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The road ahead: Finally an update on Great British Energy

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As the general election campaign heats up, we finally have some more detail on Labour’s most significant energy policy. The Great British Energy website launched yesterday and provides more detail about how the company would function and what a Labour Government’s objectives for the enterprise would be. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer has confirmed that getting Great British Energy up and running would be one of his first priorities for Government, if Labour is to win the general election on 4th July. Until now, there has been something of an internal contradiction at the heart of the Labour Party’s messaging around Great British Energy. 

If it is to be the UK’s EDF or Vattenfall, as both Starmer and Ed Miliband have alluded, we would expect it to invest in well-established renewable energy technologies and large-scale generation plants, to turn the sort of profit required to be considered in a similar league – and to deliver sufficient revenues for a Labour government to reinvest. 

However, Labour figures have repeatedly highlighted that Great British Energy would make “strategic investment that the [private] companies shy away from”. If the focus of Great British Energy were to be on riskier investments, including investing in new technology in emerging industries like tidal energy, or in modular reactors, that would likely be of significant benefit to R&D and scale up prospects in less-well-established industries. But this would almost certainly mean a while before Great British Energy turned a profit and might mean it would require further investment from a Labour government before any financial benefits. 

Following the official website launch, we now know that Great British Energy’s core focus in the first instance will be energy generation. This likely means an initial focus on established, mature renewable energy technologies. The website also confirms that the company would collaborate with other organisations to deliver at least 8GW of new renewables over the course of the next Parliament. However, in time this will also likely include nuclear and emerging technologies like floating offshore wind and green hydrogen.  

The idea of Great British Energy polls well with the voting public, and we can likely expect it to become more prominent in Labour’s campaign strategy as we get closer to the election. If Labour wins, we will find out just how impactful having a state-owned energy company could be for the UK energy sector.