The Leader of the Opposition in the UK has vowed to “kickstart a green jobs revolution that will help tackle climate change, provide sustainable energy for the future and create skilled jobs in every nation and region” of Britain.
Delivering his keynote speech at the Labour Party annual conference in Liverpool yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn added that “we will go further – with plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the middle of the century”.
He conceded that “I know that sounds ambitious: it is ambitious – and will be delivered with the most far-reaching programme of investment and transformation in decades”.
Corbyn said that if Labour won the next general election, it would create 400,000 skilled clean energy jobs.
He also stressed Labour’s commitment to cut the UK’s net carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2030 and to zero by 2050, and said that this would “make Britain the only developed country outside Scandinavia to be on track to meet our climate change obligations”.
Corbyn was speaking a day after the Shadow Energy Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey told the Liverpool conference that Labour’s energy policy would “harness the best offshore wind prospects in the world to deliver a seven-fold increase in offshore windpower. That’s over 7000 turbines, a massive 52 GW– enough to power 12 million homes.”
Bailey said Labour planned to double onshore wind power and almost triple solar power and would install PV panels on “every viable rooftop”. And she said she would initiate a drive to make “every single house in the UK a warm, dry, energy efficient home”.
Matt Rooney, Engineering Policy Adviser at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said Labour’s new energy plan “sets ambitious targets for faster decarbonisation – such ambition is to be commended. The focus on energy efficiency, which is widely regarded to be an area in which the country has fallen short, is also timely.”
However, he said the policy of mandating solar on ‘every viable rooftop’ is misguided. “This is an expensive way of generating electricity from solar energy. It would be more efficient, and less expensive, to direct the same resources towards dedicated solar farms that can be more readily optimised to produce electricity and that will not require expensive installation costs associated with rooftop solar.
“The cost of solar panels have fallen rapidly in recent years, to the point that solar power can compete on cost with convention fossil fuel power plants. Whichever party is in government should enable the roll-out of more solar capacity, but it would be a mistake to enforce an unnecessarily expensive method of production when cheaper alternatives are available.”
The Labour Party’s energy plans have been welcomed by environmental groups and renewable trade associasions.
Kate Blagojevic, Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, said the strategies “would create an energy policy based on the cheapest and cleanest power sources”.
“Together with vital improvements to home insulation, this would benefit the public and the planet as it would cut bills, create new jobs and reduce emissions, although there is still work to do for both main parties to dramatically cut carbon from transport.”
The UK’s Solar Trade Association’s Advocacy Director Leonie Greene said: “Whatever your politics, the economic facts on the ground are that an energy system driven by expanding wind and solar now offers the lowest cost pathway.
“The government estimates that around £180bn needs to be invested in the electricity sector alone to 2030, so enabling the lowest cost technologies which do not need public subsidy and which do not contribute to climate change, namely solar and onshore wind, would be very good news for consumers. Renewables are also good for our economy as they are not subject to unpredictable global price fluctuations, something we are currently seeing with gas and petrol prices.”
She said renewables “need a flexible electricity system and policy certainty to create long term contracts. That flexibility also means further potentially massive cost savings because it means a more efficient power system overall. Building more solar and wind generation will now drive lower energy costs for consumers than any alternative future system. But we need the market framework to facilitate this future and stimulate investment.”
RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said that Labour was “right to recognise that wind and renewables should be at the heart of a smart, low carbon energy system. Onshore wind is the lowest cost option for new power in the UK but is currently prevented from competing in the market, which means consumers will miss out on cheap electricity and billions of pounds of new investment across the UK being lost.
“Offshore wind can be the backbone of a clean, reliable and affordable energy system. Industry has set out plans to invest tens of billions of pounds in new projects and supply chains that will support over 27,000 jobs by 2030.”