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GE2019: Nationalisation, renewables and the green economy in Labour’s manifesto

Image: Jeremy Corbyn.

Image: Jeremy Corbyn.

At a ceremony in Birmingham this morning, the Labour Party launched its “manifesto for hope” including its plan for a “green transformation".

The manifesto included a number of policy announcements and updates regarding the energy transition, including generating nearly 90% of the country’s energy from renewables by 2030.

The party is now pledging to be "on track" to reach net zero in the 2030s, a slight deviation to the motion passed at the party conference in September for net zero by 2030.

Nationalisation of the transmission and distribution grids and the Big Six suppliers form a central part of Labour's energy pledges, and in transport it is proposing to bring the phase out of petrol and diesel vehicles to 2030.

A key aspect of Labour’s policies is its proposed windfall tax for oil companies, so that “the companies that knowingly damaged our climate will help cover the costs".

The party sought to calm fears that such a move would cost jobs, claiming that it had a strategy to safeguard the people, jobs and skills that depend on the offshore oil and gas industry.

The party has already announced that it would create a £250 billion Green Transformation Fund, “dedicated to renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, biodiversity and environmental restoration".

Of this £60 billion will be spent on energy efficiency upgrades for homes throughout the country.

Labour said that its Green Industrial Revolution would help create a million climate jobs, including those in manufacturing to support industry’s such as offshore wind.

Ahead of the launch, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Labour will bring the country together to face a common challenge and mobilise all our national resources, both financial and human, to kick-start a Green Industrial Revolution.

“Just as the original Industrial Revolution brought cutting edge industry and jobs to our towns, Labour’s world-leading Green Industrial Revolution will create rewarding, well-paid jobs and whole new industries to revive parts of our country that have been neglected for too long.”

Nationalisation: a saving or an expense?

The Labour Party has pledged to nationalise the energy sector, creating a new UK National Energy Agency that will own and maintain the national grid.

In the manifesto, the party fires at the privatisation of the grid, saying it has been a “disaster for both our planet and our wallets".

Instead, the party pledges that “in public hands, energy and water will be treated as rights rather than commodities, with any surplus reinvested or used to reduce bills".

Existing DNOs will be replaced with 14 new Regional Energy Agencies, whilst the supply arms of the Big Six energy companies will be brought into public ownership.

The manifesto says that not only will having these organisations within public ownership reduce expense, it will also aid with decarbonisation.

It accused private network companies of having "failed to upgrade the grid at the speed and scale needed", stating that publicly owned networks will accelerate investment to connect renewables and work with energy unions to support energy workers through the transition.

Nationalisation has been criticised heavily in the run up to the election. The Confederation of British Industry in October claimed that the plans to renationalise the train companies, Royal Mail, water and energy utilities, including National Grid, the electricity transmission networks, distribution network operators and gas distribution networks could cost the UK a colossal £196 billion.

While these figures were rebuffed by the Labour party, and criticised by a number of groups for failing to take into account asset value, they do mirror concerns over costs from the energy industry.

A spokesperson for the Energy Networks Association today said: “Independent research shows that state ownership proposals are likely to lead to delays to decarbonisation, reduced public accountability, disruption to innovation and higher costs to billpayers.

“Time to reach net zero is running out - let’s not waste it by needlessly scrapping a system that works.”

This was echoed in a statement from Big Six company SSE, which said: “This is a time for working together now to tackle the climate crisis, not waste years attempting a very costly, complex and controversial nationalisation.”

Reaching 90% renewables

In order to source 90% of the country’s power from renewables, the Labour party is pledging 7,000 new offshore wind turbines and 2,000 new onshore wind turbines.

It is also promising enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches. This pledge expands on the solar promises the party has already made as part of its Warm Homes for All initiative. This included the installation of solar PV at 1.75 million additional homes around the country by 2030.

Little extra detail on the party’s plans for solar power was given, however last week it announced that it would install solar power hubs on 2,000 buildings around the country.

New nuclear power to ensure energy security is also included in the manifesto, in contrast to the Green Party’s manifesto which stated that it would get rid of new nuclear and the Liberal Democrats manifesto which made no mention of nuclear as a form of power generation.

Labour will trial and expand tidal power in the UK also, with Corbyn specifically mentioning the Swansea Bay project within his speech today.

However, detail provided into how exactly these technologies will be supported is sparse, a common theme among the manifestos released this week.

Labour also pledged that “to balance the grid, we will expand power storage and invest in grid enhancements and interconnectors”.

Grid balancing is outlined within the party’s previous 30 by 2030 report, however - recommendations from which the party said it would "develop". It stated that there is no obvious pathway as yet, that there should be an investigation followed by rapid and extensive updates.

Energy research and consultancy company Delta-EE welcomed Labour’s commitment to renewables in its manifesto, but “urged all parties to consider going further and faster".

Andy Bradley, the company’s director said: “A deadline of net zero by 2030 is less important than the policies required to help us reach it.

“Promised new investment and training put us on the right track but these sectors will need to be transformed to help us reach our decarbonisation targets and we don’t see that level of detail with these ambitions.”

EV expansion and banning petrol cars

As part of the Labour Party’s broader decarbonisation pledges, it is also planning on investing into electric vehicles (EVs).

“We will invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and in electric community car clubs. We will accelerate the transition of our public sector car fleets and our public buses to zero-emissions vehicles.”

The party has previously said that it will invest £3.6 billion into a “mammoth” expansion of the country’s EV charging infrastructure.

In order to support this – and the UK's steel manufacturing sector – the party is intending to increase battery manufacturing.

“As we transition, we will ensure the UK’s automotive sector isn’t left behind by the electric revolution by investing in three new gigafactories and four metal reprocessing plants.”

Labour aims to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, ten years ahead of the Conservative Party. It will make investments in public transport, such as reinstating 3,000 bus routes, in an effort to make people less reliant on cars and subsequently reduce emissions.

This is the third manifesto to be published this week, following on from The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats.


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