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« Food or fuel? | Main | On bias »
Saturday
Jan052013

Officially sanctioned conflict 

Some weeks back, I noticed the odd dual role of Bernie Bulkin, chairman of DECC's Office for Renewable Energy Deployment, who doubles as an adviser to VantagePoint Capital Partners, a company that invests in the energy sector. Reader Terry Sanders has been following up on this story and writes to update us on what he has found.

After reading [your post] I looked into Bernie and discovered he was a director of Ludgate Investments which had a significant piece of its funds (7.9%) in a biomass company so I left a comment on his blog asking about it. My comment stayed in the "awaiting moderation" for 10 days which 1 thought was strange. I figured if they haven't let it through or declined it then they must be discussing it so I sent in a FOI request for all communication regarding the comment.

I've now received a response...The comment moderator (I assume) asks:

"Couple of comments inferring a conflict of interest. Are we aware of this and is it a problem?"

The response is:

"Well yes and yes but:

All appointments are made in line with Cabinet Office guidance..."

It is unclear (to me at least) whether the second yes means they have a problem with Bernie's interests or whether they have a problem with commentators implying it.

There was more in my request regarding conflicts of interest but their response was unclear so I've asked for clarification.

 

 

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Reader Comments (21)

Maybe whilst you are at it you could ask why Paddy Ashdown is given space on this blog ? Don't recall him having loads of environment qualifications.

He doesn't even work for the government, but likes taxpayers to pay him.

blog.decc.gov.uk/author/paddy-ashdown/

Jan 5, 2013 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

"All appointments are made in line with Cabinet Office guidance..." implies he was appointed to DECC after it was already known he was an adviser to VantagePoint Capital Partners.

However, if Bulkin became a (paid) advisor when already in post, then he's done a Yeo.

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Can anyone lay their hands on the Cabinet Office guidelines?

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:11 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Cabinet Office Guidance for Civil Servants: Contact With Lobbyists


Civil servants should conduct themselves with integrity and honesty. They should not deceive or knowingly mislead Parliament or the public. They should not misuse their official position or information acquired in the course of their official duties to further their private interests or the private interests of others. They should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their personal judgement or integrity. They should not without authority disclose official information which has been communicated in confidence in Government or received in confidence from others.

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/content/guidance-civil-servants-contact-lobbyists

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:20 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Re: Joe Public

I asked them what conflicts of interest had been declared and when. This is what they said about Vantage Point.

Bernie Bulkin’s Declaration (as 12 December 2012)
“The venture capital firm with which I work, Vantage Point, has investments in two UK
companies, Solarcentury and AlertMe. I have no personal direct involvement with these
investments, but they are part of our portfolio.
My role with Vantage Point is as Chair of their Advisory committee. I receive a fee (retainer) as
an advisor and have a carried interest in 3 Vantage Point funds.
I have agreed that in order to ensure no potential conflict of interest can occur due to any
perceived indirect link with Solarcentury that I will not participate in any Departmental solar PV
related work.”

I submitted the FOI on the 4th of December and have now asked them to clarify when Vantage Point was declared.

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Solar Century is the company of Jeremy Leggett, who recently tweeted about DECC's recently published renewable energy roadmap, noting that

"Solar PV included as a key technology for the first time. Nice way to see out 2012."

From the report, we note that

Last year, DECC published the Renewable Energy Roadmap, which
presented the framework for the delivery of renewable energy deployment in
the UK as well as a comprehensive programme of action. Over the last year,
the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED) has continued to work
with industry, investors, the Devolved Administrations and others to deliver this
programme and with it a substantial increase in the amount of renewable
energy deployed across the country.

Hmm. I wonder just how good DECC's chinese wall is?

As an aside, we should note Mr Leggett's valiant stand against corruption in public office:

"Senior DECC officials wined & dined by nuclear industry on dozens of occasions. http://t.co/30m801Ue How is this not legalised corruption?"

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:36 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Thanks TerryS @ 10:20

So after you'd made your FOI request, BB declares that in future he won't paticipate in work having a conflict of interest.

Bernie Bulkin’s Declaration (as 12 December 2012) "I have agreed that in order to ensure no potential conflict of interest can occur due to any perceived indirect link with Solarcentury that I will not participate in any Departmental solar PV related work.”

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Or how about this tweet from Leggett:

Bulkin: Solar PV will be added to the updated renewables roadmap when it is published in a few weeks. Now deemed a GW-scale contributor.

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:45 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Joe Public

That's interesting. I think Terry should check out with DECC when this undertaking was made.

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:46 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Hard not to recall that Deben's conflict of interest was cleared too.

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:47 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The renewables bandwagon would seem to be full of blinkered people with hammers looking for nails.

