Perhaps somewhere, deep inside his financial journalist’s brain, Chris Huhne has just a scintilla of doubt about the policy he is pushing so enthusiastically as the coalition’s energy secretary. An uncomfortable number of careful studies have concluded that green energy will not keep the lights on. The rules encouraging us to plaster the roofs of our houses with inefficient solar panels are crackers: essentially, those who do so get a subsidy from those who don’t, and everyone pays more. The economics of wind farms, onshore and off, are horrible. Power is going to become dear and scarce by the end of the decade. The current round of price rises is just the start.

Poor Hulne cannot admit any of this, least of all to the LibDem faithful, so what is he to do? He has now come up with the answer: blame the energy suppliers for their “predatory pricing”. They are big and ugly enough to make fine targets, and competition has not worked the way it does in, say, the grocery business. The householder is faced with an awesome array of tariffs which might be designed to confuse. Millions of us have more interesting things to do than waste happy hours comparing costs. No wonder we spend less time shopping around for a saving on a £1,000 bill than we do researching for a £25 toaster, as Hulne himself put it last week.

The Times naturally interpreted this remark as an accusation that we’re just too lazy, but goodness me, that’s not what Chris meant at all. He meant that the predators faced a crackdown on their “bloated oligopoly”. He wants to force them to tell customers whether they’d be better off switching, and to make it easier to do so. Both proposals are really quite sensible, although the couch potato would gain at the expense of the active tariff-hunter.

New rules will not hold back the tide of rising energy prices, since only gas-fired power stations in a market that is not rigged against them could do that, and Green Hulne cannot admit as much. Besides, those predators are pussycats underneath. Here is one of them, EDF, writing to Mrs Collins. The behemoth has been “reviewing our systems and processes” and discovered that before she switched, she had been overcharged. She is invited to call to claim her refund. It’s 38 pence.

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