The UK's opposition Labour Party said it will tear down the grid connection barriers holding back over £200bn ($244bn) of private sector investment in the energy transition and made big pledges to expand wind power.
The energy transition featured prominently as Labour this week drew the battle lines between it and an embattled Conservative government over the issue of affordable energy.
Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor of the exchequer, told the Labour party conference in Liverpool on Monday about her party’s plan to “rewire Britain”.
“Today,” she said, “new developments are being forced to wait up to 15 years – until the late 2030s – to connect to the grid.”
This has left £200bn of projects “stuck in limbo.”
She said that to build “faster and cheaper” Labour would be “opening up new grid construction to competitive tendering.”
Her party will also “invest in expanding local authorities’ planning capacity, to speed up decisions.”
She also reiterated Labour plans to launch a new publicly-owned company called GB Energy, which the party says will work in coordinating the transmission operators to launch a “super-tender which will procure the grid supply chain that Britain needs.”
GB Energy will bid in that competition to build or co-build that new grid where necessary.
Labour says that building a clean energy grid is essential if the UK wants to cut energy bills, deliver energy independence, and grow the economy.
Many planned grid infrastructure projects in the UK have met opposition, both from local campaigners and many senior MPs from the ruling Conservative Party.
Reeves said that Labour would form a government “siding with the builders, not the blockers.”
Labour says its plan will also end the “farcical situation” in which UK taxpayers can end up funding a “staggering” £62m per day in curtailment payments to renewable developers “simply to turn off their energy generation, because the grid cannot deal with the capacity.”
Labour is aiming to get the UK’s grid fully running on clean power by 2030.
Wind power looms large
Shadow minister for energy security and net zero minister Ed Miliband said in his own speech that Labour would double onshore wind, treble solar and quadruple offshore wind if it is elected.
Miliband said that home energy bills had gone up under the Conservatives after they effectively banned onshore wind and "just last month trashed offshore wind, the crown jewels of British energy," after a disastrous green power auction.
Miliband also questioned why it is only state-owned companies from other countries, such as France’s EDF, Sweden’s Vattenfall and Denmark’s Orsted, that own UK offshore wind farms.
He indicated that GB Energy would be a future investor in such projects while also investing in another "key industry of the future", floating offshore wind.
"In the 20th century through North sea oil, Britain exported to the world," said Miliband. "In the 21st century, with Labour, Britain will be an energy superpower once again, exporting clean power to the world and controlling our economic destiny."
Net zero battleground
The UK is due for an election by the end of 2024, with Labour, led by Keir Starmer, currently far ahead of the Conservatives in the polls and tipped by some pollsters for a landslide victory.
Against this backdrop, the Conservatives drew solace from an unexpected by-election victory in a London constituency in July, which was attributed to the decision to campaigning against local green policies in the city.
The back-pedalling on green policies has included allowing a new round of oil and gas licensing while also extending bans on combustion engines and gas boilers that were intended to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicle and heat pumps in the country.
The Conservatives have also however emphasised the importance of fixing the grid bottleneck that has left so many renewable energy projects waiting for a connection, and an action plan is promised next month.
A recent government-backed report said that people living near new transmission pylons required to connect expanding renewable energy projects to a modernised national grid should get lump sum payments in compensation.
It is hoped that would help halve the current timescale of up to 14 years from identification to commissioning of new power lines.
Article updated to include more details on wind power pledges