‘Strong rhetoric’: UK’s green economy welcomes Labour’s energy transition plans

Several of the biggest groups within the UK’s green economy have welcomed Kier Starmer’s new plans for a more rapid energy transition – but he is being urged to also put forward the nature-related details of his party’s climate strategy.

‘Strong rhetoric’: UK’s green economy welcomes Labour’s energy transition plans

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Delivering a speech with other senior Labour Party members in Edinburgh this morning (19 June), Starmer outlined plans for coupling economic growth and levelling up with the UK’s transition to net-zero. These would be enacted if Labour wins the next general election, likely to take place in 2024.

Starmer confirmed that Labour’s public-owned energy body, GB Energy, would be based in Scotland and provide millions of pounds to councils and to community renewables schemes.

He also touted a nationwide home retrofitting scheme for energy efficiency and a 2030 target for ending unabated gas-fired electricity generation.

Additionally, Starmer said that Labour would not row back on plans to end new oil and gas exploration licencing after the General election.

The green economy has welcomed several of these pledges, but Starmer remains under pressure to beef up Labour’s green skills plan and to set out the role it sees nature playing in climate mitigation and adaptation.

Here, we round up the reaction to Starmer’s speech.

The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology’s CEO, Dr Nina Skorupska:

“As Sir Keir makes clear, renewables can deliver cheaper, greener power than any alternatives and must be rolled out at scale as quickly as possible. The REA echoes his statement that clean energy is now essential for national security. We will be interested to see further details on the GB Energy proposals and agree in principle that local communities should benefit economically from projects in their areas, as this could become a major added benefit of the Net Zero transition, with local authorities being well placed to decide how best to distribute these benefits.

“We now need to see a greater focus across the full range of renewable technologies, including bioenergy, geothermal and marine, in addition to the welcome commitments on onshore wind and solar.”

KPMG UK’s head of energy and natural resources Simon Virley:

“Labour’s plan to accelerate the transition to a Net Zero power system by 2030, five years earlier than currently planned, is certainly ambitious. There is plenty of appetite from the private sector to invest in renewables and accelerate the transition, if the right long-term policies are in place. The problem is not the lack of investment.  It is the non-financial barriers, like planning, consenting and grid connections that need to be tackled as a matter of urgency.  As a result of these delays, any new offshore wind project started now would not be operational until the mid-2030s at the earliest.  Labour will have to find ways quickly to tackle these non-financial barriers if it wants to accelerate the transition to a net-zero power system.”

WWF’s chief executive Tanya Steele:

“The transition to green energy must be a when, not an if, and Labour is right to follow the science and commit to this transition. All parties should match this commitment in the lead up to the next general election. It will slash bills across the UK by reducing our reliance on volatile oil and gas markets, ensure long-term energy security and tackle climate change.

“But we know energy is just one piece of the puzzle in achieving the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Whoever forms the next government, we need this level of ambition across every sector, in particular food and finance which, alongside the energy system, are the largest drivers of climate change and nature loss.”

RSPB’s director for conservation Katie-Jo Luxton:

“We welcome today’s announcement from Labour on ending future oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and accelerating the energy transition. Decoupling the UK energy supply from fossil fuels is the only way to secure a safe climate alongside an affordable energy system fit for the future.

“Plans to step up renewable energy development must be achieved alongside on our legally binding nature recovery targets. Healthy ecosystems are critical to addressing climate change. We strongly support the end to the onshore wind ban in England and we can maximise emissions reductions by ensuring that projects are built in the least sensitive areas for wildlife and help nature recover, alongside delivering for net-tzero.

“Protecting our precious natural environment is a critical function of our planning regulations. There are positive reforms  that could be made to the planning system that would speed up the decision-making process for onshore renewables. It would be a major error to scapegoat planning laws and look to reduce environmental protections to address the sluggish pace of our energy transition –  the root cause is a long-term failure to upgrade our aging energy grid and a lack of robust spatial planning.”

Seahorse Environmental’ s director of energy and cleantech, Lizzy Roberts:

It was good to hear recognition of just how much of an industrial strategy opportunity tackling the climate crisis can be. There’s a big challenge ahead in how Labour in practice ensure public and local ownership work alongside private investment. There will also be real intrigue for how the local electricity discount schemes will be designed. This programme would be transformational, but if it is to succeed , then Labour will have to design policies that create new ownership models while giving the private sector the confidence to indeed accelerate investment. That’s one tricky tightrope to walk.”

IPPR’s associate director Luke Murphy:

“There is an emerging global consensus on employing a muscular green industrial strategy to capitalise on the economic benefits of the race to net zero. These policies will cut energy bills, generate jobs, help make Britain energy independent, and reduce emissions. 

“IPPR has long advocated for all parties to adopt these policies. The longer the UK delays, the further it will lag in the global green race.

Friends of the Earth’s head of science, policy and research, Mike Childs:

“Labour’s rhetoric on climate change is strong and it is right to focus on the UK’s huge potential for cheap, homegrown renewables. Enabling communities to benefit from local clean power projects, lifting the ban on onshore wind and committing to develop a homegrown industry to build offshore wind turbines, will all boost green growth, create new jobs and ensure people feel ownership and reap the rewards of the shift to a clean energy system.

“A world-leading and credible climate plan also needs greater clarity on the phase out date for fossil fuel use and there can be no rowing back on the pledge to stop new oil and gas extraction. A fully funded green prosperity plan is needed, with urgent investment in a street-by-street insulation programme, alongside a swift and fair transition to renewables.”

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak:

“A new national energy champion can play a key role in safeguarding the livelihoods of existing workers, creating high-quality and unionised jobs, and accelerating climate action. Labour has set out a vision for GB Energy to be a peer to public companies like France’s EDF and Sweden’s Vattenfall.

“To achieve this scale, provide good quality jobs and lower bills for UK families, the TUC estimates that Great British Energy should be capitalised with £40 billion in a first term. This would give the UK a real publicly-owned energy champion, like our European neighbours. That’s the best way to decarbonise the UK economy while safeguarding people’s jobs and livelihoods.”

UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) chief executive James Alexander: 

“We welcome the further details outlined by the Labour Party for its green agenda, which provides a number of positive signals for our members on how a Labour government would seek to decarbonise the UK economy at the required pace and scale. The plans represent a good signal of intent in our view, particularly following last week’s disappointing decision to delay certain green spending commitments.

“Investors continue to further certainty from all policymakers in the UK on the country’s long-term plans to be able to invest with confidence in new climate solutions and technologies. In the coming months, we will be encouraging policymakers to consider additional steps to crowd in private capital, which we know needs to be rapidly scaled during this critical decade of climate action. We look forward to engaging with Labour on the crucial policy detail of its plans, from its National Wealth Fund to reviewing the role of regulators in supporting the transition, and how they can best support the country’s growth and long-term climate objectives.”

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