Green is good for growth
Green is good for growth. That’s the central message emerging from two weeks of political debate in Brighton and Manchester where energy prices and green jobs have moved centre stage. Caroline Flint, who is speaking at the TUC’s green jobs conference on 23 October, argued in her address to the Labour Party conference that Britain needs “an energy market that delivers fair prices and protects the most vulnerable.” But, with solar manufacturer now Sharp laying off staff when these industries should be driving economic recovery, what would Labour’s industry policy look like?
Speeches delivered by Caroline Flint and Ed Balls are beginning to provide some shape to Labour’s approach to a green energy and industrial strategy:
- An energy market that is simpler and works in the public interest.
- An energy market which delivers fair prices, protects the most vulnerable
- Labour would scrap Ofgem, the energy regulator, and replace it with a new watchdog with powers to force energy companies to pass cuts in wholesale energy prices
- Labour launched its SwitchTogether campaign – to promote collective purchasing so that customers get a better energy deal.
- On jobs: “It was Chris Huhne who took the axe to Britain’s solar industry….Costing us jobs. Britain must be part of an energy revolution just as important to this country’s prosperity as the Victorian railways, and the internet in the 20th century. …When Labour left Government the UK was ranked third in the world for investment in green growth with £7billion of private money driving new energy and clean technology. We are now seventh.”
Meanwhile, as we blogged this week, Ed Balls called for a more stable and predictable policy environment for renewable energy and other key infrastructure projects
All of this may give some longer term comfort to green businesses like Sharp. But, in the here and now, why is the Coalition failing to grasp the economic opportunities of new industries like Photovoltaics? This from the latest BIS study of the green economy:
- Solar industry – sales worth £5.4bn in 2010/2011 (up 6.4%)
- Over 40,000 people working in 2,000 companies, well distributed across the UK regions.
- Exports at £1.3bn were double the scale of imports (£670m).
Apparently, shadow DECC and Defra teams are pushing hard for green growth to be a key component of Labour’s industrial policy narrative. Meanwhile, with worrying speculation about the future of the Sharp plant, the litmus test for Government industrial policy is whether this industry thrives, or not.