Labour’s Brave New Energy World


With the UK election barely a month away, voters are scanning the parties’ manifestos for clues to the future – particularly that of the likely winner – Sir Kier Starmer’s Labour Party.

As an solar energy entrepreneur, I’m alert to the parties’ renewable promises and ambitions. The most recent Conservative government talked a brave game, but gradually ditched its green commitments, because a vocal minority of its supporters hated the plans.

The Labour Party has promised a new energy deal in its pitch to the nation, including a state-owned business – Great British Energy – to invest in renewables: onshore and offshore wind, solar power, gigafactories, energy storage and green hydrogen.

Listening to Sir Kier address a meeting in Leith in Scotland, you might think that he was the world’s green energy Messiah. Launching his party’s ‘national mission on clean energy’, he promised: “It will power us forward towards net-zero, generate growth right across the country, end the suffocating cost of living crisis and get Putin’s boot off our throat with real energy security.”

It is, he proclaimed, “a plan to use clean power to build a new Britain, a plan to get our future back.” Stirring words, and a welcome commitment. But as recently as February this year, Labour ditched a promise to invest £28 billion a year in green spending, shrinking it to just £4.8 billion a year. What kind of a new deal is that?

Sir Kier bemoans the lost opportunities of the Tory government and the squabbles of the Scottish National Party, for whom a British success would contradict their drive for independence. He plans to headquarter GB Energy in Scotland and harvest the blowy conditions through a massive new wind energy programme, extending right down the eastern coast of the country to Grimsby in Lincolnshire.

He plans tidal energy in the Firth of Forth and in South Wales, with clean hydrogen programmes in Yorkshire, Merseyside and Grangemouth.

Quite how far £4.8 billion will go, spread across these many fields, is an open question.

Sir Kier points to the transformations of US President Joe Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. But that included $783 billion for renewable energy and climate measures. He also wants to model GB Energy on Denmark’s Ørested or Sweden’s Vattenfall, but both of those countries have long traditions of renewable energy champions, paid for through high taxation.

Is Britain ready for the Scandinavian model?

Labour’s energy policy is targeted at the Red Wall seats lost during the Brexit saga. It aims to claw back support in the industrial Midlands and north (including Scotland) by promising a brave new world of clean, secure energy, with hundreds of thousands of jobs.

All very inspiring, but without cash to back up its promises, I fear it is little more than hot air.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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