Clean energy leaders & Labour politicians have reacted with dismay tinged with resignation at reports that the party if re-elected later this year will walk away from its troubled pledge to spend £28 billion every year on green technologies.
Reports from numerous media sources this week have the opposition party rescinding from its intention, first announced by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and leader Sir Keir Starmer in 2021.
The £28 billion pledge has been progressively watered down in recent months from, first, an annual outlay to be honoured in every year of a Labour government to, in recent months, merely an ambition to be achieved in the final years of a five year Parliament.
Now Labour officials have gone further. Media sources including the FT, BBC and Times Radio have reported that the figure is being abandoned. Fear that it was an electoral gift to the Conservatives in this year’s forthcoming general election campaign is said to be behind the pledge’s withdrawal. In briefings, advisors say that while the quantified commitment will go, Labour remains committed to ‘transformative change in energy support’.
Government debt now risen to over £100 billon since Labour made the pledge at its 2021 conference is offered in justification for dropping the cash target. Party figures had feared that the Conservatives would use it in charging the opposition as ‘fiscally lax’.
Only two days ago, Sir Kier Starmer had told Times Radio that his approach to green energy was ‘unwavering’.
The party’s conference last October had approved setting up GB Energy, a nationalised low carbon generator, tasked to phase out gas-fuelled power generation in Britain by 2030, five years earlier than the Conservatives’ deadline.
Shadow energy secretary Ed Milliband, who held the post in the final months of Gordon Brown’s government, is believed to have fought a fierce rearguard action within Labour’s leadership aimed at retaining the £ 28 billion figure.
He had argued that its size sent a strong signal to private investors, and was needed to put the nation on a supposed ‘war footing’ towards ending its dependence on fossil fuels.
Reaction today from green energy entrepreneurs ranged from resignation to disappointment.
Keith McGrane, CEO of Corre Energy, a developer of long-duration grid-scale battery systems, echoed Milliband’s point.
“Prioritising investment in green industries is critical to the future of our world”, he said. Companies like ours require several sources of capital to help the UK reach its Net Zero ambitions.”
“Labour’s pledge presented a landmark opportunity to turbocharge the deployment of renewable projects in the UK and enable developers in achieving a decarbonised, flexible, and secure grid.
As Keir Starmer has said himself, government investment is ‘desperately needed’ to support this deployment. Companies like ours require several sources of capital to help the UK reach its Net Zero ambitions.” –
Today’s reports of Labour’s probable backtrack co-incide with reports by climate scientists that the planet’s temperatures have already surpassed the lower 1.5 degree warming limit presented at the 2015 Paris COP conference as a minimum safe threshold.
First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousuf, posted on X, formerly Twitter, that his Westminster colleagues’ anticipated reversal was “a betrayal of Scotland’s renewable industry and economy” and a “complete abdication of leadership” in responding to the climate crisis.
From Photovolt Development Partners, working to deliver the £1 billion Botley West solar farm project near Oxford, co-founder Peter Gerstmann commented: “Solar farms can deliver the renewable power we need quickly, and relatively cheaply – but only with the right national infrastructure.
Gerstman said Labour’s focus must turn to increasing the capacity of Ofgem, planning authorities and the National Grid to deliver renewables projects at scale.
“For a relatively small sum, the UK can expect to see huge gains towards Net Zero, and significant inward investment to our green economy. The UK is a choice country for green investors and developers – such adjustments would increase the UK’s attractiveness even further as a global green energy hub”, said the developer.