Written by Matthew Dolman, Senior Account Executive, Madano Energy Practice
You would be forgiven for tuning out much of what’s going on in politics a year on from the EU Referendum – the initial aftermath of Brexit is nothing if not chaotic, discordant and noisy.
For the energy sector, highly regulated and interconnected with Europe, the resulting uncertainty and delay makes for an ear-splitting headache – as well as weakened investor confidence and a real risk of missing climate targets.
Defining the problem
Several things are clear:
- Brexit is a massive undertaking, and the Government’s majority is wafer thin, so it has little bandwidth to do anything but the bare essentials.
- There’s a huge backlog of domestic policy decisions on energy, industry and the environment, and it’s been mounting for years under various ministers.
- The energy sector has a long list of wants and needs, many of which need resolving quickly and not all of which are complementary.
Ministers have much to do, so listening is difficult. Even when they try, it’s likely there will be too many voices to make out the tune.
Finding a solution
Speaking as an ex-musician, I like the way the World Energy Council uses three musical scenarios to explain policy change.
Players in the energy industry need to find a way to sing in harmony, cut through the Brexit noise, and communicate effectively to Government.
The question is, can it be done with so many disparate voices in the sector?
- At this week’s Energy Institute debate on how Brexit impacts energy – just after the publication of the Energy Barometer – the most interesting take-away was the consensus on things like agreeing transitional arrangements, not exiting EURATOM, and negotiating access to the Internal Energy Market (IEM).
- A recent report argued that the key to securing an outcome beneficial for both the UK and the rest of the EU is to make sure business holds a strong voice in negotiations.
If there is consensus on big-ticket items, I think it is possible to steer the Government towards outcomes that are beneficial for the UK and palatable to the EU.
Forming the choir
What are the solutions?
- Influencers in the sector need to focus on the number one priorities – examples include the Clean Growth Plan, answers on EURATOM, and our trading relationship with Europe. Everything else is white noise.
- Where possible, industry should come together on areas of commonality, potentially building to a ‘sector deal’, and communicate a clear, crisp message with a single voice.
- Given Whitehall’s limited bandwidth, Government will struggle on a holistic view of energy – but as a technical sector that isn’t a political hot potato, it’s possible to deliver smart market insights and intelligence in a way that hands ministers the answer.
There’s no guarantee of success. Only this week, BEIS deferred its Clean Growth Plan, which while understandable probably won’t help alleviate concerns in the sector.
Despite this, the old wisdom rings true: appreciating your audience’s concerns and priorities, and clearly outlining your needs and the available solutions, is the best way to get what you want.
For energy, it’s a matter of singing from the same hymn sheet and building up the harmony.
Madano’s Energy Practice solves complex issues for UK and international clients around the energy transition and emerging technologies. The team helps companies and organisations tell their story against the backdrop of profound transformation and disruption in the energy sector through strong insights and research, strategy, narrative and message development, government stakeholder and media relations work, and content development.