The lectures address the latest developments in energy, water, digital markets and competition policy. This year’s series follows major policy announcements around the Net Zero goal and price control appeals across sectors which have raised some important questions around the future of competition policy and the regulatory support needed to support the green transition.
The series attracted over 1000 attendees in 2020, including economists working for regulators, competition authorities, companies in regulated sectors or in consulting, as well as policy makers, academics and lawyers.
This year, as a continuation from last year, the lectures will be all online. A leading economist or industry figure will speak for one hour and a specialist will provide a 20-minute response before handing over to the audience for questions.
LECTURE 1 | 7 October 2021
Power to the people: Building back better with a new kind of competition regime
The report by John Penrose MP examined how the UK can enhance its competition regime and how competition policy can support the economic recovery from Covid-19 and the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. This lecture will explore the key themes of the report including tackling consumer rip-offs and bad business practices; ensuring the competition regime is strong, swift, flexible and proportionate; ensuring new digital markets work effectively and enable disruptors to challenge incumbents; and also examine how to increase competition in regulated sectors to reduce the role of the regulator and reform the appeals process for regulatory settlements.
John Penrose MP
Thomas Sharpe QC, One Essex Court
Helen Weeds, Senior Advisor, Payments System Regulator
POSTPONED LECTURE 2 | 2 December 2021
LECTURE 3 |21 October 2021
Reflecting on rates of return: Lessons from recent and ongoing regulatory settlements and appeals
Disagreement over setting appropriate rates of return has been a key driver behind recent appeals of regulatory settlements, with different regulators and the CMA in hearing appeals taking often fundamentally different approaches in calculating the cost of capital. Falling interest rates combined with consumer and political pressure to reduce costs have made this a critical issue as past settlements have been criticised for being too generous. Some regulators have made specific adjustments to allow for outperformance or to ensure financeability. This lecture will review current methodologies, suggest potential alternatives and consider whether there should be a more consistent approach to calculating the cost of capital.
Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham
Paul Muysert, Panel Member, Competition and Markets Authority
Cathryn Ross, Strategy and Regulatory Affairs Director, Thames Water
LECTURE 4 | 28 October 2021
A new route forward for regulating digital markets
The Digital Markets Unit (DMU) has been established within the Competition and Markets Authority to set up a new pro-competition regime for platforms including those funded by digital advertising to create and enforce a new statutory code of conduct to give consumers more choice and control over their data and to oversee the ‘tech giants’. This lecture will give an insight into the DMU’s first months in operation and how regulatory and competition policy in this critical area will be developed.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive Officer, Competition and Markets Authority
Judge Douglas Ginsburg, Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Global Antitrust Institute, George Mason University
Victoria Hewson, Head of Regulatory Affairs, Institute of Economic Affairs
POSTPONED LECTURE 5 | 9 December 2021
This lecture has been postponed to 9 December 2021 – Reviewing the appeals process for the UK’s regulated sectors
See further details here >>
LECTURE 6 | 11 November 2021
Decarbonization and Supply Security: Lessons learned from the Texas and California Blackouts
In February 2021, some 4.4 million Texans were left without power, heat and running water for several days due to damage caused by severe cold weather. California has also suffered blackouts in the past 18 months in the context of extreme hot weather across the Western U.S. Both states are leaders in the deployment of intermittent wind and solar generation. Was the growing penetration of wind and solar the cause of these blackouts? Was it failures in their wholesale market designs? Was the availability of imports from neighbouring systems a cause of the problem? Would more storage have helped? Can we rely on wholesale markets alone to lead to adequate resilience of critical infrastructure? This lecture will explore the impact of these incidents and consider what lessons can be applied to meet decarbonization commitments, security of supply criteria, and economic efficiency goals while the respondent will draw out lessons for the UK market.
Professor Paul Joskow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Fintan Slye, Director of the UK System Operator, National Grid ESO
Michael Pollitt, Professor of Business Economics, Cambridge Judge Business School
LECTURE 7 | 18 November 2021
A review of the energy price cap and the future of switching
The dramatic recent increase in wholesale energy costs has raised questions as to whether the price cap can be maintained at a level that both protects consumers and enables the market to operate effectively. The cap on default tariffs was originally intended as a temporary measure with annual reviews and new legislation is required to extend it beyond 2023. It was never intended to cover a situation where energy suppliers were unable to offer fixed price tariffs below the level of the cap. In the light of recent market turmoil and as the 2023 deadline approaches this lecture will consider whether the cap remains the most appropriate solution for the problem it set out to solve or whether an alternative, such as auto-switching or some form of opt-in or opt-out switching, maybe more suitable in the medium term. It will assess past and future approaches, consider how the energy price cap has evolved since its inception and what new risks to the customer and industry might be posed by alternative approaches particularly in the light of current market developments.
Professor Catherine Waddams, University of East Anglia
Bruce Mountain, Professor and Director of Victoria Energy Policy Centre, Victoria University
Professor Stephen Littlechild , Fellow, University of Cambridge
LECTURE 8 | 25 November 2021
From the pandemic and Net Zero to PR24: The current outlook from Ofwat
In the wake of the pandemic and PR19 and with ambitious sustainability goals on the horizon, Ofwat is getting to work on PR24. This lecture will consider the factors that are contributing to the high level design for the new regulatory period, whether that be the importance of consumer engagement, the need for resilience in the face of climate change or the long-term investment needed to be put into aging assets, while also assessing the changes to government policy that might be needed to support future regulation.
Aileen Armstrong, Senior Director, Company Performance and Price Reviews, Ofwat
Dr Sarah Hendry, Head of Dundee Law School, University of Dundee
Karma Loveday, Editor and Founder, The Water Report
POSTPONED LECTURE 2 | 2 December 2021
Supporting the sector through the decarbonisation of heat: The role of policy and regulation
This lecture has been postponed to 2 December 2021.
The Energy White Paper laid out a bold vision for the future of heat which will prompt huge transformation of gas and electricity networks and the way we heat our buildings. Recent acceleration of climate reduction targets mean that this transformation will take place in a relatively short timescale, with gas boilers banned in new homes from 2023 and new gas boilers banned in existing homes from the mid 2030s. However important policy decisions about the relative role of heat pumps and hydrogen have yet to be resolved. This lecture will lay out the Government’s policy for the decarbonisation of space heating and consider the impact this will have on customers and existing gas and electricity networks, ensuring that all customers are treated fairly in the transition. It will also consider how regulation needs to evolve and how the potential risk of stranded assets in the gas networks can be mitigated.
Ben Rimmington, Director General, Net Zero Buildings and Industry, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
Paul Dodds, Professor of Energy Systems, University College London
Marcus Shepheard, Lead Analyst Residential Buildings, Committee on Climate Change
POSTPONED LECTURE 5 | 9 December 2021
Reviewing the appeals process for the UK’s regulated sectors
This lecture has been postponed to 9 December.
Recent appeals of regulatory settlements have thrown into light the different grounds for and bases of appeals in each sector. This lecture will examine the basis on which appeals are made, whether the current structure of different appeals processes is suitable; whether there should instead be a common basis to achieve consistency and if so what it should be; and whether appeals should continue to be considered by the Competition and Markets Authority, or by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (as recommended by the Penrose report) or another body altogether.
Michael Cutting, Competition Appeal Tribunal
Rachel Fletcher, Director of Regulation and Economics, Octopus Energy
Ian Thompson, Principal, Economic Insight