By Anders Lorenzen
The UK’s main political opposition party, the Labour Party, has taken a break from the divisive Brexit agenda to make big commitments on offshore wind if they were to come into power. With the British parliament in deadlock, it is highly anticipated that a general election is imminent.
Dealing with a surge of interest within the party to put into place radical and ambitious climate policies, the party has moved aggressively on wind power in ways that would completely change how the industry operates today.
Radical offshore wind plan
Unveiling the policy at their annual party conference, Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said that Labour would hope to build 37 new offshore wind farms between 2020 and 2030 in the event they gained power. The party says that when taking existing wind generation into account, this plan would seek to generate 52 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030 – equivalent to the energy generated by 38 coal power stations and enough to provide electricity for 57 million households. The plan has been costed at 83 billion pounds, and, true to the party’s socialist roots, would be partly publicly funded with the public holding a 51% stake in the project.
Private companies being too slow
Labour believes that part-public ownership of the energy companies will speed up how fast they can be built and come online and complements another highly ambitious target of theirs; their new net-zero carbon target of 2030, 20 years earlier than the current UK government target of 2050. The party’s new strategy is unlikely to be welcomed by the energy industry as it will give energy firms less of a stronghold on the assets.
Long-Bailey stated: “While UK’s offshore wind industry is still young, the UK has the opportunity to avoid replicating Britain’s experience with North Sea Oil and instead to learn from countries such as Norway and Sweden by owning what is already ours.”
Labour wants to use a fifth of the profits it would generate from this strategy to fund the redevelopment of Britain’s coastal communities, many of which have faced economic decline. The remaining profits would be re-invested in renewable energy projects and improvements to the power infrastructure.
Unlikely to win a general election
These plans will of course only become a reality if Labour wins enough votes to command a majority in parliament, which currently looks unlikely. If they were to go into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats they would likely have to compromise on their energy policy. Even the union GMB, which is affiliated with Labour and l supports workers in the energy industry, did not agree with Labour’s net-zero by 2030 plan and therefore it is likely they would not sign up to the ambitious offshore wind plan. The Danish Orsted company who is the biggest player and operator of offshore wind in the UK is also likely to be unimpressed as they have invested heavily and innovated in the industry and deserve some credit that the cost of building offshore wind farms has come down so drastically.
Apart from the net-zero plan and offshore wind commitments, Labour also announced ambitious pledges on electric vehicles.
The UK is currently scheduled to leave the European Union (EU) on the 31st of October.