Energy bills and green jobs need long-term solution - Sheffield Hallam Labour MP Olivia Blake

As energy bills rocket for working people, families across the country want immediate action from the Government.

That is why Labour is calling for a windfall tax on the oil and gas giants making record profits, so we can fund a package of real support on energy bills. That the Government continues to oppose these measures tells you everything you need to know about the Conservatives – they are not on working people’s side and have no plan to deal with the cost of living.

But people do not just want action on bills in the short term. They also want a plan for long-term energy affordability. Alongside this is the challenge of decarbonising our energy system, and also ensuring energy security, as we get off Russian oil and gas for good.

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The Queen’s speech and the Government’s much awaited Energy Security Strategy should have been opportunities to set out this long-term plan for energy. Now is the time for the Government to go further and faster on a green energy sprint, with a rapid shift to renewables and nuclear power to bring down bills, get us off oil and gas, meet the challenge of the fossil fuel crisis, and – in doing so – create thousands of new jobs in clean energy.

An off-shore wind farm in Withernsea. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

But the delay in publishing the strategy was a foreshadowing of the foot-dragging approach it offered and the subsequent near-silence on clean energy and efficiency in the Queen’s Speech – nothing on solar, nothing on onshore wind, nothing on insulating homes.

Rather than the sprint on renewables and the boom in green jobs we urgently need, the Government is progressing at a leisurely saunter while barely breaking a sweat. On job creation it has offered fine words, but the record to date has been abysmal. Take offshore wind. While the share of offshore wind in the national energy mix has increased, that’s barely translated into new jobs here, in the UK.

In 2010, it was estimated there would be 70,000 jobs in the wind sector by 2020, and the Scottish Government predicted 28,000. Twelve years later there are currently only 10,100 jobs in offshore wind. In Scotland, only one in 20 jobs materialised. Despite the increased capacity, the ONS estimates that only 3800 new jobs have been created since 2014. That’s a huge opportunity to create good, unionised, well-paid jobs wasted.

That’s because there’s been no real strategy to cultivate the high labour intensity sections of the supply line – instead, all the jobs in areas like manufacturing have gone abroad. In harnessing the power of offshore wind, the Government has only been harnessing the power of offshore labour.

The Energy Security Strategy should have offered real security, not only in shielding people from the next fossil fuel crisis, but in providing the stability of permanent jobs on a good wage in a renewables sector that is guaranteed to grow over the coming years. Instead, we heard more promises but nothing to avoid the mistakes of the previous decade.

The dividing lines couldn’t be clearer: where Government boasts are belied by the reality of their lacklustre record, Labour is offering a real sprint to renewables and a green jobs revolution.

For a lost decade, Tory austerity has seen stagnating wages and the rise of zero-hours contracts. Labour will reverse the trend with an annual £28bn green investment, creating the jobs we need in clean energy, insulation, and green infrastructure, and securing a future free from climate catastrophe for generations to come.

Our plan to upgrade 19 million homes will support nearly 100,000 jobs in every region in 2022-24 – and the home improvements will save an average of £400 a year on household energy bills while cutting national gas imports by up to 15 per cent. We’ll more than double the onshore wind capacity to 30GW by 2030, adding £45bn to the UK economy and creating 27,000 high quality jobs.

And we’ll end the offshoring of jobs with a Make, Buy and Sell in Britain policy, raising the requirements for domestic content so they go to communities in places such as Scotland and the North East rather than overseas.

Where the Government offers half-hearted plans, weighed down by an aversion to public-sector-led action and the hostility of its own backbench climate sceptics, Labour will provide the just transition we need to tackle the existential threat of climate emergency and create the good green unionised jobs of the future.

- Olivia Blake is Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam and Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Net Zero.

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