Public and collective ownership is a fundamental part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution.
The national grid would be nationalised under a Labour government so that £13 billion would no longer be paid to shareholders each year and more investment would be targeted at decarbonisation, the Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long Bailey, announced today.
Heat and electricity would be made a "human right for all" under the radical new policy which has the personal support of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader.
A Labour party spokesperson said: "Privatisation of the UK’s energy grid is ripping off customers. 25 percent of energy bills is paid out to network companies. This is used to line the pockets of shareholders, with over £13 billion paid out in dividends over the last five years."
"Instead of pocketing excess profits, publicly owned networks will build out connections to parts of the country with high solar, wind and tidal potential, overcoming the bottlenecks, inefficiencies and underinvestment that has characterised private ownership."
Bailey said: “Climate change represents a risk to our future, but also an opportunity to gather our resources and transform it through a Green Industrial Revolution. That means dramatic, public driven and coordinated action, without which we simply will not be able to tackle climate change.
“So our plans see climate justice and social justice as inseparable. It’s an insult and an injustice to our people and our planet for companies operating the grid to rip customers off, line the pockets of the rich and not invest properly in renewable energy.
“Only by taking the grid into public ownership can we decarbonise the economy at the pace needed to secure the planet for our children and grandchildren while ending the rip off, creating good jobs in local communities and making heating and electricity a human right.
She added: “That’s why public and collective ownership is a fundamental part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution.”
Public energy agencies will also be tasked with tackling fuel poverty and protecting energy as a human right – making good on Labour’s promise that energy transition must go hand-in-hand with social justice.
Labour claims it will create a national as well as regional and municipal agencies that are run for the many, not the few to decarbonise the economy and deliver electricity and heat as a human right for all.
The National Energy Agency (NEA) will own and maintain transmission infrastructure, replacing the National Grid. The NEA will ensure access to electricity and heat as a human right and set and oversee targets for decarbonisation to meet Labour’s target of 60 percent renewable energy by 2030 and net zero carbon before 2050.
Regional Energy Agencies (REAs) will replace the existing Distribution Network Operators. REAs will hold statutory responsibility for decarbonising electricity and heat; hold statutory responsibility for ensuring every household can access affordable energy, and to reduce fuel poverty; take responsibility for rolling out the UK’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure; and create local jobs.
Where local authorities want to accelerate the energy transition, they will be able to set up Municipal Energy Agencies (MEAs), and take over responsibility for ownership and operation of distribution networks from the REAs. MEAs will then own and operate distribution networks, enabling them to integrate networks with local generation and supply.
In addition to the public institutions described above, Labour will support the establishment of Local Energy Communities (LECs) to develop small scale energy generation and engage with distribution at the micro level (e.g. a housing estate, street or small village). LECs will be wholly community owned and non-profit making.
Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “It is good to see positive ambitions set for renewables and with the urgency the task requires. Solar is one of the cheapest forms of energy. After years of damaging policies we would welcome the kick start to an industry that was thriving three years ago.
“We need to focus on how we can achieve our climate targets cost effectively, and how we can get there practically.
"Networks and the grid have a vital role to play in supporting a cheaper, greener and more flexible energy market, and whilst we would support more policy and regulatory direction from government on how to achieve this, the priority must be to accelerate the decarbonisation of our energy systems.”
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.