June 19, 2023
Current News, by John Lubbock

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer launched a new strategy to produce more clean energy at a speech in Scotland today.

Starmer said that “We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and start building things… the planning system, the skills shortages, the investor confidence, the grid.”

“We’re going to throw everything at this: planning reform, procurement, long-term finance, R&D, a strategic plan for skills and supply chains,” he added.

The plan includes three concrete steps:

  • To create a new National Wealth Fund
  • To reform the CfD scheme
  • To create a “new home-grown energy company… like Ørsted in Denmark and Vattenfall in Sweden”

Starmer said the new energy company, called Great British Energy, would be based in Scotland. The proposals are still somewhat short on detail, but the general outline of Labour’s manifesto pledges for a likely general election in 2024 are coming into focus. 

Starmer also committed Labour to “back carbon capture, let’s invest in hydrogen, nuclear, tidal energy, double onshore wind, treble solar power, quadruple offshore wind and insulate 19 million homes.”

A number of organisations welcomed the proposals. Peter Chalkley, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said that there was now a “clear political consensus” to lift the ban on onshore wind by both Labour and the Conservatives, but “the question is how quickly this happens given bills are still high and the delay means less cheap onshore wind bringing down household costs”.

Chalkley said that while the US Inflation Reduction Act was already spurring work and investment in the US, “the UK’s response won’t be ready until the autumn.”

RenewableUK chief executive Dan McGrail said: “Overall, it’s clear that delivering Labour’s renewable energy ambitions will require considerable reforms to planning, grid development, regulatory frameworks and skills policy. We need to address these issues as a matter of urgency, so welcome clarity on them. We hope Labour will continue to engage with industry going forward, establishing a partnership approach to developing solutions which will maximise the economic benefits of the energy transition for communities throughout the UK”.

Greg Jackson, founder of Octopus Energy, said: “Building new clean energy like onshore wind, offshore wind and solar farms will not only help fight climate change, but reduce costs and increase national security. We’d love to see market reform so that customers benefit from this cheap energy.”

Sam Richards, founder and campaign director of campaign group Britain Remade, said: “It’s great news that Keir Starmer has put reforming our broken planning system at the heart of Labour’s plans to deliver the clean energy infrastructure that can cut our energy bills and create jobs across the country.

Richards welcomed Labour’s adoption of a number of recommendations proposed by Britain Remade in a recent report, “from ending the senseless ban on new onshore wind farms to speeding up the time it takes to get offshore wind farms up and running”.

Richards added that “the Labour leader’s speech was a huge step in the right direction, but he must remain committed to getting spades in the ground straight away if he becomes the next occupant of Downing Street.”

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association (ENA), said: “We welcome Labour’s commitment to clean energy and their recognition of the need to work with businesses to ensure the skills and infrastructure are in place to deliver the electrification and hydrogen we need.”

“Our grids are the foundation of our country’s efforts to create a decarbonised, resilient energy system. We’re especially encouraged by proposals to speed up the planning system and unlock key projects. Anything which helps accelerate planning and ensures the delivery of critical energy infrastructure is positive in our eyes.”

Meanwhile, Solar Energy UK called the plans “ambitious”, and said that the intention to reform the Contracts for Difference (CfD) mechanism was “particularly welcomed by the solar industry.”

However, Labour’s commitments on climate change have been criticised recently as they seemed to walk back a number of previous pledges. Green Party of England and Wales deputy leader Zack Polanski criticised Labour for agreeing to honour any new oil and gas licenses awarded before the next election.

Meanwhile on June 9, Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves scaled back the party’s plans to spend £28 billion a year on a green transition, telling BBC Radio 4: “The Tories have crashed our economy, and as a result interest rates have gone up 12 times, inflation is now at 8.7% and I’ve always said our fiscal rules are non-negotiable. Economic stability, financial stability, always has to come first and it will do with Labour”.