EON's George Dibley gives his take on CPC23

Dangerous rhetoric, less ambition and uncertainty for investors...

CPC23: Shaky Party, Shaky Britain

by George Dibley, E.ON

This year at the Conservative Party Conference was always going to be an interesting one for the energy sector, being prefaced by a new direction on net zero from the Prime Minister just weeks before.

“We’ve got to bring people along with us” was certainly the phrase of the week and although seemingly reasonable on the surface, comes loaded with a dangerous rhetoric about net zero, giving the government an excuse to be less ambitious and used to create more uncertainty for investors.

Let me be clear, the UK is a great place to invest in. At E.ON, we know this very well, having just signed a 15-year energy partnership agreement with Coventry City Council to invest millions in revolutionising the city’s energy use. However, international businesses are looking hard at where to invest their billions in the future, especially in the energy sector at this extremely crucial turning point, and the Conservative Party did not step up to the challenge with this conference.

I did not see a party selling Britain on the world stage; I saw a house divided, with a government more interested in landing easy (and frankly misleading) headlines and flirting with Nigel Farage than creating a long-term growth environment where everyone can feel the benefits.

The new rhetoric from the Government and many parts of the Conservative Party to drive a wedge between them and Labour at the next election is worrying many in the industry; we must not stray into a green vs cheap argument. Green IS cheap and will be the key to unlocking growth for the economy and cheaper bills for the public. There are many across the party and government that still get this and spoke passionately about it across the many energy-related fringe events, roundtables and dinners that seemed to dominate the agenda at this year’s conference. Unfortunately, it was not enough and was met with feelings of frustration from all around that the party leadership is going in the direction that it is.

One of the biggest and most costly barriers right now is the Government itself. If we had a proper plan for energy efficiency, a bold rollout of heat pumps, and the barriers removed to explode our EV charging network, then we could really ‘bring people along with us’.

As we look forward from the conference, we ready ourselves for another difficult winter (which also got little-to-no mention from the Government), as those who are already struggling to pay their bills or have already built-up significant amounts of debt since last year are crying out for long term, targeted support. Let us hope the Autumn Statement brings us more certainty because there wasn’t any to be found at the Conservative Party Conference 2023.