It is shaping up to be a more closely contested UK general election than was predicted by the polls when Theresa May called a snap election in April. Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour team have cut the lead down to single figures. With the launch of his manifesto, he promised “radical and responsible”. Stuart Miller, Associate and energy specialist at Anthesis casts his eye over the energy policies to see if it lives up to its billing. You can read Jono Adams’ take on the Conservative manifesto here.
“Labour’s energy policy is built on three simple principles”, the manifesto’s energy chapter begins, not so creatively, stating the energy trilemma (security, equity, and sustainability) and promising to deliver on all three fronts. However, the sustainability third of this certainly receives more focus than is given by the Conservatives.
To begin with, homeowners will be offered interest free loans to help them insulate their homes. With up to 40% of UK energy consumption utilized in domestic heating and hot water, this has clear potential to make vast energy savings. Perhaps more importantly, with the growing rental market in the UK, the Landlord Energy Efficiency Regulations will be improved and the Landlord Energy Saving Allowance re-established, incentivizing landlords to invest in energy saving measures.
Labour also commits to carbon capture and storage, which receives no mention in the Tory manifesto, as a method of progressing to a low carbon future whilst protecting existing jobs. Tidal lagoons are specifically mentioned amongst a commitment to renewable technologies. This is something the Tories have come under fire for, after failing to mention it in their manifesto following the Hendry Review that approved the Swansea Bay project.
In terms of equity, an energy price cap will mean that the average dual fuel customer pays less than a £1000 a year. Of course, the energy companies will fight back, but when the Tories also want to interfere with the markets and both parties are in agreement, there must be a need for a change.
Both parties’ movement away from center is emphasized by their views on fracking, May calling it a “revelation” to the United States, promoting how it will lower prices and increase security of supply. Conversely, Corbyn has promised to ban fracking, with concerns that the commitment to the industry would cause a huge threat to our carbon reduction targets. I can’t help but agree with him; the energy companies which are fracking for shale will only settle for long-term contracts to justify their initial investment. These contracts will lead us quickly to 2030, at which point the Committee on Climate Change says our reliance on gas must be greatly reduced.
Shifting the focus slightly wider, probably the most radical part of the manifesto is the plan to bring water, rail, mail and energy back into public ownership. With the National Grid valued at £38bn, and the 6 power networks and 4 gas networks valued at £60bn, it would be a huge undertaking for the government. It is worth noting that Labour have stressed nationalizing energy would be a gradual process, likely beginning with creating publicly-owned regional energy companies and allowing publicly-owned companies to purchase regional grid infrastructure. It’s an interesting preposition: locally accountable co-operatives allowed to rival the big energy suppliers, and it should certainly add competition to the natural monopoly that is energy supply. Critics will ask the obvious question of, ‘where the money will come from?’ Supporters will counter that if French, Spanish and many other governments are making money from energy company dividends, wouldn’t that be better being kept by the UK exchequer?
Labour’s gain in the polls since the release of manifesto cannot be taken as a direct sign of approval but it seems to have done little to defer voters away from voting for them. Overall Jeremy, I’d score it a 5 for radical, and an 8 for responsible.
This blog originally appeared on the Anthesis website.