Wind Turbine in the Highlands of Scotland

Labour Party pledges to turn UK into a clean energy superpower by 2030

Image credit: Drumist/Dreamstime

Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to “cut bills, create jobs and provide energy security” by removing planning barriers standing in the way of green initiatives.

In a speech given in Scotland today (Monday), the Labour leader set out new targets to reduce the time taken to complete clean power projects from “years to months”, as one aspect of the party's 'Green Prosperity Plan'.

The party has also committed to a local power plan which it says will allow households across the UK to receive discounts on their bills if their area signs up to new green initiatives.

Sir Keir will set out how a new public body, called Great British Energy (aka GB Energy, an idea previously announced in September 2022), will collaborate with councils, communities and the private sector to bring down energy costs.

The power plan would be directly owned by local people, with profits from the energy sold to the grid from local renewable energy schemes being returned to the community through discounts on bills for households in need, Labour said.

GB Energy will make available up to £600m in funding for councils and up to £400m in low-interest loans each year for communities, it is claimed.

The new publicly owned clean-energy firm's headquarters would be based in Scotland, creating thousands of jobs locally. This would deliver three key benefits for Scotland, according to Labour: building on Scotland’s energy and industrial history; doubling the number of jobs in low carbon sectors, and creating a clean power system by 2030 saving Scottish households £8.4bn in that time.

The ban on new onshore wind would also be axed within months of a Labour government coming to power and measures would be introduced to ensure relevant regulators have a net-zero mandate.

The party says its plan will take up to £1,400 off household bills and £53bn off energy bills for businesses by 2030.

Speaking in Scotland with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband, and Labour leader Sir Keir said: “We can cut bills, create jobs and provide energy security for Britain – that’s what a Labour government will deliver.

“We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and start building things, run towards the barriers – the planning system, the skills shortages, the investor confidence, the grid.

“If the status quo isn’t good enough, we must find the reforms that can restart our engine. I’m not going to accept a situation where our planning system means it takes 13 years to build an offshore wind farm.”

In his speech, Sir Keir also made promises on planning reform, procurement and long-term finance, saying: “A new plan for a new settlement. A clear direction across all four nations. Pulling together for a simple, unifying priority: British power for British jobs. This is the race of our lifetime – and the prize is real.”

The party will hope the latest announcement builds confidence in its commitment to green energy initiatives after recently drawing criticism from environmental campaigners for retreating from its £28bn-a-year green prosperity plan spending pledge.

Labour had promised in 2021 to invest £28bn a year until 2030 in green projects if it came to power. That figure will now be a target to work towards in the second half of a first parliament, the party has said, citing the changed economic backdrop of the last two years.

Sarwar said he wants Scotland and the UK to “lead the world in the green revolution” as he spoke ahead of the party announcing more details about its plans.

He told the BBC’s 'Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg' show: “We want to use the strength of the UK treasury to legitimately deliver a green revolution in our country and our plans are rooted in four key principles: the first is more jobs, not less jobs; second, lower bills not higher bills; third, greater energy security and less reliance on imports from despotic regimes like Russia, and fourth is climate leadership.”

The Scottish Labour leader insisted there would be “no cliff edge” caused by the party’s policy to ban new oil and gas extraction licences in the North Sea, which the Conservatives have said will lead to job losses, because all existing ones will be “honoured”.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the plans, but warned they must be matched with adequate investment in order to succeed.

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “With plans for communities to benefit from local clean power projects and a commitment to lift the ban on onshore wind, Labour is saying many of the right things on energy policy.

“But to have a credible climate plan in place, there can be no backsliding on pledges to stop new oil and gas extraction and invest in green growth.

“The climate crisis is the greatest threat the world faces. Sir Keir Starmer needs to make it clear that the fossil fuels era is over and the only viable future is a zero-carbon economy. This means urgently investing in a street-by-street insulation programme and cheap, homegrown renewables to cut emissions, boost the economy, create new jobs, increase energy security and help bring down our energy bills for good.”

Meanwhile, the Conservatives claimed that Labour's plans would appease “eco-zealots” and sought to draw links between Labour and Just Stop Oil, with which it has shared a donor.

A party spokesman said: “Labour’s Energy Surrender Plan, written by Just Stop Oil, appeases their eco-zealot paymasters but does nothing for Britain’s long-term energy security.

“You cannot trust Labour to take tough decisions on Britain’s energy security because Keir Starmer is a hostage to extremists in his party and his Just Stop Oil funders. Even the trade unions know Labour is wrong.”

Addressing his Scottish audience today, Sir Keir said: “The route to making Britain a clean energy superpower, slashing energy bills and creating tens of thousands of quality jobs runs through Scotland. That is why GB Energy, our publicly owned energy company, will be headquartered in Scotland, the heart of the British energy industry.

“I mean it when I say that our energy plans will be made in Scotland – cutting energy bills for Scottish families and delivering the jobs and investment in Scottish communities that for far too long have been let down by the SNP and Conservatives.

“Labour will deliver lower bills, good jobs and energy security for Scotland and the whole UK, as Britain leads the world in the fight against climate change.”

Sarwar said: “I am determined to leave our children and future generations a better planet than we have now. To do this, we need to sweep out both of our bad governments and deliver urgent action, because we are running out of time.

“What we are announcing today is the boldest energy plan Scotland and the whole UK has seen in generations, delivering a clean energy revolution by 2030. It will deliver 50,000 clean power jobs for Scotland and lower bills for working people.

“I’m delighted to announce it will also mean a publicly owned Great British Energy company, headquartered here in Scotland. GB Energy – backed by the strength of the UK Treasury – will make strategic investments to maximise our opportunities and bring jobs and prosperity to Scotland.

“A Labour government will unleash Scotland’s massive energy potential by making those strategic investments – that’s the change Scotland needs.”

In response to Labour's announcement, Alan Brown MP, the SNP's energy security and net-zero spokesperson, said: “Whether it’s the Tories or the pro-Brexit Labour Party, Westminster politicians have used Scotland as an energy cash cow for decades, so the pretence that they suddenly want to deliver a strategy for Scotland now is laughable.

“In Scotland, the damage of Westminster control is already done. Keir Starmer’s piecemeal proposal is too little, too late and shows exactly why Scotland needs the full powers of independence.

“It has been decades of Westminster governments failing to properly harness Scotland’s immense energy resources that has left people across Scotland paying the price. Promising a GB Energy HQ doesn’t make up for decades of squandered oil and gas revenues.

“It could not be clearer that Scotland needs the full powers of independence to properly deliver clean, green and affordable renewable energy for the benefit of people living and working here.”

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