Sam Richards, founder and campaign director for Britain Remade, speech launching the Powerbook at the Octopus Energy HQ.
Thank you all very much.
Before I start I want to say thank you to the author of the report, Sam Dumitriu, and to the long list of people, sadly too many to name, who helped with the report and with the event today.
I’d also like to thank my fellow speakers Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Climate Change and Net Zero, and Greg Jackson CEO of Octopus Energy.
And I’d like to thank Octopus for hosting us here in this amazing space.
A lot of you know that over the last year as part of this new campaign – Britain Remade - I’ve been speaking to people across the country. I’ve spoken to businesses in a blizzard on port of Blyth and to firms in the city centre of a surprisingly sunny Birmingham. I’ve spoken to folk in the pub in Warrington and Wolverhampton. And what’s the number one issue for every business, for every family? It won’t surprise you – it’s the cost of energy.
We all know how much our bills have gone up. We’re all aware of the huge rise in government borrowing to cushion the sharpest fall in living standards since records began.
In 2022 gas prices were driven up 400% by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s innocent Ukrainians who die in defence of their country, but Putin’s energy war is wider and it is designed to inflict misery on millions across the West.
His war has revealed our energy insecurity. How have we got to a position where we are dependent on foreign powers, some of whom wish us harm, to keep the lights on?
At Britain Remade, we think that the heart of the problem is that it’s too hard to build the new sources of cheap, clean energy and the new grid connections that could make us energy independent.
We split the atom in this country, and yet it’s been 27 years since we built a new nuclear power station.
We are a phenomenally windy island – yet onshore wind is effectively banned in England and offshore wind farms take up to 12 years to get up and running despite taking 2 to actually build.
The real tragedy is that at the same time that our broken planning system is choking off our ability to build green sources of power it’s also failing to protect nature.
Every key biodiversity indicator is in decline – and has been for decades; under the current framework of environmental regulations.
It must be possible to plot a new path.
It must possible to design a new set of planning rules and environmental protections that allow us to halt and reverse the decline of nature, while at the same time enabling our amazing clean energy businesses to build the new sources of power we need to tackle climate change and cut our bills.
We think it is. Britain Remade’s Powerbook sets out 25 practical policies to dramatically speed up the building of new sources of power. These range from smaller tweaks to streamline consultations, to larger reforms on environmental assessments and grid connections.
Taken together they would: slash the time it takes to build new offshore wind from 12 to 5 years, end the ban on onshore wind and bring in a right to upgrade existing sites, cut the time it takes to build solar on the ground to just 15 months and unleash a revolution in roofstop solar, get two small modular reactors, and at least 10GW of long term storage hooked up to the grid by the end of the decade – and finally solve the problem of those clean energy generators waiting years for a grid connection.
We think the measures in our report could see us energy secure by the end of the decade – no longer exposed to energy blackmail. But we should be under no illusions – doing this in less than seven years is going to be a huge challenge. In the next seven years National Grid will need to build five times as much infrastructure as it did in the last 30. This will only happen if we overhaul our planning system.
So the challenge is huge – but so is the prize. Billions of private sector investment unlocked, tens of thousands of jobs created across the country. I know that the renewables sector and nuclear firms like Rolls Royce SMR and businesses like Octopus stand ready to unleash our potential – that’s why they’ve all backed this report.
And I’m delighted that this document has support across the political spectrum with Labour and Conservative MPs and mayors recognising the need for speed. This reflects the conversations I’ve had across the country. In every part of Britain there is a huge demand that we just get on with it – that we get on with building the grid connections and the new sources of clean energy, that can cut our reliance on other countries, and cut our bills.
Let’s get on with it, let’s make Britain energy secure.