Labour's clean-power pledge will require 'immediate action' from departments, IfG warns

Think tank says party's accelerated 2030 deadline faces 10 clear barriers Starmer must address if he becomes PM
Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband and Labour leader Keir Starmer Photo: Labour Party

By Jim Dunton

28 Jun 2024

The Labour Party's mission to decarbonise the UK's power sector by 2030 faces numerous barriers that will need to be addressed from the get-go if Sir Keir Starmer becomes prime minister next week, the Institute for Government has warned.

It said that the Conservative Party's target of achieving clean power for the nation by 2035 was not on-course for delivery and that Labour's accelerated vision would require major cross-departmental focus.

The independent think tank's just-published paper Clean power by 2030: How could a Labour government achieve its mission for power sector decarbonisation says that at least 10 significant barriers exist to delivering the mission. They include a lack of grid capacity, stretched supply chains, shortages of workers with the necessary skills, insufficient public engagement, and a need to make the planning system work much faster.

The IfG noted that average waits to get planning consent for nationally significant infrastructure projects – which include the kind of grid connections needed by wind farms and other renewable-power sources – increased from 2.6 to 4.2 years between 2012 and 2023.

It says that if the 2030 policy is to be delivered in under six years, Starmer must reaffirm his commitment to the schedule in his first week in office and make it clear that all government departments must play a part in delivery.

Part of the initial work would involve the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero conducting a "rapid stocktake" of what would be needed to hit the 2030 target  and the scope for acceleration of current proposals, according to the IfG. 

It says deciding what legislation would need to be included in the new government's first King's Speech to aid the policy will be crucial, as will be rapidly moving forward with Labour's proposals to create national power company GB Energy.

Suggested first-month moves include initiating planning reforms to put onshore wind on the same footing as other energy infrastructure.

Goals for the first 100 days of a new government include building public support for decarbonisation and creating a clear roadmap for the 2030 target with critical milestones and establishing monitoring and escalation mechanisms.

Report author Rosa Hodgkin, who is an IfG researcher, said the UK has shown it is capable of delivering ambitious projects quickly under the right circumstances. However she said there would be no alternative to hitting the ground running on the clean-power pledge.

"The UK is not on track to deliver the Conservative target of clean power by 2035," she said. "Labour’s target is even more ambitious. If elected, a new Labour government will need to start addressing some of the barriers to faster delivery from day one if it wants to achieve its mission and lay the foundations for a net-zero UK."

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