The Blame Game


July 18, 2013

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It was RWE npower that, this week, broke ranks with the rest of the UK’s ‘big six’ power companies to warn in a report that UK government measures for green energy would push consumers’ bills up by 19%.

It seems a risky move from a firm whose renewable division has made great strides in on- and offshore wind projects.

After all – it is a given that energy bills will rise one way or another. Generally, it seems that anti-wind energy campaigners tend to adopt the view that clean energy policies are responsible for substantial rises in bills, whilst many others point to the costs of buying gas internationally on the spot market.

So, as a major power utility, it might not have been a bad idea for the firm to be perhaps encouraging consumers to look at ways in which they can reduce their electricity usage first.

But on further examination, there seems to be more to this. Back in March, it was the firm’s CEO, Paul Massara, who warned that the government shouldn’t agree a long-term subsidy deal with the nuclear industry as it would leave consumers with ‘unnecessarily high bills’.

Play the trick once, and you might just get away with being seen as on the side of the consumer – despite the fact that the firm made huge profits over the 2012 winter as consumers turned up their heating.

Play it twice, and it starts to look like a cheap shot at the government.

When viewed back to back, however, both warnings also risk positioning the firm as indecisive. If it isn’t nailing its colours to the nuclear or clean energy mast, what is the firm backing? Shale gas?

It’s all well and good trying to be a consumer ally, but public memories can be long as well as short.

And trying to blame the government whist enjoying strong profits doesn’t always sit well with the public at large.

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