Britain will pay a high price for Labour’s Net Zero fanaticism

Keir Starmer’s promise of cheap, green energy is a dangerous fantasy.

Thomas Osborne

Topics Politics Science & Tech

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‘Families and businesses will have lower bills for good.’ That’s a promise the Labour Party is making to the British public should it get into power.

One of Labour’s six ‘missions’ for government is to make the UK a ‘clean energy superpower’ by 2030, by investing in wind, solar, carbon capture and energy storage. Great British Energy, a new state-backed investment company, will help fund the replacement of fossil fuels with a carbon-free electricity system. This expansion in renewable energy will not just save the planet, Labour claims, but also give us reliable, ‘homegrown’ energy – and lower prices as a result.

But don’t be fooled by this green-fuelled narrative. In truth, Labour’s energy policy is a recipe for higher bills and economic misery.

The first hole in Labour’s green-transition plan is the absence of the hundreds of billions of pounds in investment that it will take to fund it. Starmer originally pledged to borrow £28 billion a year to invest in the rollout of renewable energy, but Labour has progressively reduced the amount it is willing to spend, even while keeping its target of achieving a carbon-free electricity grid by 2030.

Labour has now earmarked £8.3 billion for Great British Energy’s investment plans over the next parliament. But to get a sense of how little money this is in the energy sector, consider that the National Grid is setting aside £30 billion to spend over the same period just to maintain our current energy infrastructure. If the money for this alleged clean-energy revolution isn’t going to come from state subsidies, then it will have to come from higher bills.

In any case, despite what Labour claims, a renewables-based grid will not bring down costs. Solar panels and wind farms are only becoming more expensive to install, thanks to higher interest rates and rising commodity prices. Even when they are in operation, they do not lower electricity prices. This is because they are intermittent sources of energy. They cannot produce electricity when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. This means they need to be backed up by more reliable alternatives, such as natural gas or coal. Switching these fossil fuels into the energy grid at short notice creates huge additional costs.

You only need to look at renewables-obsessed California to get a sense of how this might play out. Between 2011 and 2017, the cost of installing solar panels fell across the state by 75 per cent. Yet, at the same time, electricity prices surged at a rate five times faster than the rest of the US, thanks largely to the intermittency problem. Or take Germany, which has invested more in wind and solar than any other country on Earth. The so-called Energiewende, Germany’s policy of phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear energy, led to a 50 per cent rise in electricity prices between 2006 and 2017. This gave Germany the most expensive electricity in Europe, even before the war in Ukraine exposed its overreliance on Russian gas.

Higher bills are not the only risk of Labour’s carbon-free electricity target. The GMB union, which represents half-a-million workers and is one of Labour’s largest donors, has warned that Starmer’s ‘unviable’ clean-power mission will lead to ‘power cuts and blackouts’. At its annual congress last week, it urged Labour to ‘listen to the advice of the scientists, engineers and energy specialists’ and abandon its 2030 pledge. Starmer dismissed these warnings as ‘utter nonsense’.

Labour’s dash to decarbonise the grid also threatens well-paid jobs and economic growth. In Aberdeen, the heart of Scotland’s lucrative North Sea oil industry, there are fears that the current government’s 75 per cent windfall tax on oil and gas companies – introduced as a temporary measure in 2022 – could lead to more than 100,000 jobs being lost. While the Tories are planning to phase out this tax by the end of the decade, Labour has said that it will increase it to 78 per cent. It will also remove investment licences in North Sea oil and gas, in order to accelerate the green transition. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has been glib about the risk of job losses. ‘We don’t want to preserve a declining industry’, she said this month in Edinburgh. But the British oil and gas industry is only ‘declining’ because green-leaning politicians want to tax and regulate it into oblivion.

This isn’t the first time in recent months that Labour has put its commitment to Net Zero ahead of working people’s livelihoods. The news earlier this year that the Port Talbot steelworks is to replace its coal-burning blast furnaces with low-carbon electric-arc furnaces at the cost of nearly 3,000 jobs prompted little more than a shrug from Starmer. Labour’s stance seems to be that these jobs are a necessary sacrifice on the path towards decarbonising British steelmaking. If Labour is unwilling to defend workers from joblessness and deindustrialisation, it is safe to assume that it probably won’t protect us from higher bills and blackouts, either. After all, when push comes to shove, Labour will probably pursue Net Zero at any cost.

Ultimately, this Net Zero zealotry puts Labour directly at odds with the interests of ordinary working Britons. It risks higher bills, blackouts and major job losses. Keir Starmer’s promise of a clean, green future is a dangerous fantasy.

Thomas Osborne is an editorial assistant at spiked.

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