“The left needs to demand green solutions that enable the public to take ownership of the services which they depend on, in order to avoid the financial impact of companies collapsing and increasing their prices.”
By Aden Harris, Labour for a Green New Deal
Amidst the cost of living crisis Sunak will be announcing the government’s Spring Statement in review of the UK’s economic forecast later this month. Although it is likely that Sunak will address the issue of inflation, as hinted at by the suggestion of a cut in fuel duty, Labour must demand more radical solutions to address the rising cost of living which supports a decarbonised economy.
Importantly the Resolution Foundation has reported that the recent surge of inflation is largely driven by energy bills and petrol, which provides Labour an opportunity to highlight how a zero-carbon economy will increase employment and reduce household bills without conflicting with urgent climate goals.
A significant contribution to the rising cost of household bills has clearly been the energy crisis that has seen 31 energy companies close down since the start of 2021. However, instead of having the public face increased costs from higher price caps and temporarily funding companies that have gone into administration, the Labour party must re-commit to fully nationalising energy companies so that the market is not able to inflate costs further but also to allow the profits to be reinvested into local communities.
Using this model, investment in local councils can be used to fund area-wide district energy systems or smart grid networks so that the distribution of energy is not only publicly funded but also locally managed.
By investing in publicly owned energy systems, local councils will be able to steer their communities away from a reliance on gas and oil as they will have the resources to expand investment in renewables. The benefits of this can already be seen in the successes of West Suffolk Council’s 12.4MW Toggam solar farm which the council had purchased post construction in 2016. This created £4 million of income of which £1.2 million was reinvested into public services as opposed to lining the pockets of private energy companies.
In addition to public ownership of energy supply, there must be further investment in improving the insulation and temperature regulation of housing to prevent households from experiencing fuel poverty by reducing the need for gas and electric heating throughout the year.
Even before the collapse of multiple energy companies last year, 13.4% of households in England experienced fuel poverty in 2019 and this number is expected to rise with estimates of up to 8.5 million households now unable to heat and power their homes. Given the urgency of reaching zero-carbon the housing stock in the UK will need sufficient funding to improve its temperature regulation by installing double glazing as well as wall and roof insulation.
This is just another example of where Labour should demand public investment to improve the UK’s infrastructure in order to meet environmental standards whilst also saving on household bills.
Given the current vulnerability of privatisation in the energy sector, the left needs to demand green solutions that enable the public to take ownership of the services which they depend on, in order to avoid the financial impact of companies collapsing and increasing their prices. In doing so we can provide our local communities with more resources to decarbonise their own infrastructure – a transition which will inevitably generate more employment in green jobs in the process.