The substitution of activist or self interested party opinion for arithmetic is endemic - especially within DECC.

Yeah... there's guidelines for talking to lobbyists - but it's window dressing that's adjusted to suit prevailing conditions - they are after all "guidelines" and not rules.

Since DECC is unequivocally central government = civil servants have a legally enforceable duty to abide by the Civil Servant's Code of Conduct and I'd draw your attention to the Objectivity section.

We see so much policy based evidence making emanating from DECC - isn't it about time they were properly pulled up on their fibbing and distortions?

Jan 5, 2013 at 10:57 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Dear Bish, you appear to be under a misapprehension. There is not and can never be a conflict of interest in member’s interests.

But there is, without any doubt, a conflict of interest between the elected and those they are told they elected.

Jan 5, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Here is what they sent regarding his commercial interests:

Commercial interests declared by Bernie Bulkin, Chair of the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED)

This is updated on a six-monthly basis

Vantage Point Capital Partners, San Bruno, California USA
Bernie Bulkin’s Declaration (as 12 December 2012)
“The venture capital firm with which I work, Vantage Point, has investments in two UK companies, Solarcentury and AlertMe. I have no personal direct involvement with these investments, but they are part of our portfolio.
My role with Vantage Point is as Chair of their Advisory committee. I receive a fee (retainer) as an advisor and have a carried interest in 3 Vantage Point funds.

I have agreed that in order to ensure no potential conflict of interest can occur due to any perceived indirect link with Solarcentury that I will not participate in any Departmental solar PV related work.”

Cleantech Advisory Council
Please refer to their website at http://www.vpcp.com/advisory_council

Non-executive director, Severn Trent plc (2006 - present)

As of 30 November 2011, Severn Trent had some small hydropower installations at a couple of their water treatment sites and, as a company, are exploring how they could improve their use of renewable energy. However as a non-executive director Bernie Bulkin does not come into direct contact with any of this work. He would only be aware if any specific major decision was put to the Board of Directors for any necessary clearances. Based on the current level of renewables, as a minor part of the portfolio of Severn Trent’s commercial interests, it is not considered that he has a conflict of interest in his current work within ORED.

This interest was originally registered when Bernie Bulkin applied for the post and was cleared by the Panel as acceptable.

Chairman (non-Executive), Pursuit Dynamics plc

Pursuit Dynamics plc closed its business in the US and no energy interests in the UK. Bernie Bulkin confirmed that PDx have no intention to move into the UK property market and it is highly unlikely that they would in the future, however he agreed that he would inform DECC if that position changes going forwards.
This interest was cleared by Simon Virley, Director General/ Energy Markets & Infrastructure,
DECC in May 2011.

Non-Executive Director, Ludgate Investments Limited

Ludgate is a holding company for a variety of private equity activities. Bernie Bulkin is one of three non-Executive Directors, as such participating in corporate governance matters. Ludgate is a shareholder in the AIM listed Ludgate Environmental Fund (LEF). This fund has its own board. He has no economic interest in the LEF, and no role in management of any of its companies.

I have asked them to clarify the dates for Ludgate Investments, Cleantech Advisory Council and Vantage Point Capital Partners.

Jan 6, 2013 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

This is what those people who spend their lives moving smoothly between government and private industry do. They identify a problem or latch onto scientific research that has purportedly identified a problem that could impact mankind-- one that may or may not be a truly dangerous or imminent problem--and then, after determining that market forces will be incapable of solving the problem (which also may or may not be true), they go about creating a specialized government-sponsored, sanctioned and subsidized industry to combat the problem, which, to repeat myself, may or may not be an actual threat. This is how a certain class of people enriches itself.

This bastardized version of public policy-making is very serious development in my view because much of it goes on beyond the purview of elected officials at least in the initial phases, and then tends to corrupt the scientific research that follows that which first discovered the dubious danger the issue poses for mankind. Once the science is co-opted and misused, the lawyers, journalists and policy-makers are enlisted in the effort to sell the need for action in the public arena.

It's a very subtle and pernicious form of corruption, and if it ever turns out that the whole AGW scare was mistaken or fabricated (or both), there will need to be investigations to expose and punish those responsible. This in itself will pose another difficulty: how do you prosecute and punish thousands of people?

The amount of public money that has been and will be misused to combat "climate change" is potentially staggering. Will anyone ever be held accountable if it turns out that other than anthropogenic forces are responsible for the slight warming we've experienced in the past century?

