Update : 10 December, 2014. DECC has now released the energy price impacts.
On the eve of the deadline expiry, DECC yesterday responded to REF’s Freedom of Information request for the ‘estimated impacts of energy and climate policies on energy prices’; data inexplicably omitted from their study titled Estimated Impacts of Energy and Climate Policies on Energy Prices and Bills (2014). Their response can be read here.
The price impacts (p/kWh) of Government’s green policies have been published in all previous issues of this key document, and indeed are explicitly referred to in its title.
Price impacts are extremely important because they permit analysts and members of the public to assess the raw impact of policies, before the claimed offsetting impacts of energy efficiency, for example, are taken into account. This allows the reader to form a view of the plausibility of the offsetting effects and also to estimate impacts on particular users rather than on the ‘average’ users upon which DECC’s study focuses. This latter point is very important for business consumers, because businesses vary so much, with the ‘average’ business being almost meaningless.
The price impacts reported in DECC’s previous studies are very high; for example, in the 2013 study DECC calculated that green taxes increase electricity prices by 26% to 44% for households in 2020, and 33% to 77% for industrial and commercial consumers.
Because of changes in DECC’s own fossil fuel price forecasts there is good reason for thinking that the upper end of these price impact estimates may be even higher, due to cheap gas. This makes the exact price estimates of great importance, which is why their deliberate omission from Estimated Impacts 2014 is so reprehensible, and why we submitted our FoI request.
In response, DECC has refused to disclose to us the price impact data we requested, but has done so on the questionable ground that they have now decided to publish the data themselves. When they will do so is unknown.
Since the department had recently refused to provide exactly this information in response to a Parliamentary Question from Lord Ridley, we can only conclude that our FoI, perhaps combined with pressure from other quarters, had made it clear that attempts to withhold this information could neither be defended nor sustained.
While we are pleased that DECC recognises that it should not have removed the price impact data from the 2014 edition of Estimated Impacts, the refusal to disclose the information immediately is unsatisfactory, and seems to us to be in contravention of the spirit of the FoI laws.
The department’s motivation is obvious. In effect, by refusing to disclose information on the grounds of imminent publication, DECC has evaded the deadlines implicit in the FoI regulations and has succeeded in retaining control over the timing and manner of the release of the data.