UK Politics

Labour conference: Nandy backs community-owned energy plants

Lisa Nandy

Labour wants to "democratise rather than nationalise" the UK's energy market, its new spokeswoman Lisa Nandy has told the party conference.

She told delegates every community in the country should be able to own their own clean energy power station.

During his leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn said he personally favoured bringing the big six energy suppliers into public ownership.

But Ms Nandy said giving people direct control was a "far more radical" idea.

In her first speech since being given the role earlier this month, the shadow energy and climate change secretary said de-carbonising the UK's economy was "one of the biggest challenges that the country has ever faced".

She accused the government of "turning its back on our wind and solar industries" and "trashing" the UK's legacy for international engagement on climate change.

'Energy boom'

Outlining her thinking on the future shape of the energy market, she said local communities should be given the opportunity to set up their power plant or take over existing renewable facilities as a way of creating a market in cheaper, cleaner energy.

"I want to put people back in charge," she said. "Jeremy and I don't want to nationalise energy.

"We want to do something far more radical than that. We want to democratise it.

"There should be nothing to stop every community in this country owning its own clean energy power station."

She cited the example of Nottingham Council, which she said had created its own energy company to "cut bills and go green". Labour, she said, would back other "trailblazing" local initiatives that wanted to follow suit, arguing that community-owned energy co-operatives could become "powerhouses" in their own right.

"We will work with our local government leaders to push for a clean energy boom in our great cities."

German model

She added: "Because our city and county regions can lead the world. They can point the way towards a safer, brighter, more secure future. To be the light on the hill for all of us who care about the cost of our energy - to our family budgets, our businesses and our environment.

"Let's not wait for this government. Because let's face it, we'd be waiting forever. Let's seize the initiative and put power into our own hands."

Mr Corbyn's team has been studying the more decentralised model of energy supply in Germany, where a number of suppliers are owned by local authorities, communities and small businesses and individual towns and cities have taken over their local electricity grids.

Labour has backed, in principle, the building of new nuclear reactors but has questioned the cost of the proposed new plant at Hinkley Point and the amount of public subsidy required to get it off the ground.

Ms Nandy said the project was set to cost more than the 2012 Olympics, Crossrail and Heathrow's Terminal 5 combined at a time when the government was pledging to bring energy bills down.

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