Why 2018 will be another year of volatility in politics

Why 2018 will be another year of volatility in politics

Written by Gareth Morrell, Head of Insights

When times are hard, citizens rarely cut politicians any slack. History shows us that if things don’t change quickly in desperate times, we’ll vote out our leaders in a heartbeat. Political instability sparked by the First World War and the Great Depression saw the UK vote in (and out) six prime ministers in less than 15 years; Weimar Germany got through 14 Chancellors in the same period before settling on the Nazi party in 1933.

The next 12 months in the UK are unlikely to be short of hard times and political complexity, with a precarious economy, staffing issues in the NHS and the distraction of Brexit negotiation. So what might 2018 hold in store for our politicians? While avoiding making specific predictions, three interacting trends seem likely:

  1. Volatility and change seem inevitable: The prospect of another election in 2018 is a realistic one. This would provide just another opportunity for a display of fickle voting and party disloyalty from the Great British public. The British Election study showed that 20% of Labour and Conservative voters in 2017 voted for a different party just two years earlier. Polling suggests that of those who voted Labour in 2017, over a quarter of them decided to do so in the last few days of the campaign or on the day of the election itself.
  2. The emotive lens will continue to drive campaigning: That people make up their mind so close to an election just shows the importance of campaigns. While it might be practical solutions that make a difference when times are hard, it’s actually often an appeal to the emotional that is successful: tapping into strong forgotten political identities at best, to nationalistic manifestations of deep-seated prejudice at worst. In fact, in recent years in the UK, emotive narratives have turned campaigns around. Leave campaigners in the Brexit referendum were attracted by emotive arguments that tapped into their distinct sense of sovereignty and Britishness. Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign provided a fresh approach and hope for a demographic that previously felt marginalised by common political discourse.
  3. Little movement in tackling long-term challenges: Taken together, the two previous trends suggest that action and progress on long-term solutions to complex national or global challenges seem unlikely. And as citizens, we’re often aware of this. Recent research shows little optimism across the globe in tackling climate change, with over half of the British public believing that the problem will not be adequately addressed by a sufficient number of governments.

All this suggests a busy time at Westminster in 2018 for those in the thick of political action, but potentially further frustration and bemusement from the rest of the country just looking for a bit of stability.

What energy milestones can we expect to see in 2018?

What energy milestones can we expect to see in 2018?

Written by Michael Zdanowski, Head of Energy

I ask this pertinent question as 2017 saw a host of milestones in the energy space. Low-carbon sources generated more UK electricity than fossil fuels last year for the first time. 

2017 was a breakthrough year for wind, which made a greater contribution to UK electricity needs than coal in every month except January. The cost of subsidies for wind has halved since 2015 with two firms willing to build offshore wind farms for a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23.

Though gas use remains high providing 40% of the UK’s power, the country’s rapid progress in decarbonisation has been seen in the decrease in coal’s share in the electricity mix to less than 7%. Symbolically, in 2017 the UK marked its first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution and on 7 June 2017, for the first time in the UK, wind, nuclear and solar all generated more energy than both gas and coal combined. Consequently, Christmas Day was the “greenest ever” in the UK.

Interestingly, the UK made progress in low-carbon electric vehicle infrastructure too by installing 2,833 public EV charging points. This is nowhere near the number of EV charging points that were installed in France or Germany but at least suggests progress in a key area.

With the costs of renewable energy falling rapidly and the need to accelerate decarbonisation accepted by Government and the wider population, 2017 will surely become remembered as the year when decarbonisation became a “given” and no longer part of an energy “trilemma” or “dilemma”. 

This point, brilliantly articulated by Laura Sandys, Dr Jeff Hardy and Professor Richard Green in their seminal report Reshaping Regulation: Powering from the Future, frees policy-makers from the intellectual straightjacket of the “energy trilemma” and provides fresh impetus for policy makers to change the various levers relied upon for the past decade.

What of 2018? What will be the key milestones this year?

First, we can expect the UK to break many of the milestones around renewable penetration that are listed above. Is it possible for the UK to go 48 or even 72 hours without coal at some point in summer 2018? I’d certainly like to think so given the rapid integration of renewables and storage. 

Yet, the march of renewables is likely to “stress-test” a grid that was designed for a point-to-point system. Will the UK approach the tipping point encountered in recent years by South Australia? Hopefully not. 

