Publications

  • In defence of the Green Belt

    20th April 2015

    A growing band of economists and geographers have been arguing the Green Belt is no longer fit for purpose and that it should be opened up for housing development. The argument is based upon a chain of assertions and purports to be based upon sound economic arguments and empirical evidence – all of which are questionable, and some of which are wrong.

    Environment

  • Regulatory credibility and the irresistible urge to meddle

    16th April 2015

    When the great utilities were being privatised, one of the key objectives was to establish a regulatory regime which would be credible to investors and fair to customers. The way it worked was that the companies would be given fixed contracts ex ante, and these would be reset on a periodic basis. Within the period, prices would be fixed by an RPI-X formula. The logic was very clear: the only way in which the performance of the companies could be improved was to incentivise them to do so. Fixed-...

    Regulation

  • The Coalition Effect - Energy Policy and the Coalition

    26th March 2015

    The Coalition came to power with a ready-made energy policy developed under Labour. The Secretary of State was Ed Miliband, and his policy as it played out under the Coalition was to prove the basis of a return to a level of state intervention not seen since the days of the CEGB, British Gas and the nationalised industries. By the general election in 2015, the almost complete U-turn had been completed, abandoning most of the liberalised and competitive structures that had been the hallmark of...

    Energy

  • What should oil companies do about climate change?

    26th February 2015

    Imagine you are chief executive of a major oil company. Your economic forecasts tell you that the world remains stubbornly on a fossil fuel path for decades to come. The world is going to need you. But your forecasts also tell you that the result will be emissions that push up way beyond the level that your scientists tell you will limit global warming to two degrees. The world is on a path to burn all the oil you can find, and your oil will contribute to serious global warming. What do you do

    Energy

  • Competition in the British electricity sector: a set of practical reforms

    9th February 2015

    There has been widespread criticism of the performance of the British electricity industry over a number of years. These criticisms range across the full vertical chain. In the last couple of years the coal price has halved, and in 2014 the price of gas fell by over a quarter. The wholesale price of electricity in Britain is almost twice the level in northern Europe. Capacity margins have tightened so significantly as to require immediate short-term interventions. Retail prices have not...

    Electricity

  • The road to re-regulation

    12th January 2015

    The Labour Party has followed up its manifesto promise to freeze prices for 20 months if they win the General Election in May with a proposal for legislation now. Ed Miliband says: "We're going to bring before the House of Commons a vote in Parliament to say the government should bring forward fast-track legislation to ensure that we give the regulator...the power to cut prices." He is not alone. George Osborne has demanded falls in fossil fuel prices feed through to electricity customers, the...

    Energy

  • The price of oil

    3rd December 2014

    The recent falls in oil prices have come as a shock to many. Only a few months ago, the IEA and many other mainstream forecasters predicted the price would gradually go up. This fitted with the political assumptions that lay behind the dash for wind and current generation solar across Europe, and the Energiewende in Germany. Suddenly it is all change. Even the IEA has changed its tune. Europe’s dependency on Russia looks less worrying, whereas oil (and gas) producers like Russia are in real...

    Energy

  • What future for vertically integrated energy companies?

    4th September 2014

    The Big 6 British energy companies are under sustained attack from politicians and the media, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry is being urged to consider whether they should be broken up. Unsurprisingly the companies have been putting up a robust defense of their conduct, and have argued that the vertical structures are in the interests of customers. These arguments matter, but they are not the only ones – or indeed necessarily the most important. This short paper will...

    Energy

  • The Return of the CEGB - Britain’s central buyer model

    26th June 2014

    Though no part of any grand plan, and certainly not by intention, the British energy market has morphed from a liberalized quasi-competitive market into one that is driven by the state. It has happened largely by accident rather than design, but it also has a remorseless political economy logic behind it. It is the unintended consequence of a long series of well-intended interventions. The result is closer to the old nationalized industry command-and-control structures, which had the Central...

    Energy Regulation

  • Ukraine, Europe and Energy

    1st June 2014

    After a short pause, the borders of east and southeast Europe are again in flux, as they have been on and off since the early Russian people established Kiev as their capital. Crimea was annexed by Catherine the Great. The British and others fought the Crimean War in the nineteenth century and Russia’s imperial expansion towards the Balkans helped to trigger the First World War. Stalin created the greatest Russian empire – the Soviet Union – which Gorbachev lost. Putin regards...

    Energy Europe Infrastructure