The Irish border and energy – the forgotten issue?

The Irish border and energy – the forgotten issue?

Written by Evan Byrne, Account Executive in Madano’s Energy Practice.

Debates about the future status of the Republic of Ireland-Northern Ireland border have rumbled on since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in June last year.

However, what may surprise many is that since 2007 Ireland has had a unified energy market under the All-Ireland Electricity Market.

Also known as the SEM (Single Electricity Market), it provides a wholesale electricity market for the island of Ireland, regulated jointly by both the Republic and Northern Ireland. The SEM is vital in ensuring security of electricity supply and an affordable cost for consumers on both sides of the border.

While concerns over whether there will be a hard border or not dominate the headlines, concerns within the energy sector are over how the introduction of tariffs might impact Ireland’s energy system.

The Republic is highly susceptible to changes in the UK market because it imports all of its gas and electricity from the UK.

Since production began from Corrib gas field, Irish gas imports from the UK have fallen significantly (from some 97 per cent to around 40 per cent) but it is anticipated that the gas field’s output will halve by 2025. The Republic is still heavily dependent on the UK for oil imports, with nearly half its oil coming from its nearest neighbour.

If there is no exit agreement between the UK and EU, World Trade Organisation rules dictate the future trading relationship. Under WTO rules, trading primary energy products is not subject to tariffs, but there is uncertainty over the tariffs on the use of the two existing interconnectors between Britain and Ireland.

The Republic is taking steps to tackle the uncertainty, most notably with the advancement of the €1 billion ‘Celtic interconnector’ project, which will link Cork with France. The project is eligible for EU funding, and some preparatory work has been done, including a feasibility study.

But this piece of infrastructure won’t be in place by March 2019, when the UK formally leaves the EU, and is currently planned to be operational by 2025, meaning Ireland could have six long years with serious energy concerns and no contingency in place.

What does this all mean?  Ireland desperately needs, at the very least, a transitional arrangement to be agreed between the UK and EU by 2019 or, preferably still, a full and completed trade deal, though this remains very, very unlikely.  The alternative for Ireland is not fully clear but it would mean that the country would face similar problems and challenges that will affect the UK’s energy system after it leaves the EU, despite being an EU member state.

Getting the basics right when a crisis breaks – Stage 2

Getting the basics right when a crisis breaks – Stage 2

Written by Mark Dailey and Matthew Moth

Missed Stage 1 on how to get the basics right when a crisis breaks? Read it here

Stage 2 – Mitigate the Challenge

This is the hard work. Getting to grips with the problems driving the crisis. Putting in place initial solutions and emergency measures and then working to make the situation better and transition to permanent solutions.  The two key challenges for most companies are to make speedy progress and to communicate frequently enough – but with relevant, new information. You can over communicate by saying the same thing again and again.  

Key actions: moving from an initial emergency stance to working the problem; keeping key business processes running; setting the timescale for full recovery and establishing key milestones; ensuring all relevant stakeholders are updated; keeping these key audiences fully apprised of progress.

What’s new today: staff can be the best crisis ambassadors if motivated, mobilised and kept in the loop (as much as is possible). Key official messaging has to be centralised and controlled – but wider brand communication benefits from less control and more trust.

What doesn’t work: delegating responsibility. CEOs need to assume full ownership and responsibility and keep it until the crisis is over.

What normally goes wrong: progress is too slow; no clear setting out of the route-map to a return to normalcy; no setting of milestones so progress can be measured; no mobilisation of staff to help with the wider brand/reputation impact; infrequent and/or inaccurate communication; poorly delegated leadership

Key communications deliverables: here’s the clear plan for how we’re working the problem and how we’ll get back to normal operating procedures.

Make sure you follow Madano on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up to date with our latest news and views.

Getting the basics right when a crisis breaks – Stage 1

Getting the basics right when a crisis breaks – Stage 1

Written by Mark Dailey and Matthew Moth

Entire books have been written about how to manage a crisis from a communications point of view and there is no doubt that the specialist expertise across our international network of operations can be extremely useful in helping refurbish and restore reputations, both corporate and celebrity.

But perhaps somewhat surprisingly the basics are fairly well…basic…and there’s a good deal of agreement about what they are. 

We always tell you that it is much easier to deal with a crisis if you know it is coming – that forewarned is forearmed.   Scenario planning, risk mitigation exercises, game theory and horizon scanning are standard operating procedures for many companies and are integral parts of good business planning. 

