The Labour Party, Britain’s primary opposition, committed on Monday to transform the nation into a renewable energy powerhouse by 2030. The party plans to reverse the prohibition on new onshore wind farms and honor any oil and gas licenses issued before the upcoming election.
Labour, predicted by opinion polls to win the forthcoming national election, positions itself as the sole party capable of stimulating economic growth through substantial investments in green technologies and jobs. These plans aim to compete with similar initiatives in the United States and the European Union.
However, the party recently scaled back its flagship commitment to investing £28 billion ($36 billion) annually until 2030 in green industries, citing high-interest rates as the reason.
Labour’s ambitious goal to decarbonize the UK’s power system by 2030 necessitates a significant surge in renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
This proposal implies a swift transition away from fossil fuels such as gas, which made up nearly 40% of the UK’s electricity last year, or the implementation of technology to capture and store carbon emissions. Wind power was the second-largest source, contributing approximately 27%.
Labour leader Keir Starmer outlined pledges on Monday for 100% clean and affordable power by 2030, the establishment of a state-owned energy company, GB Energy, the creation of a National Wealth Fund for green technology investments, and the improvement of poorly insulated homes.
Starmer, in a speech in Edinburgh, stated, “We can reduce bills, create jobs, and ensure energy security for Britain,” adding that the plan would necessitate government borrowing.
The party also plans to reverse the ban on new onshore wind farms, which Labour claims have added £5.1 billion to energy bills, or £182 per household, due to the UK’s reliance on more expensive power sources.
Starmer reaffirmed a commitment to halt new oil and gas exploration licenses in the North Sea but stated that any licenses granted before the next election, such as for Equinor’s proposed Rosebank field, would be honored. He acknowledged that North Sea oil and gas would continue to be part of the energy mix for “decades” but would yield diminishing returns. Labour, he said, has a credible plan to manage this transition.
Environmental organization Greenpeace praised the plans as “policies we desperately need,” while an anonymous source from a North Sea oil and gas producer expressed confusion over Starmer’s position, stating it “raises more questions than it answers.”
David Whitehouse of Offshore Energies UK welcomed Starmer’s recognition of the crucial role of oil and gas and the offshore industry but considered the proposed ban on new exploration licenses as “too much too soon.”
Whitehouse stated, “The UK has 283 active oil and gas fields, but 180 will shut down by 2030. If we don’t replace them with new ones, then production will decline much faster than we can build low-carbon replacements.”
Starmer emphasized that the transition to green energy could benefit Scotland, where he aims to regain old Labour strongholds to secure a majority in the next election. He acknowledged the sensitivities of the energy shift in a region where North Sea oil supports many jobs.
He said, “Deep down, we all know this has to happen eventually, and that the only question is when. The moment for decisive action is now. If we wait until North Sea oil and gas runs out, the opportunities this change can bring for Scotland and your community will pass us by. And that would be a historic mistake.”
The ruling Conservative party in Britain has set a goal for all the country’s power to be generated by “clean energy” by 2035, but it continues to issue new oil and gas exploration licenses.
The government has criticized Labour’s plan to stop new oil and gas licenses, arguing it would leave the country dependent on imported oil and gas to compensate for the deficit.