Starmer vows to kick off clean energy plans 'within months' of a Labour win

By John Mercury May 31, 2024

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will vow on Friday to “get working within months to build clean power across the United Kingdom” if his party wins the general election.

At an event in Scotland – and joined by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar – the prime ministerial hopeful will reiterate his plans for Great British Energy, first announced at the party’s conference in 2022.

Headquartered north of the border, the new, publicly owned company will generate homegrown green energy up and down the country, with the party claiming it will help to “turn the page” on the cost of living crisis by driving down bills.

But the Conservatives claimed it was a “vanity project” of former Labour leader – and now shadow energy security and net zero secretary – Ed Miliband, that will “leave taxpayers picking up the bill”.

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Sir Keir will outline how initial investments will be made within weeks, including in wind and solar projects, and as the firm grows, it will look into floating offshore wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage, in the hope of making Scotland “a world-leader in cutting edge technologies”.

The party said the pledge would be paid for through a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

Read more: Do we need Labour’s Great British Energy policy?

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Sir Keir Starmer first announced the policy in 2022

Sir Keir will say: “Family financial security depends on energy security. The pain and misery of the cost of living crisis was directly caused by the Tories’ failure to make Britain resilient, leaving us at the mercy of fossil fuel markets controlled by dictators like Putin.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Our clean power mission with Great British Energy will take back control of our destiny and invest in cheap, clean homegrown energy that we control.

“We will turn the page on the cost of living crisis. The choice at this election is clear – higher bills and energy insecurity with the Conservatives, or lower bills and energy security with Labour.”

But Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho claimed the project was both unfunded and would “turn off the taps to North Sea oil and gas”, risking 2,000 jobs.

“By sticking to the Conservatives’ clear plan, energy bills are at the lowest point since 2022,” she added. “But we must go further.

“That’s why we are taking bold action to guarantee the future of the energy price cap, as we back new nuclear power and offshore wind, keeping bills low and ensuring families are not lumbered with the cost of reaching net zero.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, and Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho, during a visit to Baker Hughes in Montrose, Angus, Britain?Picture date: Friday March 1, 2024. Michal Wachucik/Pool via REUTERS
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Rishi Sunak and Claire Coutinho will argue the Tories are better placed to bring down energy bills. Pic: Reuters

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, had an even bleaker assessment of the plan, claiming it was “threatening to destroy 100,000 Scottish jobs and deter billions of pounds of investment”.

He added: “The fact is Starmer’s plans would take Scotland’s energy wealth and spend it on nuclear projects in England.

“In contrast, the SNP wants every penny to be spent in Scotland – reducing household bills, creating Scottish jobs, and securing our green energy future.

“It’s no wonder the Labour Party has given up campaigning in the North East and huge swathes of Scotland – because Starmer knows how deeply unpopular his damaging policies are.”

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Sir Patrick Vallance endorses GB Energy

However in a boost to Sir Keir, the plans were endorsed by Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s pandemic-era scientific adviser.

In a sensitive intervention for a former top civil servant, Sir Patrick wrote in The Times: “The prize is huge: lower energy bills, good jobs, more innovative businesses, energy security, and climate leadership.”

Great British Energy also got the backing of one campaign group, Britain Remade, who called it “hugely welcome”.

But its founder, Sam Richards, warned Labour “won’t be able to get spades in the ground as quickly as they need to – unlocking the benefits of cheap power and lower bills – unless they tackle head-on Britain’s outdated planning system”.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth also called the plan “great news” but warned the Labour Party not to “rest on its laurels” when it came to reducing carbon pollution from transport and heating.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail on Friday, the Conservatives will be talking about tackling anti-social behaviour, unveiling plans to give fly-tippers points on their driving licenses, “kick out” anti-social tenants and roll out “hot spot” policing controls.

And the SNP will be making further demands on Labour, calling for them to hold an emergency budget straight after the election to “reverse Tory austerity cuts, boost NHS funding, and invest in economic growth”.

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