Labour’s plans will reset the failing energy market

On Tuesday (24 September) Ed Miliband and Caroline Flint made significant announcements on energy policy.

They presented measures to ensure our energy supply is cleaner, greener and more secure. It is a framework that will re-set the failing energy retail market, while providing a clear, long-term focus for investment for the future.

Unsurprisingly, the headlines have focussed on Labour’s pledge to freeze energy prices for the specific and defined period from the election until January 2017.

As every consumer and business in the UK knows from their own experience, in the last three years prices have increased – the average bill is £300 higher than in 2010. During that same period, the profits of the large companies have increased as well.

Any government that is concerned about the cost of living crisis needs to reset the failing energy market.

While Tory MPs have rallied to support their friends in the boardrooms of the Big Six, they and the Lib Dems have proven themselves to be incapable of and uninterested in providing transparency for consumers and business alike. That is why these reforms are both necessary and urgent.

The 20-month price freeze will save a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800, while the reforms we need to make are put in place. Some of the energy companies would have you believe that such a move is exceptional. It isn’t. Price controls are a tool that were used by the Conservatives as recently as the 1990s.

Ed Miliband’s commitment to a price freeze for a fixed period is a bold and sure-footed policy that goes to the heart of the cost of living crisis. The big utilities need to engage with this process of reform if they want people to have confidence in them as responsible providers.

Behind the price freeze headlines are a series of measures to address the failings in the energy market.

Labour has pledged to scrap the discredited regulator Ofgem and replace it with a new body that has an avowed commitment to making sure that consumers are not exploited.

We will introduce a pool for energy trading, ending under the counter deals that benefit generators and suppliers at the expense of the public, and providing transparency in the energy market.

But perhaps most importantly, Labour will drive forward the transformation of the UK’s power sector that was begun under the last Labour Government. By pledging to decarbonise our electricity supply by 2030, Labour are sending a clear signal that

Britain will move to a transparent and sustainable energy future with a framework for investment to promote low carbon jobs and growth.

Long after January 2017, Labour’s new architecture for energy will be delivering a cleaner, more balanced energy mix for the long-term with a market designed to be transparent and a regulator with a relentless focus on the consumer interest.

For 38 out of the 39 months that David Cameron has been in power, the cost of living has increased. This crisis puts questions about energy policy right at the heart of the next general election.

Yesterday (Tuesday 24 September), Ed Miliband showed that they are questions to which Labour has the answer.