But two pieces of bad news….

First, with the lightning pace of change and rampant uncertainty becoming the new norm, our ability to plan and manage, never mind ‘predict’ crises, has been rocked.  Even when systems or warnings are in place – think terror or cyber attacks – crises by their very nature take us by surprise.  

We are hardwired to extrapolate from what has been and expect more of the same.  That has to change. If you are going to scenario plan (and you should), you really have to get firmly out of the box and ‘think the unthinkable’, because that is just where real danger lies. 

Secondly, with today’s media and technology networks enabling instant communication – what is a troublesome wave one minute is a tsunami the next…..
So in a world where expecting the unexpected is the norm and technology has enabled real time reportage, what to do when that crisis envelopes you?  

Stage 1 – Understand the Challenge

The first thing is you can’t manage what you can’t understand. You need to do some fast situational analysis, gather intelligence and feedback from the coal face and decide as quickly as possible what has happened and what needs to happen. You need to frame the issue in a way you can address.   

While all of this effort is going on you need to show empathy, engagement and reassurance. Many a crisis has been made infinitely worse by spokespeople not showing emotion or empathy. 

This is job one and needs to be communicated upfront together with a commitment to resolve the crisis and the reassurance that this will happen swiftly and professionally. It’s about leadership not liability.   

Key actions: Invoke business continuity planning or crisis contingency within the company (particularly focusing on the incident site, customers and staff); establish executive command control centre (involve senior communications, HR and legal advisors from the start); decide key initial statements, messaging and key spokesperson(s) and publicise with relevant media; put emergency channels of communications into effect.

What’s new today: Social media. You need a strategy for monitoring and mobilising reaction amongst social media and be prepared to use Facebook, Twitter and respond to blogs/tweets.   

What doesn’t work: Stonewalling. Whatever it is, the truth will out. The cover-up is always worse.

What normally goes wrong – Too slow to react; too fearful of admitting liability so no empathy is shown; no coherent communications plan and too many spokespeople; too quick to move to stage 2 before fully understanding the problem or speculating on what may have gone wrong and having to change your position later; trying too hard control social media or not engaging at all.     

Key communications deliverables: Empathy, engagement and reassurance – we get it! And we are moving fast to fix it.  

Follow Madano on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep informed on what we’re working on and when the next parts of our blog will be published.

What next for UK nuclear? Gaining clarity on the UK leaving Euratom

What next for UK nuclear? Gaining clarity on the UK leaving Euratom

Written by Michael Zdanowski, Head of Energy at Madano.

This week Madano brought together leading figures from across the nuclear industry to discuss the UK government’s decision to leave Euratom as part of exiting the EU. 

Speakers included Dr Tim Stone CBE, Chairman of Nuclear Risk Insurers and Non-executive Director of the European Investment Bank, Fiona Rayment OBE, Director Government Programmes at the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Gordon Waddington, Chief Executive Officer, Energy Research Accelerator and former President of Rolls Royce Civil Nuclear.

From the discussion, it was obvious that leaving Euratom poses a number of major threats to the UK civil nuclear industry, in areas such as:

  • The transfer of nuclear fuel and material for energy production and for use in medical treatments
  • The transfer of critical components that enable the UK’s nuclear reactors to remain in operation and new reactors to be built
  • Future inward investment into the UK’s nuclear industry not just from the EU but globally
  • Attracting and retaining the best talent in the nuclear industry
  • The potential loss of the Joint Energy Torus (JET) nuclear fusion project in Culham
  • Research and development across the sector and supply chains
  • The damage done to the channels of collaboration between the UK and Europe in nuclear, carefully built over many decades

Attendees pointed to the fact that leaving Euratom could be easily prevented by the UK Government shifting its commitment to leaving the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). 

There was broad agreement in the room that effective communication with government is crucial and that the nuclear industry must speak with a single, consistent voice. This needs to happen quickly to safeguard the industry’s interests, given the volatile political landscape.

The feeling in the room was that, at present, it is not doing enough.

Critically, it was noted that in communicating the challenge of leaving Euratom, the UK nuclear industry should talk more forcefully about the medical context – how the Treaty enables the transfer of isotopes for diagnoses and radiotherapy, directly contributing to the health of the UK population. 

Attendees in the room agreed that this message is a valuable reminder that the industry has to deliver more nuanced and emotive messages to cut through a congested media space, very much focused on the initial UK-EU negotiations.

This event is the first in a number of events that Madano is running on UK energy.

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