There is a view that stakeholders will always fight for their own advantage. They will never agree. Governments need to decide policy for themselves, without being ‘captured’ by lobbyists. The role of government is to decide on a course of action and push it through. Unfortunately the next government may take the opposite view and that makes it difficult for long term investment in things like energy.
In my last blog I highlighted the risk to long term energy investments of changes of policy by future governments. Is there a way that a more collaborative approach might lead to better policy and reduce policy risk for investors?
In a modern business like Siemens we know that it is important to encourage ‘generative dialogue’ that incorporates many ideas. It builds and refines better solutions than a destructive adversarial approach that focusses on what is wrong with an idea. Governments need to take a similarly collaborative approach to energy policy.
The present government recognises that partnership with industry can bring benefits.
For decades the concept of having any industrial strategy was frowned upon in the UK, (although not in the rest of Europe.) Now it is part of the name on the door at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This has also encouraged a more collaborative approach to the industries affected.
There have been good examples of a more collaborative way of making energy policy in recent years. The latest being the Carbon Capture Use and Storage Cost Reduction Taskforce where government facilitated an industry discussion about a future policy. This has been a collaborative process with a genuinely open brief. As a member of the taskforce I can say that whilst different people stated the case for their part of the industry there was respect and understanding of others positions and a desire to seek a win-win outcome that would work for all.
This kind of open dialogue with interested stakeholders is more likely to uncover better ideas, generate consensus and help align industry to deliver policy objectives than the traditional written consultation and response process. Written consultations tend to come after policy thinking has happened behind closed doors. By their nature they encourage responses that identify pitfalls of the ideas rather than building on them, polarising views.
I-Gov recently called for a specific ‘consensus building body’ to be part of new governance arrangements for the UK energy system.
As technology changes energy policy needs to change too. That calls for the right enabling frameworks and an agile approach. If government has spent time developing a clear sense of direction with stakeholders then quite significant changes will be accepted and understood.