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:
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; http://utilityweek.co.uk/news/Corbyn-pledges-to-create-200-local-energy-companies/1275732#.V9JzO-RTGM8
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; www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/25/challenges-merkel-faces-as-she-starts-fourth-term-as-german-chancellor ) 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; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/24/angela-merkel-faces-stark-choice-between-coalition-or-minority-rule
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: http://www.nuclearconsult.com/german-energy-transition-future-uk-energy-policy/).
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.
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.