Will Labour's policies achieve energy security?

How effective is the Labour Party at addressing energy policy in a holistic way in order to achieve energy security and net zero?

Keir Starmer standing in front of wind turbines

Energy policy in the UK has historically been focused around energy security and the transition to net zero.

But we use energy in many different ways and in many different contexts. We need an approach to energy policy which understands the interactions between the different uses of energy, the way that energy is transported and stored, and the way that energy is supplied.

Energy use

There is a major opportunity to achieve energy security, save carbon and save money by using less energy for the same level of service. For example, heating the home to provide comfort, in a way which is less energy intensive.

The Labour Party manifesto has an ambition to invest £6.6 billion in energy efficiency over the next Parliament with its Warm Homes Plan. This will allow 5 million homes to be improved. There is also the ambition to improve homes in the private rented sector to a minimum energy efficiency standard.

Decarbonising homes by improving their energy efficiency is an opportunity to save householders money, and this spending can then be redirected into other parts of local economies. Improving homes also leads to positive health outcomes, which leads to improved attainment at school, higher productivity in the workplace, and saves the NHS money.

However, the manifesto fails to address details around how this investment will prioritise low-income and vulnerable households, or how it will ensure that the cost to the consumer is minimised.

We need an approach to energy policy which understands the interactions between the different uses of energy, the way that energy is transported and stored, and the way that energy is supplied.

Professor Sara Walker, Co-Director of Birmingham Energy Institute


We know that the transport sector is responsible for a significant proportion of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Transport policy is therefore an important jigsaw piece in the energy policy landscape.

The Labour Party manifesto has committed £1.8 billion to upgrade our ports, and £1.5 billion to invest in new giga factories for the automotive industry. Labour’s proposed industrial strategy also refers to improving rail connectivity across the north of England, and the creation of a new National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority.

These initiatives are important to enable the transport sector to transition away from fossil fuel use and towards low and zero-carbon systems. However, the manifesto also refers to investment in new roads. Further, even if the UK stock of combustion engine cars transition entirely to electric vehicle cars this would not solve some of the other environmental problems associated with significant private car use.

There is little in the manifesto to show the Labour Party has considered ways to reduce the need to travel. While active travel is referenced, this is only in the context of Labour giving mayors the power to undertake this role.

Energy production

Labour’s commitments on energy production centre on the intention to create a new publicly owned company called Great British Energy, with an investment of £8.3 billion. It is appropriate and symbolic that the intended location for this organisation is Scotland, given the significant potential for energy generation now and in the future in Scotland. It is also very welcome that Labour has highlighted the potential for local energy production through a Local Power Plan, supporting community energy development. Community schemes can benefit local economies and support the regeneration of towns and regions across the UK.

The manifesto refers to increasing onshore wind, solar power, offshore wind, hydrogen, marine energy, and nuclear power. These technologies and the associated energy generation they enable, are a vital low carbon mix which can support the transition to net zero.

The commitment to maintain a strategic reserve of gas power stations, however, is a complicated decision. Justifying it on the basis of security of supply is a relatively weak argument, given that gas supplies to those power stations will likely not come from domestic sources and the cost of purchasing the necessary gas could leave the UK vulnerable to external price shocks.

The manifesto also commits to investment in the necessary infrastructure to store and move energy between the production and the end use. For example, there is an intent to invest £1 billion to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture. Whilst carbon capture projects have been slow to achieve commercialisation, the Climate Change Committee scenarios indicate that it is a necessary technology to ensure the UK meets its net zero target. Furthermore, the manifesto recognises the need to upgrade the national transmission infrastructure in order to enable electrification of industry and enable the connection of the clean electricity generation technologies which they want to support. Investment in the electricity infrastructure needs to happen at the transmission and at the distribution level.

The manifesto fails to clearly address how the cost of this upgrade will be managed, in order to ensure the burden of cost to consumers is affordable.

Energy security

On the topic of energy security, it is really important that we consider the entire supply chain. In order to achieve energy security in the UK, we need to consider investment in our manufacturing sector to be able to make the technologies and components that are going to be vital for our low-carbon energy system.

Manifesto commitments to an industrial strategy, infrastructure strategy, and regional development priorities are therefore really important. Having transparency in infrastructure priorities and having a long-term ambition and certainty in policy, can really drive vital industrial investment in energy supply chains and energy projects.

Notes for editors

  • For more information, please contact our press office at pressoffice@contacts.bham.ac.uk or call +44 (0)121 414 2772.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 40,000 students from over 150 countries.