How the government's new energy strategy must deliver decent jobs and safe and affordable energy
The global gas crisis - worsened by Putin’s war in Ukraine – has added to soaring energy bills for households and high-carbon manufacturing. The Chancellor’s spring statement failed to take action to address the impact on UK households and workers, pushing millions into poverty.
Now the government is launching an “Energy Security Strategy” to reduce the power and influence that Russia has over the UK’s ability to keep powering our society and economy.
You can’t live without energy - it should be treated as a public good. This strategy should be a win-win. We know that taking the action to increase our energy independence can also create and protect decent working class jobs. Here’s how:
- Meet climate science. We know we need to get to net zero, and the strategy has to be in line with climate science. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Working Group III report earlier this week. It warns that current fossil fuel plans put the world on course for dangerous levels of warming. Ambitious action can create a both a healthier society and a safe climate future for our children and children’s children.
- Make homes warm. The quickest way to reduce the UK’s dependence is to make our energy use more efficient. A mass home insulation programme can slash bills and create warmer homes for all. The UK has some of the worst housing in Europe – for every 1°C that a home in Germany loses, a home in the UK loses 3°C. Houses in poorer neighbourhoods are the most draughty, with low income households hit the hardest. Government needs to support local councils to climate-proof our homes: a ramped-up and in-house programme of home retrofits insulating all the remaining social homes below EPC C could create over 200,000 decent jobs.
- Future-proof industry. Quality jobs in sectors like ceramics and steel are on the line with the soaring price of gas. We need to future-proof our industries to use less fossil fuels and lead the way in new technology. Instead of shuttering and offshoring factories and plants, we can build world-leading decarbonised manufacturing industries. Our analysis shows that over 650,000 jobs in polluting industries can be protected by ambitious decarbonisation programmes. The official Green Jobs Taskforce called on government to expand public investment into future-proofing industry.
- Improve transport. Electrifying our transport system, boosting public transport networks and improving walking and cycling infrastructure – can make a healthier society and reduce the UK’s (and the EU’s) dependence on Russian oil & gas. TUC analysis also shows that investing into new clean transport infrastructure could create 280,000 jobs in the coming two years. In the immediate term, ambitious measures like Germany’s 9 Euro monthly ticket covering all trains, buses and public transport help with the cost-of-living crisis and reduce fuel use.
- A balanced energy mix. Alongside our current provision, more renewable power like wind and solar can be brought online quickly and help domestic electricity generation and reduce dependence on imports. The TUC is also calling for new nuclear plants to receive government support to ensure we hit our climate targets - and as part of this, government must secure the future of nuclear fuel production in the UK. Tens of thousands of quality jobs can be created – if we see an expansion of local manufacturing supply chains to support clean power industries. With the UK’s offshore wind pipeline 8 times the size of current wind farms, everything is still to play for – but there’s a long way to go before we make sure these are decent, union jobs. Working class communities won’t accept any attempt to use the energy transition to downgrade jobs and skills.
- A windfall tax on oil and gas. The cost of a safe and affordable energy system must not be dumped on those least able to pay. BP and Shell alone are set to make a combined profit of almost £40 billion this year – profiting directly from the extortionate bills paid by households. The TUC has called for a windfall tax, that redistributes grants that at least match future rises in the energy price cap for vulnerable households.
- Public ownership. The UK’s energy system is bust. The market has failed to deliver secure and affordable energy. A decade of calling for more competition and telling consumers to switch has failed. Now households are facing a cost-of-living crisis thanks to a regime that embedded moral hazard and risk-taking. A consistent and large majority of the public, across the political spectrum, supports taking energy back into public hands. Public ownership can provide long-term price stability for households and accelerate the climate transition.
We need a coherent energy policy with investment to create a safe climate for future generations, that delivers energy to households and workplaces as a public good, and that defends and creates hundreds of thousands of quality jobs. It’s time for the government to deliver.