Labour pledges to put efficiency at heart of energy policy

23rd September 2014

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Helen Davies

A series of speeches by shadow cabinet ministers at the Labour party's annual conference today pledged action on energy efficiency and air quality.

Shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change Caroline Flint said she was “declaring war on cold homes”. A Labour government would provide 500,000 free home energy reports a year so that people understand better how to cut their bills, she said.

Flint also pledged to retrofit 200,000 homes a year for those on low incomes using money from the energy company obligation (ECO). Homes would be brought up to a level C standard of the energy performance certificate, she said.

Under Labour’s plans, local authorities would be put in charge of implementing the retrofit programmes so that they can be delivered street-by-street.

Currently energy companies are responsible for identifying eligible homes, and the scheme only delivers one energy efficiency measure per home.

“The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use. Yet heat is going straight out of our roofs, windows and walls. We might as well burn money,” she to delegates.

The focus on energy efficiency was welcomed by the manufacturing organisation, the EEF. However, its head of climate and environment policy, Gareth Stace, said that it was “disconcerting” that there was no mention by Flint of industrial energy consumers.

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle, meanwhile, criticised the government’s performance on environmental issues. A Labour government would devolve powers to councils willing to take action against air pollution and introduce a national programme of low-emission zones to encourage less polluting vehicles, she said.

She also promised a new climate adaptation programme and to reinstate flood protection as a priority for the environment department. An independent national infrastructure commission will identify the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs including flood protection, she said.

Mary Creagh, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, pledged to support local authorities wanting to introduce London-style public transport integration; reform the railways, including placing a cap on fares; and introduce a requirement for all HGVs to be fitted with safety devices to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

She also promised “a swift decision on airport expansion in the national interest.”

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