“It’s the economy stupid” said Bill Clinton

21st May 2018


Ahead of the 1992 Presidential election, in the much-fabled “war room” at the Clinton Campaign HQ there was a huge sign that read “It’s the economy stupid”. It was a reminder of that key aspect of any successful campaign, message discipline. The problem with such an approach is that you only tend to measure the success (or otherwise) of the approach when the campaign is over and the result is in.

However, you can get indications. And in our industry, we could look at what others say. Last week, a paper from the University of Exeter and the UK Energy Research Centre into “Incumbency in the UK heat sector and implications for the transformation towards low-carbon heating” was published. In short, academics who think heat pumps and district heating are the future have written an assessment on the gas industry.

OK, it isn’t meant to be complimentary. Cynics might think it is a hatchet job written in polysyllabic words, and yes EUA gets a mention (well several actually). They are supposed to be critical, so in the name of transparency, I thought I’d share their observations.

One page 26 of the study it says “trade associations which represent the heat appliance sector were also lobbying Government specifically around hydrogen and they saw the main protagonists as the EUA”. On page 27, they go on to say that “EUA had been actively lobbying Government, stating some difficult truths” and that “there was a belief that the EUA and HHIC are particularly active in this sector”. The paper also refers to the EUA Manifesto, issues ahead of the snap 2017 general election, which accused EUA of suggesting that the UK uses existing gas network infrastructure “as part of the solution to the trilemma and “green” gas could be the key.”

Far from being upset, I’m chuffed to bits so far, but it gets even better.

On page 44 of their work, they highlight “other elements of coalition and network building in the UK heat sector” specifically citing one of my tweets which read: “just finished an interesting meeting with industry, trade unions and wider stakeholders on the future role of gas” and wait for it, a member of the senior leadership team of a GDN had the nerve to retweet it. Apparently, it implies “active work to build a network with a focus on maintaining the gas system”.

I’ll finish with a proud moment. The report quotes from an interview conducted as part of the research which takes aim at EUA. “They seem to have made a strategic decision … to focus on protecting gas, And then at the same time that they started doing that, this whole narrative around hydrogen stuff is emerging as well, it’s like they’ve said ‘we-re only going to have one message, and it’s going to be this.’”

No, “it’s the economy stupid”.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE