Labour Party Conference 2023 - Victoria Parrett, RenewableUK, shares her perspective
Wake up and smell the coffee - MPs 'love renewables'
Following from a rather rainy conference in Manchester, the sun quite literally shone for Labour’s time in Liverpool. The October heat meant that instead of layering up for the usual gusty Liverpool Docks, I found myself walking between fringe events happy without even a jacket. As much as the sun added this added to the buoyant mood of a largely hopeful and celebratory conference – it was also a stark reminder of how close climate change is to our reality, and the need for the world’s energy transition to speed up.
However, this need was also reflected in the focus of the conference. I saw a significant increased number of energy focussed stands and fringe events across the 4 days – with new evening receptions which brought together the energy trade associations and green economy drinks with the new LCEF group. The Shadow Energy team also renewed, with new members of the team Sarah Jones MP and Jeff Smith MP on a range of panels and events along with Kerry McCarthy MP and Alan Whitehead MP. Several of our members couldn’t decide which clashing event on renewables they needed to attend the most.
Energy related policy announcements could also be found throughout the conference, not only from Ed Miliband, but also from Shadow Business and Industry Minister Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and from Leader Keir Starmer.
The policy announcements from the Shadow team responded to a litany of the energy sector’s complaints – grid infrastructure; planning delays; supply chain support; skills shortages.
Rachel Reeves announced her new business model for Britain, ‘securonomics’ – an industrial strategy through the National Wealth Fund with a target to secure 3 times as much private investment for every pound put in by the government. She promised this would invest in energy like green hydrogen, carbon capture and offshore wind. She also promised to get building grid with Labour ‘rewire Britain’ plan through competitive tendering which GB Energy would bid into.
Ed Miliband looked thrilled to be delivering his speech – heavily criticising the PM’s approach to ‘green crap’ as ‘a crap government’ and encouraged the crowd to ‘chuck them into the 7 dustbins of history’. Reiterating last years announcements to double onshore wind, treble solar and quadruple offshore wind, Miliband used a good portion of his speech to talk about the future of the floating wind industry, how GB energy will invest in this to lead the lead the world. ‘Not under Labour’ will our biggest floating wind farm be built outside of Britain.
Adding to this – a glittering Keir Starmer announced a new direction for future skills with a new generation of technical excellence colleges linked to local economies.
While last year’s announcements from conference were welcomed by industry, there was some trepidation at the sheer scale of ambition for green industry in comparison to Governments’. This year felt very different, with Labour’s announcements addressing those barriers to ambition and a far closer connection to the energy sector as a whole. Even outside of the many business delegates along to join the discussion this year, there seemed to be more hope and belief in Labour’s policy proposals, with GMB leader Gary Smith complimented Rachel Reeves’ industrial strategy plans.
My own experience of conference was far more intense than previous, as RenewableUK hosted our first exhibition stand to both Conservative and Labour conference – and extremely happy to wind ‘Best New Stand’ from the Labour Exhibitions team. We had several visits from MPs and were able to offer visitors a free coffee with their face on to show they ‘love renewables’. We even gave some Keir and Ed coffees to a few journalists waiting to watch Keir speak.
It was amazing to witness the sheer scale of this Labour Conference, reflected the polling and expected success for an election. But this year more than ever, the mood in Liverpool had the energy (policy) to match.