Labour conference: Every community should own a clean energy power station
Labour's new Shadow Energy Secretary Lisa Nandy has pledged to 'democratise' the energy system by boosting community-owned renewables across the country.
In her speech at the Labour Party annual conference yesterday (28 September), Nandy said that businesses and consumers were being ‘ripped off’ by the Conservative Party's plans to support the Hinkley nuclear plant while cutting subsidies for the cheapest renewable technology, onshore wind.
Nandy said: “We want to put people back in charge. But Jeremy [Corbyn] and I don’t want to nationalise energy. We want to do something far more radical. We want to democratise it.
“There should be nothing to stop every community in this country owning its own clean energy power station. Across the country schools are already taking the initiative and going solar. Generating power and heat for their own use.
“With the right support, community-based energy companies and cooperatives could be a new powerhouse, and a path to a more secure energy future.”
Nandy said the transition to a clean energy system was one of the biggest challenges the UK had ever faced. “It’s comparable in scale to the industrial revolution,” she said. “And it requires the same shared determination and collective will to act that helped us to rebuild Britain after the war.
The speech was quickly welcomed by Friends of the Earth, whose senior political campaigner Liz Hutchins said: “Lisa Nandy is spot on – we must democratise and clean up our energy system.
“For too long the Big Six energy firms have had the public over a barrel, while Government proposals to slash support for solar threatens 20,000 jobs.
“We need to help people and communities to generate their own clean power if we want to build an energy system that can deal with the challenges of the 21st century, especially climate change."
Road to Paris
Nandy also used the platform to criticise the current Government’s energy policies and their negative impact on the UK’s influence at the Paris climate talks.
“Under David Cameron, Britain’s influence abroad has diminished quicker than at any period in living memory,” she said. “It’s left us relegated to the margins of the global conversation, while others set the agenda and the pace.
“Their [the Conservative’s] refusal to look outwards has undermined our ability to tackle shared global challenges.”
Also speaking at the Labour Conference this week, Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle said the Conservatoves' recent renewable energy subsidy cuts made "absolutely no sense" and claimed the Government should be supporting the sector which was growing three times as fast as the rest of the economy.
New Shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy also gave a speech at the Conference on Tuesday, promising to block fracking in water-protection zones, and support locally-produced food to reduce its environmental impact.
In the keynote address, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not specifically mention any green policy issues, but did call for a more balanced economy and the need for policies to deliver greater investment in improved infrastructure.