What will Labour do for clean energy?

Written by Lori Campbell on 9th Jul 2024

Sir Keir Starmer used his first speech as prime minister to herald “the opportunity of clean British power, cutting your energy bills for good.”

But what is Labour’s big clean energy plan, and what does it mean for the planet and your pocket?

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Great British Energy

At the heart of Labour’s mission to make the UK a “clean energy superpower” is the creation of a new publicly-owned company, Great British Energy (GB Energy).

GB Energy won’t supply electricity directly to households. Instead, it will work with the private sector to co-invest in emerging energy technologies such as floating offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen. It will also help to advance more mature technologies such as wind, hydro and solar.

Headquartered in Scotland, the company will be paid for by a windfall tax on big oil and gas firms, with initial funding of £8.3 billion over the course of parliament. This funding is part of Labour’s “Green Prosperity Plan,” which was scaled back by almost half earlier this year from £28 billion to less than £15 billion.

Labour says the plans will help it meet its ambitious goal for the UK to hit net zero by 2030 – five years earlier than the Conservatives’ target. Last year, fossil fuels still made up a third of the UK’s total electricity supplies but Labour has promised to work with the private sector to double onshore wind (which it has already lifted a ban on), triple solar power, and quadruple offshore wind by 2030.

Other clean energy plans

The lifetime of existing nuclear power plants will be extended and Hinkley Point C will be completed, and the party is committed to new nuclear power stations such as Sizewell C and Small Modular Reactors.

It says a “strategic reserve” of gas power stations will be maintained to guarantee security of supply, while oil and gas production in the North Sea “will be with us for decades to come”. However, no new licences to explore new fields or for coal will be granted, and fracking will be banned.

What will happen to energy bills?

The party has made a bold promise to cut annual energy bills by £300 per household from 2030 through its investment in more clean renewable energy.

It says: “Great British Energy is part of Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan to create 650,000 good jobs, cut bills by £300 on average and deliver real energy security.” Its plan will lower bills, it claims, because “renewables are far cheaper than gas.”

Former government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: “Getting to a clean power system fast and with appropriate technologies is an investment, not simply a cost. And being self-sufficient in energy will mean that our country is never again left so exposed by our dependency on an unstable international fossil fuel market.”

And Max Wakefield, co-director of climate charity Possible, said lifting the ban on onshore wind is a quick and cheap action and will bring down bills.

However, the speed at which this can happen is under debate. Ofgem, the energy regulator, said in May that energy bills are not expected to fall substantially this decade partly because of the costs of expanding the electricity network to support more renewable sources.

Matthew Clayton, Managing Director of clean energy investment firm Thrive Renewables, said communities must be central to investment plans. He said: We need to see the public and private sector working together, as well as with communities – who we believe need to remain at the heart of a people-powered transition to net zero. What we’ll be rewarded with is cheaper bills in the long term and a cleaner, more secure energy system that allows the benefits of renewables to be felt locally.”

How to switch to clean energy

You can choose to support a cleaner and more sustainable energy system in the UK by buying your energy from a green supplier. Ecotricity, 100Green, Good Energy, Octopus Energy, and SO Energy all go the extra mile to ensure their energy comes from green sources – find out more here.

You could also make the most of financial rewards for choosing clean energy.

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