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Department of Trade and Industry: consultation on future energy policy

In June 2001 the Prime Minister asked the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) of the Cabinet Office to undertake a review of the strategic issues surrounding energy policy for Great Britain. The PIU published “The Energy Review” on 14 February 2002.

In welcoming the PIU report, the Prime Minister said, “The report raises many of the issues we need to discuss as we develop our energy policy. I hope that this report will launch a thorough debate.”

The DTI, working with DEFRA and other departments, launched a consultation document ‘Energy policy - key issues for consultation’ on 14 May 2002. The document built on the PIU’s findings, along with those of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) and relevant Parliamentary reports. The DTI was keen to ensure that the consultation on energy policy was as full and engaging as possible, and worked with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development (UKCEED) and Dialogue by Design. Dialogue by Design's role was to conduct an online consultation

To gather from a wide range of stakeholders their ideas on how to resolve some of the key dilemmas and challenges of an effective energy policy, to reveal the common ground and differences among strategic stakeholders and enable some comparisons with the results of consultations with members of the public, and thereby to inform the forthcoming Energy White Paper.

The process was intended to build on the responses from the focus groups and workshops and to allow a group of invited expert stakeholders to participate in open dialogue on energy policy challenges. The first session of the online process posed a number of key questions to a range of energy stakeholders and brought participants into a structured discussion of issues, based on a set of questions and materials intended to help them to take a fresh view of the field.

The electronic consultation continued with a second session, which enabled participants to review the results of session 1. This included seeing all the comments made for each question and the groupings in which they had been placed by the facilitators. They could also see a summary document prepared by the facilitators.

In Session 2 participants were given the opportunity to answer three subsequent questions asking about their views in the light of the discussion so far, raise any further issues, and to make recommendations on what they wanted from the White Paper.

The summary document was developed and revised based on these comments. A third session enabled them to see the final results and participate in an evaluation process.

The online consultation process registered approximately 200 specially invited expert stakeholders from across the energy sector including government bodies, academics, energy businesses and consultants and experts. The first online session stimulated over a thousand responses from 156 participants. A total of 178 people went into the website to view the results and 78 people responded to the Session 2 questions.

Over 6,500 individuals and groups took part in the overall consultation - the most significant consultation on energy policy ever undertaken in the UK. As regards the online consultation, results were very positive on the whole, with people welcoming the opportunity to contribute to debates in an online format that limited the length of responses and sought to bring out fresh perspectives on the issues. There was general approval of the website design and the innovative approach to consultation represented by the initiative.


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