Labour’s energy policy and community ownership

The energy companies are reported to be unhappy with Labour’s policy announcement yesterday of a 20-month price freeze. There are claims that the needed replacement infrastructure will be jeopardised, such as new power stations.

This is possibly an opportunity to start a path back from ‘energy companies’ to ‘utilities’, an incremental approach. Similarly to the train franchising system, there could a public sector utility company in the wings ready to step in and run failing services, as currently on the East Coast mainline.

For a start, this not for profit utility company could build new power stations, pipelines, etc, and then lease them to the energy companies at a fair rate. It would provide certainty of supply and be in the national interest.

The energy companies are also not being very clear about how much the Labour policy will save them with the abolition of payments into ECO – the Energy Companies Obligation – to pay for better insulation for poorer people.

This is an opaque area of public funding, but while social housing and poor owner occupiers have seen some improvements in their home insulation, poor households in the private rented sector have been left behind, out in the cold, and the worst landlords need to be faced up to and dealt with.

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