Posted on: 21/05/2019
The energy industry has criticised Labour’s plans to nationalise the electricity grid, highlighting the “risks” involved in transferring the transmission and distribution networks into public ownership.
Labour said it would create a National Energy Agency to own and operate the transmission system and Regional Energy Agencies (REAs) to operate the distribution grids, with local councils having the option to replace REAs with Municipal Energy Agencies.
Shadow Energy Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey pointed to National Grid announcing a £3.4 billion underlying profit for 2018-19 and said: “These figures speak for themselves and cut straight through the public relations bluster. "
“As a country we face a huge challenge to rapidly decarbonise our energy system while bringing costs down for households – and we simply cannot afford to continue with a privatised monopoly that puts the public at such a structural disadvantage.”
Industry hits back
Energy companies and their trade bodies hit back at Labour’s claims of profiteering, with David Smith – chief executive of the Energy Networks Association, which represents grid operators – saying: “These proposals will not only fail to deliver Labour’s objectives but they will also be extremely costly to the British public."
Lawrence Slade, Chief Executive of trade body Energy UK, added: “Wasting precious years on the unnecessary and complex restructuring of a system that is delivering results – and jeopardising the billions of investment required – is the last thing we need if we are serious about tackling climate change with the urgency it demands.”
RenewableUK’s Head of External Affairs, Luke Clark, agreed and added: “Restructuring our energy networks risks being a costly and complex option, when we also need to speed up the decarbonisation of our economy.”
But the trade unions welcomed Labour’s proposals, with GMB National Secretary Justin Bowden saying: “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.”
Solar plans welcomed
Labour also unveiled proposals to install solar panels on 1.75 million homes as part of its “Green Industrial Revolution”.
Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive at the Renewable Energy Association, welcomed the idea, but warned: “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.”
Léonie Greene, Director of Advocacy and New Markets at the Solar Trade Association, added: “All modern political parties must now think big when it comes to empowering people to act on the biggest issue of our times – climate change.”