Monday, 25 September 2017

The Energy Transformation is happening now!


Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell  announced to his party’s annual conference in Brighton today that  an incoming Labour government would seize assets currently leased to the state under the private finance initiative (PFI),

Earlier, during this spring’s general election, Labour’s leaders, Jeremy Corbyn, pledged not to sign new contracts, under which private companies finance the building of new assets for the state and lease them to the state, Speaking to Labour’s conference today Mr McDonnell said he wanted to go further by bringing all the 719 PFI contracts “in house”.

McDonnnell  said to acclaim: “The scandal of the [PFI], launched by John Major, has resulted in huge, long-term costs for taxpayers, whilst handing out enormous profits for some companies. Profits which are coming out of the budgets of our public services.”

But the Shadow Chancellor today  also made an important re-statement of Labour’s plan to radically reform the UK energy supply and services delivery system. He told the Conference:

The storms and flooding sweeping the world in these last few months are yet another environmental wake up call. This country has huge natural, renewable resources. And we have an immense heritage of scientific and engineering expertise. Yet this Government has slashed the funding, the renewables industry needs to find its feet.
Labour will ensure we become world leaders in decarbonising our economy. With a publicly owned energy supply based on alternative energy sources. Where the Tories have dithered and delayed, to deliver zero-carbon electricity, we will absolutely commit for example to building projects like the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.
Ours will only become an economy for the many, if we significantly broaden ownership. That means supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses, the genuinely self-employed and massively expanding worker control and the co-operative sector.”

Just over a year ago, Jeremy Corbyn pledged to create 1,000 community energy co-operatives and give them the legal right to directly sell energy to the people they serve.

, the Labour leader promised to build 1 million carbon neutral homes, half of them council houses. A national home insulation programme would be created to bring four million homes up to the energy efficiency standards B or C, and all rented housing would be forced to meet the same standards. Vulnerable customers would be given help paying their bills.

Corbyn committed his government to generating 65 per cent of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and vowed to get rid of all coal-fired power stations by the early 2020s - slightly ahead of the current government’s pledged phase-out. There would be an outright ban on fracking.

A £500 billion national investment programme, linked to a National Investment Bank and a network of regional development banks, would ensure new green jobs are created “where they are most needed – in coastal towns and areas with high unemployment”.

“All of these measures will create secure, skilled employment for hundreds of thousands of people,” added Corbyn. “As part of our transition to a low-carbon economy, we estimate that we will create 316,000 jobs in wind, solar and wave power.”

 (“Corbyn pledges to create 200 local energy companies,” Utility Week, 8 September 2016;

In late June, John McDonnell’s energy policy advisor, former Labour MP Alan Simpson, released a pamphlet, ‘Transformation Moment: Can Britain make it to the Age of Clean?’ ( backed by The Beautiful Energy Company and 10:10  Climate Action)

Simpson writes in the preface: This pamphlet is an invitation to radically reshape Britain’s future; a change bigger than anything seen since the Industrial Revolution. Only transformative change - in the way we think, act, live and work - stands any chance of limiting tomorrow’s climate crises. Energy is just one part of this picture. But it does show how technology, democracy and sustainability can team up to write a different economics of tomorrow.”


Countries leading the race into the Age of Clean, have changed their energy market

‘ground rules’ to embrace this energy revolution. But the real momentum is coming

from the grassroots; from empowered localities and included communities. People

themselves are becoming the architects and drivers of tomorrow’s solutions.

Today’s global leaders are starting to live within reducing carbon budgets, focusing as

much on what they can save and share as on what they produce and consume, and

using clean and smart technologies to drive the transition to a sustainable future.

Germany, California, Denmark and Sweden all understood this. Denmark, the real

pioneer, now treats whole system transformation as the norm. Norway, the Netherlands

and (perhaps) Germany are taking ‘transport’ into the Age of Clean too.

Countries serious about tackling climate change recognise that the saving and storing of

energy is as important as how we generate it. Seamlessly, the carbon footprint of food and

other consumption will become connected to transport, planning and air quality strategies.

What can be produced, used and shared locally will become the cornerstones

of new national energy security thinking. Within this, the role of the state is itself

being re-defined; providing the legislative, regulatory and fiscal frameworks

that underpin transformational change and, increasingly, taking more direct

responsibility for trans-national and intra-national balancing mechanisms that

complex energy systems still require. Technology plays a role in this, a huge role,

but it is a politics of empowerment and engagement that drives the change.”

Meantime, The Guardian’s Berlin correspondent Kate Connolly speculates  (“In-tray: The battles and  big issues ahead,” 25 September; ) that re-elected chancellor  Merkel “may well be forced to  face the fact  her kneejerk reaction to Fukushima (nuclear accident in Japan) which led her to announcing Germany would abandon nuclear power, was overly hasty.”

Setting aside the accident  re-affirmed a decision to phase out  nuclear power by not extending  lifetime operation of old reactors- on which the German government was having  second thoughts – I see no chance of any reversal of this policy if Mrs Merkel’s CDU  going into coalition with Green Party, on very likely outcome as Philip Oltermann elsewhere  sets out. in the paper’s  reportage of the German election.( Merkel faces tough coalition talks as nationalists enter German parliament, “ 25 Sept.2017;

In a meeting at the House of Commons on 11 September on the German energy transition – “Energiewende” -  German legal energy specialist, Matthias Buck, who formerly worked for the European Commission Energy Directorate and the German  energy  and environment  ministries respectively, and now works for Berlin=based energy consultancy ‘Agora’  explained in detail how the German Government has taken forward this radical energy strategy with  significant buy –in from political parties and the broader  German energy industry establishment (“Reflections on the Energiewende:

Buck stressed that against 2008 consumption  levels, the energy transition strategy is successfully heading towards a huge Increase in energy efficiency, with a reduction in electricity power consumption by  - 10% in 2020; and  - 25% in 2050.

Moreover, the share in renewable power consumption is set to increase to:
40 - 45% in 2025; 55 - 60% in 2035; ≥ 80% in 2050.

And all lignite coal consumption for power generation will be phased out by 2050.

Germany could and should be a model for the UK energy strategy if British ministers woke up to how the energy world globally is headed for an irreversible change to a radically cleaner sustainable future, backed by both the market and interventionists alike.

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