Expert viewpoints

As part of its Review of Economic Regulation the government is considering reforming the appeals process for regulated utilities. This collection of articles written over a five-year period provides a blow by blow commentary by Maxine Frerk on appeals that have taken place across energy and water – drawing out lessons and bringing to life issues that government has raised.

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The new government’s recent “growth plan” has prompted huge debate and controversy. But whatever people may feel about the specific proposals, and who they benefit, it also raises relevant questions about the growth agenda more widely, and specifically for the utility sector. Associate Martin Hurst asks, how can the needs of net zero and the natural environment - both critical to utilities - be legitimately framed as good for growth?

With references to Ofgem being “incompetent”, to criticism of its “negligence” and “systemic failure to effectively regulate”, the House of Commons BEIS’ Select Committee’s latest report[1], on Energy pricing and the future of the Energy Market doesn’t pull any punches, writes Zoe McLeod, Sustainability First's Policy Director. 

But while it’s Ofgem’s turn in the spotlight, there are important lessons to be learned, and a warning, for all regulators and governments who oversee them. Time and time again, consumers and the environment are being failed by poor monitoring, slow enforcement and weak protections with often the most vulnerable worst impacted. This benefits no-one and leaves good companies tarred by the same filthy brush.  

The cross-party Committee calls for Ofgem to improve “its regulatory oversight, its decision-making processes, the use of its enforcement powers, and the quality of its governance.” With this we agree. A number of other regulators should also follow suit.


It is tempting in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to think we must focus on short term energy security. But the need to address the climate crisis and ensure a fair transition to net zero have not gone away. In fact it is more urgent than ever that we stick to our net zero targets. Accelerating action on climate change is the best way to improve our energy security.


As customers face an ongoing energy crisis there is an urgent need for targeted financial support. But the crisis has also underlined the need for wider energy savings and efficiency including a push for home insulation. This would not only help households struggling this winter but is essential in tackling the pressing challenge of climate change and the net zero transition.


With major changes ahead in energy and water there is a growing need to look across sectors. There have always been inter-dependencies but the focus on net zero creates new opportunities and risks. There needs to be more dialogue and joint planning. With Strategic Policy Statements being developed for water and energy the time is right to think afresh about these interactions and for the regulatory framework to evolve to support a cross sector approach

One of the mantras in regulatory circles at the minute is the need to focus on “whole systems”. Over recent years Ofgem has been expanding its thinking from simply “whole electricity system” to “whole energy system” to a position now where transport and heat are being brought into the picture. However, looking more widely still the strategic cross-sector issues between energy and water rarely get discussed. This Viewpoint aims to highlight where some of the important overlaps lie as a basis for encouraging more truly whole systems thinking.