The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is a government office tasked with the dual responsibilities of ensuring the continuity and affordability of the UK’s gas and electricity supplies, as well as promoting international action to mitigate climate change.
In fact they have 7 key responsibilities:
- To maintain security of supply for gas, power, heat and fuel to the UK population.
- To achieve the climate change targets of a reduction of emissions by 80% by 2050
- To source at least 15% of our energy from renewable resources by 2020.
- To ensure that our energy and fuel remains affordable to all households.
- Making policies that are equitable and address the most vulnerable and fuel-poor households.
- Supporting growth to the economy by leveraging existing infrastructure for power generation and supply, as well as making the most of opportunities presented by the growing green industry.
- Managing the UK’s energy legacy safely, securely and cost effectively.
DECC is headed up by Ed Davey, the government’s secretary of Energy and Climate Change. Along with his advisors, he makes the policies for the UK on such controversial matters as nuclear strategy, Shale gas, fracking and green energy. They are also working towards helping customers be more energy efficient, getting the supply industry to become more competitive, and encourage switching (although be aware that the government-backed schemes such as those promoted by local councils for group switching are no more effective at getting you a better deal than by using an energy-switching site). Further afield, they are tasked with reducing the impact of climate change in developing countries, as well as the UK, by incentivising business to use low-carbon technologies.
Do they hold much sway over the ‘big six’ suppliers? The relationship is probably one of mutual need yet distrust and antipathy. DECC has been putting pressure on suppliers to reduce their prices (or at least not to put them up at levels above the rate of inflation). This has had some effect in that the pressure from the government and the media resulted in at least one of the suppliers (EDF) announcing a somewhat smaller increase in prices of around 3.7% (compared with 8 or 9% by the other suppliers), albeit in light of a removal of the climate change levy that had been incorporated into price rises. It was a shrewd move on EDF’s behalf – they are seen as one of the ‘good guys’ compared to their peers and yet the smaller increase has not cost them anything since they have simply knocked off the money they would have passed on to their customers in the form of the levies. Whichever way you look at it, DECC is under pressure to deliver policies of substance given that energy has become such a political hot potato.