Nationalisation is not necessary to deliver a Green New Deal

Posted on

The Guardian has noted this morning that:

Labour will announce plans on Thursday to seize back control of Britain’s energy network from private shareholders in an effort to fight climate change and end fuel poverty.

Jeremy Corbyn and the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, are expected to say that heat and electricity should be a human right for all and nationalisation of the network is key to decarbonising the economy.

Under Labour’s plan, companies that control the UK’s £62bn energy infrastructure — the pipes and cables that supply homes and businesses with gas and electricity — would be taken back into state control soon after a Labour election win.

As I have said in a comment on this blog this morning:

The Green New Deal Group has never discussed nationalisation. I do not see it as in any way a pre-requisite for the GND

And I noted that I agreed with this comment from Paul Hunt on the same post:

Although it is popular, there is no good reason for taking the existing energy network companies in to public ownership. It is true they have been regulated ineptly and have run rings around the regulator, but the answer is effective use of the regulatory powers that exist.

I am not saying I think energy privatisation has been a success. I do not. I am not saying I am opposed to re-nationalisation. I am not. I am saying that what needs to be assessed is priorities.

And in my opinion the question is whether the priority is re-organising ownership of the the industry, at massive cost, with the same energy coming from the same sources as now from the same transmission networks being the result of that process of renationalistaion, or whether a Green New Deal, also requiring some cost to be expended but with different energy from different transmission networks being the result should be the focus instead.

I happen to think that given the climate emergency we face that transforming energy generation, use and transmission are much more important than addressing ownership right now. Addressing ownership will be massively distracting, and costly, and tie down resources in massively bitter recriminations for time to come. There is only so much human energy that can be devoted to the energy sector right now. And transforming what it does is more important than addressing its admin at bthis moment. And anyway, as Paul Hunt notes, regualtion could achieve the goal that renationalisation hopes to achieve just as well.

In other words a Green New Deal does not require energy renationalisation, and however strong its appeal I think it could distract from the Green New Deal right now. And that would be a massive mistake.