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Labour needs to be realistic about its decarbonisation goal

Posted: 21/06/2024

On the face of it, the decarbonisation targets of Labour and the Conservatives are largely similar. While Labour aims to decarbonise the grid entirely by 2030, the Conservatives aim for 95% of the grid to be green by the same year, with full decarbonisation by 2035. In contrast to the Reform party, which would scrap a net zero target completely, these goals don’t seem far apart.

However, from that point on, Labour and the Conservatives differ more widely. Labour’s promise to create Great British Energy is largely positive. However, generating energy from renewables is only one part of the equation. Practically, how will the energy generated be directed to where it is needed? Presently, the UK’s power infrastructure is based on energy generated by coal. New supply chains will need to be created to bring renewable energy to the end user, which will take considerable investment. This is not addressed in Labour’s manifesto.

Inevitably, if there is a rush to put infrastructure for renewables in place to meet unrealistic deadlines, mistakes will be made and litigation will follow. This could be in relation to the granting of licences or the quality of equipment. There are already examples of defective turbines and associated safety issues and we advise clients on related disputes.

On the other hand, Great British Energy could provide opportunities for startups and new companies keen to work in areas such as hydrogen or nuclear. While Labour’s goal is ambitious, it demonstrates the need to focus on energy. Some controversy could arise out of Great British Energy being a state entity, but it will largely be explained / justified as a necessary sustainability initiative.

Both Labour and the Conservatives address onshore wind and solar in their manifestos. Currently, planning laws make it near impossible to construct new onshore wind facilities and there is little to suggest another Conservative government would make it easier: the party’s stance is to give communities the power to decide whether to allow a turbine to be built.

Labour plans to double the UK’s onshore wind capacity, but even if planning reforms make this possible, there is still the opportunity for judicial review. Undoubtedly, this will remain a highly contentious subject for communities across the UK.

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