressed the existence of EEDO was vital to permit the strategic case for demand side, rather than supply side, energy investment to be institutionalised within government. This was the case he reiterated when he insisted upon personally writing the foreword to first annual Energy Efficiency Strategy Report, published in November 2012. While the second such Report appeared in November 2013, no such publication was issued in 2014 – or indeed subsequently.
Initially ministers had been seeking both a high profile chair for EEDO, and a director drawn possibly from outside the civil service but certainly from outside DECC.
After heavy bureaucratic tussles lasting over 12 months, with at least two candidates proffered by civil servants rejected by ministers, former Virgin Group executive Peter Boyd was appointed chairman. He stepped down within two years, shortly after giving an interview to the Guardian highly critical of the effectiveness of policy. No attempt was made to replace him.
Throughout, the only director was a long-term DECC civil servant, David Purdy, who for almost half his tenure was only ever billed as “acting.”
It now seems that there will be no longer be any directorate within DECC charged with overseeing the strategic case for energy efficiency. Instead all administrative arrangements to oversee energy efficiency will be limited to running specific programmes aimed at specific sectors.
This effectively returns energy efficiency policy to the way it was managed in the old Department of Energy, prior to its abolition in 1992. At the time, such civil service arrangements were described as “deliberately sub-optimal” by the Commons Energy Select Committee.