The low carbon revolution will continue in transport. Alongside 18,000 electric charge points in the UK, and many more charge points in the capital, we can reasonably expect on current trends that UK electric vehicles’ share of new registrations will cross the landmark figure of 5% in 2018. 

Last year, not only did the UK Government promise to phase out combustion engine cars by 2040 but demand for electrified cars reached a record high in 2017 with almost 120,000 alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) hitting UK roads – a 34.8% uplift.  Look out in 2018 for a significant expansion in workplace charging.

The spectre of the UK’s departure from the EU looms over energy policy in 2018. We should gain clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU Internal Energy Market, Euratom and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Some form of associated membership of existing European institutions is likely but not guaranteed. 

Domestically, it’s likely that we’ll see an absolute price cap on energy to assuage consumer complaints about high energy costs though many experts say that market intervention is unlikely to deliver the benefits envisaged by the policy. This issue will rumble on. Despite the political turbulence, the UK’s consumer retail energy market remains attractive hence Shell’s acquisition of First Utility late last year.

We might see a boost for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in 2018 with renewed Government interest shown in the Clean Growth Strategy that could result in significant funding for one of the UK’s many CCS projects. Shale gas looks as though it might gain momentum in 2018 in the UK.

In the oil and gas industry, the global hunt for new sources of oil is forecast to slow by around £3bn in 2018 despite rising oil prices. This has been interpreted as a harbinger towards a concerted shift away from exploration into low cost and lower risk exploration opportunities but it reflects the abundant opportunities provided by shale oil in the U.S. 

The oil and gas major look set to continue to diversify rapidly in 2018. BP’s $200m investment in solar firm Lightsource, Europe’s largest solar development company, testifies to the industry’s new commitment to renewables.

It is obvious that 2018 will see remarkable activity and change in the energy market. Disruption in the energy market will accelerate with alacrity, and the quest for decarbonisation is now almost universally accepted. Therefore, beyond some broad trends identified above, profound market disruption means that many of this year’s milestones might be ones that are simply too left-field to predict.

Madano is a fully integrated communications consultancy that specialises in advising clients in sectors where communications are critical to success. 

Madano launches new Technology practice

Madano launches new Technology practice

Strategic communications consultancy Madano has launched a new Technology practice as the next step in the company’s growth strategy.

Madano has appointed Dominic Weeks as Head of Technology. Weeks joins from SHIFT, Madano’s award-winning US-based sister company, where he was a Vice President in the Boston office specialising in data-driven communications programmes for technology clients.

Technology complements Madano’s focus on complex, highly regulated sectors such as Energy, Transport, Built Environment and Healthcare – all areas where technology plays a crucial role.

Dominic said of his appointment:  

“As well as belonging to the same family under Avenir Global, Madano shares with SHIFT a passion for evidence-based insights fuelling strategic and creative communications plans that move the needle on clients‘ business objectives. I am excited to be joining the team at Madano and returning to London at a fascinating time for both the UK technology and communications industries.”

Dominic has thirteen years of communications experience, split evenly across both sides of the Atlantic. As Vice President at SHIFT, he delivered strategic positioning and creative campaign recommendations that helped companies increase brand awareness and drive action among their target audiences. Specialising in technology, security and fintech accounts in both the B2B and B2C realms, Dominic has a proven track record of driving successful programmes for clients from blue chip corporations to start-ups. He has also been responsible for expanding SHIFT’s international network over the last three years, helping clients share a compelling and consistent message to their audiences across the world.

Michael Evans, Managing Partner of Madano, added:

“The creation of a new Technology practice is an exciting step in Madano’s growth strategy, complementing the creation of a new Transport sector in October last year. These are all complex, highly regulated sectors, and there are clear overlaps between them. Madano’s ability to provide deep sector expertise across all these areas gives us unique capability to serve the innovators that are leading development and bridging these sectors with new technologies like autonomous vehicles and demand-responsive energy systems.

“Dominic is a perfect fit for Madano – with deep knowledge of technology coupled with experience advising businesses and organisations at the very highest level.”

Madano‘s Technology practice will advise clients on the complex challenges and opportunities that affect the technology sector directly, and affect other sectors‘ technology. This includes highly topical issues like interactive, mobile and predictive technology, and how they impact sectors like consumer products, transport, buildings, urban systems and energy systems. The practice will help clients with insights and intelligence, brand development and positioning, reputation management and stakeholder engagement, integrated communications, bid and project support, and issues management.

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