David Cameron, in a seeming attempt to show that he has some grip on the situation in the face of pressure from Labour leader Ed Miliband, has talked this week about cutting back on green energy taxes paid by households in their fuel bills and introducing more competition.
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But was the privatisation of the electricity and gas companies kicked off by Margaret Thatcher, and liberalisation of the marketplace, not meant to have got us to some kind of competitive utopia by now?
Mr Cameron talked about his desire to have more companies supplying electricity and gas. But this is likely to be as much of a forlorn hope as efforts to achieve a meaningful increase in competition in the UK banking sector.
And the current situation in the UK energy sector is something of a shambles. At a time when security of supply should be paramount, we have had the electricity and gas companies, and industry figurehead Angela Knight, warning in dramatic terms about the lights going out.
These dire warnings were to be heard in the spring. And they were ramped up last month, after Mr Miliband said he would freeze energy bills if he won the next election.
His declaration has been followed by a new wave of eye-watering price hikes from the big players. Scottish Hydro owner SSE was quick out of the blocks with its announcement of an average 8.2% rise in household gas and electricity bills. Others followed suit, and Spanish-owned ScottishPower announced an average hike of 8.6% in household energy bills yesterday.
Among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations, the UK has been roughly in the middle in terms of its electricity and gas prices, so it is not the worst. But struggling consumers, budgeting for a long winter, can be justifiably annoyed that the leaders of the big electricity and gas companies are taking home bulging pay packets and bumper bonuses.
And then there are the shortcomings of electricity and gas suppliers which have prompted regulatory action. Regulator Ofgem said this week that it had found ScottishPower did not have in place appropriate management arrangements to adequately train and monitor doorstep and telesales agents, and this had resulted in misleading information being provided to customers during sales approaches.The regulator said ScottishPower would pay £7.5 million to benefit vulnerable customers and establish a £1m customer compensation fund.
In the spring, Ofgem announced a £10.5m fine for SSE for "mis-selling", relating to breaches by the company of its obligations relating to telephone, in-store and doorstep sales activities.
So much for the utopia of a privatised and liberalised market.
But the biggest issue is the seeming inability of the UK Government to get us to a place where there is no danger of the lights going out. There is also a question in this context about the wisdom of the Scottish Government's opposition to new nuclear power plants north of the Border. Douglas Millican, chief executive of the publicly-owned Scottish Water, recently highlighted the importance of forming strategic priorities for the next 25 years, in consultation with customers and the Scottish Government in its role as owner.
Scottish Water shows just what can be done in the public sector. Its household water and sewerage charges compare very favourably with those of the privatised English water companies.
And the type of long-term planning highlighted by Mr Millican was always the focus at the likes of the old South of Scotland Electricity Board, the predecessor of ScottishPower, before the Thatcher privatisation bandwagon rolled into town and complicated matters with the obligation to maximise shareholder value.
Privatisation also brought in high-earning executives who sometimes lacked experience of the industry.
These days, we seem to be hearing an awful lot of lobbying from the electricity and gas companies about how they will only invest in this or that area if the incentives are sufficient and the UK Government spells out what the future holds.
Such potential for friction would not have existed in the old days, when the interests of the Government, state-owned energy operations and customers were more in harmony and it was easier to take a long-term view in the national interest.
It is far from clear that the national interest is being served by the current arrangements. This is evident in the big energy suppliers' own warnings about the lights going out.
Even former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major has called for a windfall tax on energy company profits.
The horse has bolted in terms of electricity and gas suppliers being in the private sector, and there is no going back. Mr Miliband's proposal on freezing prices is worth exploring. But the current unsatisfactory situation in the UK energy sector points to the need for a much wider look at whether and how tougher regulation and the tax system might resolve the issues.