Happy new year to one and all. I trust you enjoyed a reducing, recycling and reusing Christmas as per my final blog of 2007! Well we have returned to a couple of big news stories this week, one which was widely reported in the press today regarding Medway’s decision to support an application to demolish an outdated coal power plant in Kent and replace it with another one, which burns coal despite nearly 9,000 objections. This will surely be a massive test for the Brown Government, which will have to decide how it’s to strike a balance between the need for continuing security of energy supply whilst at the same time giving, if they approve this application, a clear signal that in many respects not only is coal back, but as far as carbon emissions are concerned it’s a business as usual scenario being pursued! With supposedly 200 years of coal still available under our feet in the UK albeit extremely difficult to get at this is going to be both a crunch decision for Brown, but equally it will be interesting to see how the opposition parties position themselves with regard to the resurrection of the coal industry particularly given one lady’s single-minded thrust in attempting to destroy it 20 odd years ago (My – doesn’t that age me? It does seem a very long time ago!)

The other news story a bit closer to home concerned the "mauling" given to both officials and ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government following the introduction of Home Information Packs / Energy Performance Certificates. The Committee was withering in its criticism of the Department, "for overstating its achievements in its annual report in 2005, we criticised the Department. Simply omitting to mention failures, such as the troubled implementation of HIPs is no less unacceptable”. Ouch! In a similar vein, the permanent Secretary was chastised for suggesting that HIPs could not be introduced because of insufficient numbers of inspectors. This was deemed as casuistry given that CLG first watered down and then repeatedly delayed the introduction of HIPs. As the report concludes it’s too early to say what the precise impact of HIPs will actually have on the housing marketing, or on individual sales given the current state of the market. No doubt this particular bone will be fought over for weeks and perhaps months to come. For our part, my organisation will be doing its own customer research to find out what is really going on in terms of action on the ground as part of our national attitude and behaviour tracker. Watch this space! Whilst I am the first person to declare the importance of Energy Performance Certificates in changing people’s behaviour in the home around energy consumption, it will be an interesting play to see how important this Government feels they are relative to the attractions of ‘King Coal’.