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Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days
Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days

How does Labour deliver its Clean Energy Mission?

Words by:
June 26, 2024

With commitments to establish a ‘publicly owned energy company’, rewire Britain’s electricity grid and expand renewable generation, the Labour Party’s 2024 manifesto outlines an ambitious plan to make the UK a “clean energy superpower”. Ahead of polling day, WA hosted leading figures from across the energy sector for a discussion on how a Labour government would look to achieve its goal of decarbonising the UK’s energy supply.

Contributors including Paul McNamee, Director of the Labour Climate and Environment Forum, Sue Ferns, Senior Deputy General Secretary of the trade union Prospect and Chris Hayes, Chief Economist at Common Wealth discussed how Labour can practically deliver its ‘clean energy mission’.

Here is what we learnt about the direction of energy policy under a possible Labour Government:

1. Quick decisions need to be made

The incoming Energy Secretary will face a packed inbox of ‘legacy’ issues carried over from the last government. Many major policy decisions need to be made by the end of the year, some this summer. These include the sixth allocation round of the contracts for difference (CfD) scheme, the future of Sizewell C, SMR funding and CCUS deployment.

Potential Energy Secretary Ed Miliband is expected to make clear, positive decisions in these areas to back the technologies required for the UK to achieve net zero. Labour and Miliband will look to portray these decisions as totemic, representing how the party is making the bold choices necessary to deliver their green prosperity plan.

Miliband, who will likely be one of the few new Secretaries of State with previous experience of Government, would also be able to use his prior learned experience and institutional knowledge to immediately drive forward Labour’s energy plans. This would be in contrast with other Secretaries of State who would need time to get to grips with the machinery of Government.

Planning reforms to get more renewable generation in development are also likely to be a priority across the first 100-days of a Labour administration. These reforms would entail regulatory overhaul as well as bolstering planning departments who have experienced a reduction in workforce and investment over the past 14 years.

2. Informed backbenchers with an interest in energy policy

The next parliament will perhaps be the most engaged and informed parliaments on energy policy that we have seen in recent years. Many Labour PPCs contesting swing seats including Melanie Onn (former MP for Great Grimsby and previously Deputy Chief Executive of trade body RenewableUK), Mary Creagh (ex-MP for Wakefield and sustainability advisor) and Polly Billington (founder of UK100) will be hoping to enter parliament directly from careers focused on energy and climate issues.

If the best-case scenarios for the Labour Party are correct and the Conservatives suffer what would effectively be a wipeout across the country, Labour PCCs contesting traditionally safe Conservative seats could find themselves on the Labour benches following July 4th. Two such candidates with energy backgrounds are Luke Murphy in Basingstoke and Ryan Jude in Tatton. Murphy is on leave from his post as Head of the Fair Transition Unit at the think tank IPPR while Jude is a Programme Director at the Green Finance Institute.

These MPs with a nuanced understanding of how the energy sector really works, of which there will be many, will be important in shaping policy and holding to account frontbench’s energy priorities.

There is a risk however, that if a Labour ‘supermajority’ transpires, the Labour benches could have ta higher share of inhabitants representing rural areas – in places like East Anglia – where residents are typically more sceptical on the issue of hosting energy infrastructure. This creates the possibility of rising tensions between the leadership’s ambition on energy, and backbench MPs who will be wanting to be seen to be representing their local interests.

3. Managing expectations around GB Energy

While there is clearly an optimism within Labour that the party’s energy policy package will get the UK well on the road to net zero by 2050, there are many areas in which important details and plans are missing. For instance, questions remain over the much-touted GB Energy and how it fits into the existing energy system and infrastructure.

Many voters have a misunderstanding about GB Energy’s role, not helped by the lack of detail early on its policy formation. Polling and focus groups suggest that some voters believe that it will be a consumer facing energy retail company, rather than an energy developer. This misunderstanding of a flagship policy could lead to trouble for Labour, and the energy industry as a whole, if voters do not feel any benefit by the next election. A Labour government will have an important job to do early in its first term to manage expectations, so that by the time of the next election it can show that GB Energy has delivered.

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