Green energy: Starmer pledges to make Britain a ‘green energy superpower’

The party has already watered down its green industry spending plans and unions are worried about a ban on new oil licences in the North Sea

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Sir Keir Starmer has set out plans to make Britain a “clean energy superpower” if Labour wins the next general election.

The Labour leader sought to reassure industrial communities that his party’s green energy plans would not leave them behind, as he warned that the “moment for decisive action is now”.

The speech in Edinburgh came as Labour pledged to cut bills and create new jobs by removing planning barriers the party said stood in the way of green initiatives, as well as new targets to reduce the time taken to complete clean power projects from “years to months”.

Starmer promised to cut bills and create jobs - but his strategy has been questioned after Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves abandoned a green industry spending target and union bosses raised concerns about a ban on new North Sea gas and oil licences.

What did Starmer say?

In a speech in Edinburgh this morning (19 June), Starmer set out the latest of Labour’s five missions if it gets into government - the others being economic growth, the transformation of the NHS, a crime crackdown and education reforms.

He promised to make Britain a “clean energy superpower, to deliver clean, homegrown power that will cut bills for families and business and to deliver the good jobs in the industries of the future”.

Measures in place effectively banning onshore wind farms in England would be lifted, and up to two-million households would receive grants and loans each year to make their homes more energy efficient - lowering bills and reducing carbon emissions.

In the speech in Leith, he said his programme “will power us forward towards net zero, generate growth right across the country, end the suffocating cost-of-living crisis, and get (Russian president Vladimir) Putin’s boot off our throat with real energy security”.

“A stronger, more secure Britain, once again at the service of working people, with cheaper bills and clean electricity by 2030,” he said.

The party’s proposed new public body, GB Energy, would collaborate with councils, communities and the private sector to bring down energy costs. GB Energy would make available up to £600 million in funding for councils and up to £400 million in low-interest loans each year for communities, the party claimed.

He admitted that the transition was “asking deep and difficult questions of all of us, and I fully accept, especially here, fossil fuel energy plays a huge role in the Scottish economy”.

“It’s also part of the social fabric. Communities depend on it. The jobs it provides, good jobs for working people, they’re precious,” he said.

“I’m not going to give you a moral sermon about the urgency of climate change, everyone gets that argument. What I offer is a plan: a new course through stormy waters, a bridge to a better future.”

How has Labour’s policy changed?

At the Labour party conference two years ago, Rachel Reeves claimed she wanted to be Britain’s first green Chancellor - and committed to spending £28 billion in Britain’s “green transition for each and every year of this decade”. This would have included investment in projects like giga-factories for electric car batteries.

Rachel Reeves said she had to change course because of the state of the public finances Rachel Reeves said she had to change course because of the state of the public finances
Rachel Reeves said she had to change course because of the state of the public finances

But ten days ago, Reeves said she no longer commit to that level of spending because she wasn’t prepared to borrow as much - due to the impact it might have on the national debt.

She insisted Labour would “ramp up and get to the investment that’s needed” - and said the ambition was to raise it to £28 billion a year over the course of the next Parliament. Energy Secretary Grant Shapps called the revised plan an “embarrassing and screeching U-turn”.

What other questions have been raised?

Starmer intends to ban all new oil and gas licences in the North Sea - a move welcomed by environmental groups but strongly criticised by the leader of the GMB union. At its conference in Brighton earlier this month, one GMB member told Starmer the proposals could “decimate” communities in Scotland reliant on North Sea oil for their livelihoods.

The Conservatives have also accused Labour of letting the environmental protest group Just Stop Oil influence its policies - because a major donor to the party, Dale Vince, is one of the campaigners’ key financial backers.

Both Labour and Vince deny this.

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