Blimey – Ed Miliband certainly likes to make it hard for himself.
Amid all the coverage this morning of his Labour conference speech yesterday, one small detail seems to have been overlooked: his commitment to total decarbonisation of the energy sector by 2030.
Labour had already committed to including a decarbonisation target in its 2015 manifesto, back in June this year after a cross-party amendment to the Energy Bill in favour of such a measure was defeated by the government – but hadn’t specified the level of the target. This is what Ed Miliband provided yesterday, when he said that
Labour will have a world leading commitment in government to take all of the carbon out of our energy by 2030.
This is a hugely ambitious commitment, and green campaigners will be purring. But you have to wonder – how exactly will this be squared this with the other new policy commitment on energy that he announced yesterday: “the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017”? Because if we really want to achieve a 100% decarbonisation target in just a decade and a half, it will cost more.
It may be that Labour’s simply ignoring the economics of this because the politics are so good. Jonathan Freedland observes this morning that focus group approval of price controls on gas and electricity is “off the charts”, according to a senior Labour figure. The FT’s political team, meanwhile, notes that however much the Conservatives, Lib Dems, and energy companies howl about the risk of lights going out,
Mr Miliband will relish the backlash, which he hopes will highlight his claim to be willing to side with ordinary families against big business and to tilt the economic playing field back in their favour.
“The companies won’t like it because it will cost them money,” Mr Miliband said. “But they have been overcharging people for too long because the market doesn’t work. We need to press the reset button.”
I assume that Labour knows what it’s doing here, not only because Ed Miliband knows the DECC brief back to front but also because Bryony Worthington is a shadow DECC minister and knows more about the energy sector than most of the energy companies themselves do. But I’d feel better seeing some detailed unpacking of the underlying assumptions…