electricity grid power network towers pylons

Labour lays out its electricity renationalisation plans

Labour has fleshed out its plans to renationalise the UK’s energy networks should it get into power, saying it will help to decarbonise British electricity.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey will say the utilities company should be taken out of the hands of private shareholders and transformed through a “green industrial revolution”.

The Government would then fully own, operate and expand the National Grid through the creation of a new body called the National Energy Agency, akin to the Central Electricity Generating Board, the publicly owned company that ran the UK’s electricity networks up to 1990.

“While government intervention and subsidies have led to private companies investing significantly in renewable generation like offshore wind, private network companies have failed to deliver decarbonisation at the speed and scale required despite heavy incentivisation,” Labour said in its Bringing Energy Home report.

“Grid operators are notorious for delays in connecting new renewable generation and over-charging clean energy developers – effectively preventing community generators from connecting to the grid.”

The National Grid, which became a private company in the 1990’s, said the policies were the “last thing” the UK needed to help tackle climate change.

A National Grid spokeswoman refuted Labour’s claims, saying the proposals would delay the progress being made to move to green energy: “National Grid is one of the most reliable networks in the world. We are also at the heart of the decarbonisation agenda.

“These proposals for state-ownership of the energy networks would only serve to delay the huge amount of progress and investment that is already helping to make this country a leader in the move to green energy.

“At a time when there is increased urgency to meet the challenges of climate change the last thing that is needed is the enormous distraction, cost and complexity contained in these plans.”

Critics of the National Grid say it has little interest in reducing energy usage in the UK as profits are derived from pumping as much electricity through the system as possible.

Even the Conservative Party, which has historically been opposed to nationalisation, considered taking the body into public ownership in 2016.

Long-Bailey, who will announce the plans during a visit to Salford with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “Climate change represents a risk to our future, but also an opportunity to gather our resources and transform it through a green industrial revolution.

“That means dramatic, public driven and coordinated action, without which we simply will not be able to tackle climate change.

“So our plans see climate justice and social justice as inseparable. It’s an insult and an injustice to our people and our planet for companies operating the grid to rip customers off, line the pockets of the rich and not invest properly in renewable energy.

“Only by taking the grid into public ownership can we decarbonise the economy at the pace needed to secure the planet for our children and grandchildren while ending the rip off, creating good jobs in local communities and making heating and electricity a human right.

“That’s why public and collective ownership is a fundamental part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution.”

Research from 2017 showed that UK consumers were paying much less than some countries such as Denmark and Germany for their electricity. It was also found that the UK pays slightly more than France, which has a mostly nationalised electricity grid and a higher tax burden per kWh consumed.

Chris Philp, Conservative vice chairman for policy, criticised Labour’s proposals. “Corbyn’s ideological plan for the state to seize these companies would cost an eye-watering £100bn and saddle taxpayers with their debts,” he said.

“It would leave politicians in Westminster in charge of keeping the lights on and leave customers with nowhere else to turn. With no credible plan for how Labour would pay for this, more borrowing and tax hikes would be inevitable.

“Through measures like our energy price cap, the Conservative Government will continue to protect people from unfair bill rises while increasing renewable electricity to a record high.”

Last month, National Grid said it was preparing its infrastructure to fully run on carbon-free electricity sources by 2025.

 

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