Labour has announced plans to ‘rewire Britain’ and fast track battery factories as part of its pitch to voters ahead of a possible general election in 2024.
During a fiery speech at the Labour Party Annual Conference in Liverpool, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves promised to ‘rebuild Britain’ should Labour win the next election, noting that the Conservatives had ‘held back’ many areas of the UK economy during their 13 year tenure in Government.
At the heart of its plans for Britain, Labour wants to usher in a whole host of reforms that it hopes will bring growth back to the UK economy. This will include streamlining the construction of key infrastructure projects that have for years been held up by constant reviews and arduous planning policy.
While this has recently been highlighted by the spiralling cost of HS2, which was first approved in 2017 during David Cameron’s tenure as Prime Minister and is still not due to be operational until 2029 at the earliest, there are other areas where Labour believes that the Conservative Party has been dragging their feet on reforms.
Plans to ‘rewire Britain’
Reeves highlighted the fact that many new developments have to wait until the late 2030s for a grid connection, stalling around £200 billion worth of projects. This is why Reeves and the Labour Party want to ‘rewire Britain’, “securing the supply chain we need for lower bills and to build faster and cheaper, opening up new grid connections to competitive tendering.”
National Grid ESO has already committed to speeding up grid connections, and has even offered an amnesty to firms wishing to leave the queue, but Labour wants to go further. It has vowed to reform planning laws enabling thousands of new electricity pylons to be installed, thus helping the country achieve an electricity system fully based on clean power by 2030 – five years sooner than pledged by the Conservative Party.
On Sunday, Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that while it took just two years to physically build a wind farm, due to planning constraints it would be 13 years before any power was taken from that wind farm and put into the system – which he called “far too slow.” By reforming the planning process, the Labour Party hopes to supercharge the country’s transition to net zero.
Fast tracked battery factories
It’s not just electricity pylons and wind farms that will see a more liberalised planning policy – but other key infrastructure projects could also enjoy a smoother process under a Labour Government. Reeves set out plans to “fast-track battery factories, life sciences and 5G infrastructure and to tackle the litigation which devours time and money before we ever see shovels in the ground.”
The UK is in desperate need of battery factories if it hopes to compete with the US, China and Europe on the global stage. Thus far, while there are more than 30 battery factories either under construction or in the planning phase across the European Union, the UK has just one small factory in operation, while another has recently been announced and is due to be open in 2026.
Making Britain independent again
It’s not just about competition for battery factories for Reeves and Labour either, noting that ‘globalisation is dead’ and that the UK would need to become more independent. “In this new age of insecurity, it is no longer enough – if it ever was – for the Government to turn a blind eye to where things are made or who is making them,” Reeves said during her speech.
With the end of globalisation, Reeves believes that it is vital to be more self-sustainable on everything from making EV batteries to producing our own power. That’s why in its first term, the Labour Party would bring in an Energy Independence Act.
While exact details surrounding the Act have yet to be revealed, Labour says that it wants to usher in the largest expansion of renewable power in the country’s history, as well as establish a national wealth fund to invest billions in green businesses.
Labour’s Shadow Climate and Net Zero Secretary, Ed Miliband, noted of the Energy Independence Act, “In the 21st century, with Labour, Britain will be an energy superpower once again, exporting clean power to the world and controlling our destiny. British families and business never again held to ransom by Putin.”
Rolling back the changes
Additionally, while hitting back at the Conservatives’ recent watering down of net zero policies, Labour has committed to reinstating the ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles in 2030.
While some have argued that the delay to the ban is unlikely to have a huge impact given the ZEV mandate remains in place, during an interview with the Financial Times, Shadow Business Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds recommitted Labour to the 2030 date, noting “The Tory government has been undermining international investment by chopping and changing . . . the endless stop-start of government policy has left the British automotive industry stalled.”
It’s expected we’ll hear more about Labour’s plans for the electrical sector in the upcoming months as the party gears up to fight a general election. We here at Electrical Review will keep this page updated with all the latest announcements.