View from City Road: Darkness in the power industry

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The Independent Online
Professor Stephen Littlechild, the electricity industry watch dog, has barked loudly again at National Power and PowerGen but he still shows no taste for sinking his teeth into the market power of the two generators, or the cumbersome bureaucracy of the wholesale 'pool' pricing system.

He growls at them on the need for power station sales, and about the way electricity pool prices are determined. But he makes no attempt to be specific about what he wants.

It leaves investors, perhaps even the generators themselves, in the dark. The possibility of a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission has simply been pushed a little further down the road to the middle of January.

One view, hotly denied by Offer, is that he wants to avoid upsetting the Government's privatisation applecart with a reference that could result in an 18-month inquiry.

It is also suspected that Prof Littlechild simply has not managed to garner enough information on wrongdoing by the generators to justify sending them to the MMC.

The fact is that some of the concerns aired yesterday involve the pool mechanism itself and the responsibilities of the National Grid Company, as much as the behaviour of National Power or PowerGen. National Power, for one, may well decide to dig in its heels on station sales and send the professor away with his tail between his legs.