Industry responds to Labour’s energy nationalisation plans

It announced plans to take National Grid into public ownership as well as replace the existing distribution network operators

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The Labour Party today announced plans to take National Grid into public ownership as well as replace the existing distribution network operators to end fuel poverty and fight climate change.

It also set out a goal to install solar panels on nearly two million homes as part of its Green Industrial Revolution.

‘People and country will be poorer’

The CBI believes renationalising energy network companies will make people and the country “poorer”.

Chief UK Policy Director Matthew Fell said: “As drafted, these proposals amount to hanging a ‘closed’ sign above the UK, with renationalisation delivering a triple whammy neither citizens nor the country can afford.

“First, Labour’s plans would leave individual savers and international investors alike asking the question ‘is my money safe?’ Loose talk of re-nationalisation is already hitting the pockets of nearly six million pensioners. This will only increase if the plans are delivered.

“Second, much-needed investment is drying up under Labour’s threats, which seriously risks hampering efforts to tackle climate change, and puts in doubt the innovation that will deliver a net-zero carbon economy.

“Third, these plans would threaten significant improvements in network resilience made since privatisation. No one wants a return to the frequent power cuts that were a feature of nationalised industries of yesteryear. Against the uncertain backdrop of Brexit, the country needs policies focused on powering economic growth in the future, not revisiting mistakes of the past.”

‘Extremely costly’

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) believes the proposals will “not only fail to deliver Labour’s objectives but they will also be extremely costly to the British public”.

Chief Executive David Smith said: “The companies responsible for grids are already delivering huge levels of investment that have led to record levels of clean energy, lower costs and fewer power cuts than ever before. Over the last six years network companies have invested over 2% of annual UK investment. At a time when there are constraints on public spending we need to ask where the money would come from to pay for and provide future investment in these vital assets.

“Under state ownership the energy networks were more expensive and less reliable. Since privatisation in 1990 network costs to the billpayer have fallen by 17%. At the same time that costs have fallen, reliability has improved: the public have experienced 60% fewer power cuts while their length has been reduced by 84%.

“It is wrong to say energy network companies have not invested in infrastructure. Over £100 billion of investment has been delivered by network companies since privatisation. In the last six years alone, they have invested over £22bn in their gas and electricity grids across the country and provide jobs for 36,000 people, while the UK is now ranked globally seventh by the World Bank for ease of getting electricity. This vital investment could all be jeopardised with these plans.”

‘Complex option’

RenewableUK says believes restructuring the UK’s energy networks risks being a “costly and complex option”.

Head of Policy Luke Clark adds: “There is much more that can be done within existing structures to enable investment in cheap renewable energy and clean jobs and industry around the UK. Policymakers could accelerate the UK’s journey to a smarter electricity system, with flexible technologies and markets saving consumers billions of pounds each year.

“Restructuring our energy networks risks being a costly and complex option, when we also need to speed up the decarbonisation of our economy.”

‘Great first step’

The GMB union, however, welcomed Labour’s “big and bold” policy to being energy networks back to public ownership.

National Secretary Justin Bowden said: “Returning energy networks to where any natural monopoly belongs – under public ownership – is a great first step and should be quickly followed by announcements on domestic gas and electricity supply.

“Any credible energy policy must be affordable to consumers and taxpayers, guarantee security of supply and increasingly rely on zero and very low carbon sources like nuclear, green hydrogen gas and wind as part of a balance energy mix.”

‘Positive ambitions’

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) welcomed plans to install 1.75 million homes with solar panels, saying it is “good to see positive ambitions” set for renewables “and with the urgency the task requires”.

Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska added: “Solar is one of the cheapest forms of energy. after years of damaging policies, we 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.”

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