Labour conference 2023: energy recap

Labour conference 2023: energy recap

DeHavilland has produced an energy round-up from this week's Labour Party conference.

DeHavilland has produced an energy round-up from this week’s Labour Party conference.

Key takeaways:

  • Labour clarified where it stood on the energy transition – saying it would go hard and fast from day one of a new Labour government. 
  • There appears to be cross-Departmental consensus that energy security and clean energy is one of the main priorities for the party.  
  • Senior figures, including Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves, took the opportunity to pledge support for the energy transition. 
  • Planning blockages and a skills gap were pointed to as being the number one issue facing new green projects, with the party planning to tackle these issues on day one of a Labour government.  
  • Industry leaders seemed optimistic about the prospect of a Labour government, with many agreeing with the party’s approach.

Net zero transition 

Following the Government’s latest reversals on net zero targets, all eyes were on Labour to see how it would respond. Expectedly, the Opposition party took the opportunity to outline an alternative approach to the Government – instead, pledging to go further and faster on the green transition.  

Delivering his keynote speech on Monday, shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband announced that a Labour government would create an Energy Independence Act in a bid to create an energy-secure UK that would not rely on external, possibly hostile countries for its energy supply. He also stated that there was a “spirit of change in their air” at the conference, which could be felt around energy-focused fringes.  

Energy and industrial strategy leaders seemed to feel empowered by the steadfast backing of the shadow Treasury. Rachel Reeves’ conference speech on Monday referenced her work with Ed Miliband to “rewire Britain” and improve access to the energy grid, and she noted that GB Energy would bid to feed into the grid. She also committed to simplifying planning regulations, a significant barrier to getting green projects off the ground. The shadow Treasury appear to have committed to supporting climate plans from day one, which is a clear vote of confidence for the industry. 

Sir Keir Starmer echoed similar sentiments. He used his Tuesday speech to highlight the blockages the current planning system causes in energy infrastructure. He noted that the National Grid would need to be developed at pace to match the quick rollout of renewables.  

Ed Miliband was a well-received speaker at the “How can Labour make the UK a clean, green superpower?” event on Sunday. Delivering a passionate speech, Mr Miliband lamented the Government’s lack of ambition for the green sector and highlighted Labour’s plans to go hard and fast on the green transition. He also took the opportunity to mention that Labour would ensure that local communities that take on renewables would benefit directly from these, particularly areas that do not often prosper.  

Shadow Energy Minister Dr Alan Whitehead sat on the panel at an event called “How can Labour deliver zero-carbon energy generation by 2030?” on Monday. The long-serving MP stressed colossal opportunity and potential in the UK regarding renewables but stated that the transition needs to be done at speed and significant scale. He also announced that GB Nuclear would be folded into GB Energy, saying that GB Energy would be the overarching body for all things energy.  

Industrial strategy 

Shadow Industrial Strategy Secretary Jonathan Reynolds used his keynote speech on Monday to advocate for the green economy, underlining that business requires commitment and consistency, which he promised would be received from a Labour government. He reiterated that the transition would present a challenge, but the opportunities cannot be understated and far outweigh any negatives. Mr Reynolds also pledged to reform the apprenticeship levy to help upskill the workforce to assist with the green transition.  

At a fringe event entitled “Rebuilding our industrial strength” on Sunday, the shadow Secretary repeated remarks in his speech. It was clear that Ministers were staying on message, with every fringe repeating the same solutions – reforming the planning system, overhauling business rates and changing the apprenticeship levy.  

Lord Mandelson was also a guest at this event, where he criticised the current Government for allowing the UK to fall behind the US and EU regarding industrial investment.  

Mr Reynolds also appeared at a fringe named “Becoming a green superpower: How can the UK maximise the economic opportunities of the net zero transition?” on Monday. Again, he used the opportunity to slam the current skills policy and planning system, declaring that Labour would commit to overhauling these systems. He noted that the party has a cross-Departmental consensus that the green transition underpins all that Labour will be working on.  

In all fringe events on industrial strategy, every panellist criticised the Government’s U-turns on net zero targets. Industry leaders insisted that clarity was essential while making the transition, calling for a cross-party consensus on a green transition plan that would be stuck to.


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