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Labour nationalisation plans will delay move to green energy, says National Grid

The Shadow Business Secretary will announce on Thursday that the utilities company should be taken out of the hands of private shareholders

Labour plans to renationalise the National Grid (Steve Parsons/PA)
Labour plans to renationalise the National Grid (Steve Parsons/PA)

Labour’s plans to bring energy networks under public ownership will delay efforts to move to green energy, the National Grid has said.

The shadow business secretary will announce on Thursday that the utilities company should be taken out of the hands of private shareholders and transformed through a “green industrial revolution”.

Rebecca Long-Bailey said bringing the grid into public ownership was the only way to “decarbonise the economy at the pace needed to secure the planet for our children and grandchildren”.

But the proposals have been widely criticised, with the National Grid saying it is the “last thing” needed to help tackle climate change.

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Rebecca-Long Bailey will announce the plans during a visit to Salford with Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Under the plans, Labour would create a National Energy Agency to replace the National Grid which would own and maintain the transmission infrastructure while overseeing targets for decarbonisation, and protect energy as a “human right”.

Regional Energy Agencies (REAs) would replace the existing Distribution Network Operators, and hold a statutory responsibility for decarbonising electricity and heat.

A National Grid spokeswoman said the proposals would delay the progress being made to move to green energy, saying: “National Grid is one of the most reliable networks in the world, we are also at the heart of the decarbonisation agenda.

“These proposals for state-ownership of the energy networks would only serve to delay the huge amount of progress and investment that is already helping to make this country a leader in the move to green energy.

“At a time when there is increased urgency to meet the challenges of climate change the last thing that is needed is the enormous distraction, cost and complexity contained in these plans.”

Ms Long-Bailey, who will announce the plans during a visit to Salford with Jeremy Corbyn, said: “Climate change represents a risk to our future, but also an opportunity to gather our resources and transform it through a green industrial revolution.

“That means dramatic, public driven and coordinated action, without which we simply will not be able to tackle climate change.

“So our plans see climate justice and social justice as inseparable. It’s an insult and an injustice to our people and our planet for companies operating the grid to rip customers off, line the pockets of the rich and not invest properly in renewable energy.

As drafted, these proposals amount to hanging a ‘closed’ sign above the UK Matthew Fell, CBI

“Only by taking the grid into public ownership can we decarbonise the economy at the pace needed to secure the planet for our children and grandchildren while ending the rip off, creating good jobs in local communities and making heating and electricity a human right.

“That’s why public and collective ownership is a fundamental part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution.”

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “As drafted, these proposals amount to hanging a ‘closed’ sign above the UK, with renationalisation delivering a triple whammy neither citizens nor the country can afford.

“First, Labour’s plans would leave individual savers and international investors alike asking the question ‘is my money safe?’ Loose talk of re-nationalisation is already hitting the pockets of nearly six million pensioners. This will only increase if the plans are delivered.

“Second, much-needed investment is drying up under Labour’s threats, which seriously risks hampering efforts to tackle climate change, and puts in doubt the innovation that will deliver a net-zero carbon economy.

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A National Grid spokeswoman said the proposals would delay the progress being made to move to green energy (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Third, these plans would threaten significant improvements in network resilience made since privatisation. No-one wants a return to the frequent power cuts that were a feature of nationalised industries of yesteryear.

“Against the uncertain backdrop of Brexit, the country needs policies focused on powering economic growth in the future, nor revisiting mistakes of the past.”

Chris Philp, Conservative vice chairman for policy, also criticised the proposals.

He said: “Corbyn’s ideological plan for the state to seize these companies would cost an eye-watering £100 billion and saddle taxpayers with their debts.

“It would leave politicians in Westminster in charge of keeping the lights on and leave customers with nowhere else to turn.

“With no credible plan for how Labour would pay for this, more borrowing and tax hikes would be inevitable.

“Through measures like our energy price cap, the Conservative Government will continue to protect people from unfair bill rises while increasing renewable electricity to a record high.”

PA

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