Jan 6, 2013 at 6:04 AM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

This bastardized version of public policy-making is very serious development in my view because much of it goes on beyond the purview of elected officials at least in the initial phases, and then tends to corrupt the scientific research that follows that which first discovered the dubious Diablo 3 Gold danger the issue poses for mankind. Once the science is co-opted and misused, the lawyers, journalists and policy-makers are enlisted in the effort to sell the need for action in the public arena.

Jan 6, 2013 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterg2pis

Bish, you quote from the UK Renewable Energy Roadmap 2012. I have been looking at the 2012 version compared to the 2011 version (only 67 pages of bureaucratic speak cf 106 pages). The fantasy land these people inhabit is truly awesome. Extrapolating into the future, I reckon that by 2050 (Climate Change Act target date for 80% reduction in emissions) most of the working population of the country will be involved in the renewable energy industry. Clearly their productivity will be exceedingly low. Most of the country will be covered in wind turbines and solar panels, with most of the remaining farmland being used to grow energy crops such as grass and maize to be used for biofuel and straw and short-rotation coppice to be burnt. Millions of people will be incolved in removing old wind turbines and replacing them with new ones, ditto for solar panels as all these technologies have a very short working life. Most of the energy produced will be recycled in transporting the low energy density fuelstocks around and in recycling wind turbines and solar panels. Where the money is going to come from to pay for all this is not clear, nor is there any indication of where the food will come from to feed the millions of drones involved in these low grade activities.

The good news is that none of this will have an impact on emissions and most of us won't be around when the whole system collapses.

Jan 6, 2013 at 7:57 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

This is what they sent regarding Bernie's commercial interests:

Commercial interests declared by Bernie Bulkin, Chair of the Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED)

This is updated on a six-monthly basis

Vantage Point Capital Partners, San Bruno, California USA
Bernie Bulkin’s Declaration (as 12 December 2012)
“The venture capital firm with which I work, Vantage Point, has investments in two UK companies, Solarcentury and AlertMe. I have no personal direct involvement with these investments, but they are part of our portfolio.
My role with Vantage Point is as Chair of their Advisory committee. I receive a fee (retainer) as an advisor and have a carried interest in 3 Vantage Point funds.

I have agreed that in order to ensure no potential conflict of interest can occur due to any perceived indirect link with Solarcentury that I will not participate in any Departmental solar PV related work.”

Cleantech Advisory Council
Please refer to their website at http://www.vpcp.com/advisory_council

Non-executive director, Severn Trent plc (2006 - present)

As of 30 November 2011, Severn Trent had some small hydropower installations at a couple of their water treatment sites and, as a company, are exploring how they could improve their use of renewable energy. However as a non-executive director Bernie Bulkin does not come into direct contact with any of this work. He would only be aware if any specific major decision was put to the Board of Directors for any necessary clearances. Based on the current level of renewables, as a minor part of the portfolio of Severn Trent’s commercial interests, it is not considered that he has a conflict of interest in his current work within ORED.

This interest was originally registered when Bernie Bulkin applied for the post and was cleared by the Panel as acceptable.

Chairman (non-Executive), Pursuit Dynamics plc

Pursuit Dynamics plc closed its business in the US and no energy interests in the UK. Bernie Bulkin confirmed that PDx have no intention to move into the UK property market and it is highly unlikely that they would in the future, however he agreed that he would inform DECC if that position changes going forwards.
This interest was cleared by Simon Virley, Director General/ Energy Markets & Infrastructure, DECC in May 2011.

Non-Executive Director, Ludgate Investments Limited

Ludgate is a holding company for a variety of private equity activities. Bernie Bulkin is one of three non-Executive Directors, as such participating in corporate governance matters. Ludgate is a shareholder in the AIM listed Ludgate Environmental Fund (LEF). This fund has its own board. He has no economic interest in the LEF, and no role in management of any of its companies.

I have asked them to clarify the dates for Ludgate Investments, Cleantech Advisory Council and Vantage Point Capital Partners.

Jan 6, 2013 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Having a Department of Energy and Climate Change makes as much sense as one of Health and Homoeopathy. The add-on to the main function of each will be no more than a corrupter of primary function. Free-up the DoE to ask the DoCC to prove their case and then recommended targets in the Climate Change Act can be amended accordingly. Either that or change the name of DECC to DNW - Nods and Winks.

Jan 6, 2013 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

The problem now is that politicians from all sides have their snouts in the renewables trough and, therefore, will not 'out' each other. Imagine if only one party had politicians involved in the scam; every one of the scumbags would be a target for the opposition and hounded out of office.

Jan 6, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

It is little wonder that there is such strong resistance by vested interests and their tame politicians to real alternative sources of energy such as shale gas and thorium reactors. When they get going their investments in these biomass, windmill and other fourth rate alternative energy companies will be worthless.

Jan 8, 2013 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Laughing Cavalier

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