Illustration; Source Offshore Energies UK (OEUK)

As UK’s general elections draw near, candidates urged to throw support behind ‘homegrown’ energy transition

Britain’s trade body for the offshore energy industry, Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), has called on all participants in the upcoming general elections to back the domestic energy sector, as this transition pathway is said to safeguard energy security and jobs while accelerating economic growth.

Illustration; Source Offshore Energies UK (OEUK)

Since the UK is preparing to decide on its future government on July 4, OEUK is adamant that policy decisions made by the new government will be felt for decades to come, thus, these general election campaigns are perceived as an opportunity for all parties to support Britain’s energy firms and their workers across oil and gas, wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture technology arenas.

To this end, Offshore Energies UK’s industry manifesto, titled ‘Unleash our Potential. Power our Future,’ asks all candidates to choose “a homegrown energy transition” by engaging with offshore energy firms and their workers across the UK before launching party manifestos.

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David Whitehouse, OEUK’s CEO, commented: “The UK’s offshore energy industry employs people in almost every parliamentary constituency, from Shetland to Southampton. As candidates hit the campaign trail, we challenge them to back this sector and its workers so we can have a homegrown energy transition. Our manifesto calls for a homegrown energy transition that protects UK jobs, communities and our energy security whilst spurring economic growth.

“On this journey we must choose to build on our existing industrial strengths and put our skilled people and companies front and centre. We need both oil and gas and renewables in an integrated system to protect the UK’s energy needs. As we ramp up renewable energy, we will still be reliant on oil and gas for decades to come, so it makes sense to prioritise homegrown production. There will be no prizes for simply importing our energy and exporting our jobs.”

While emphasizing its belief that over £200 billion (more than $254.7 billion) can be unlocked and poured into the UK’s energy future this decade, if firms, skilled people, and capital stay in the country, OEUK highlighted the critical role of stable, long-term policies in enabling fair returns and ensuring companies and their people could compete in the global race for energy investment.

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Whitehouse added: “The decarbonisation of our economy is one of the greatest challenges of our time, but is also a huge opportunity. Candidates at this election have an obligation to engage with industry on how we will plan and finance our energy future.

“Our sector and our people must be at the centre of that discussion. At this crucial time, we must choose a homegrown energy transition that supports jobs, delivers economic value and energy security, while addressing our climate goals.”

After Labour’s windfall tax plan to “end loopholes” by extending the windfall tax on UK oil and gas producers – if elected to government – came to light, uncertainty swept across energy companies due to the possibility that the party might remove critical allowances that enable them to make long-term investments in domestic production.

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In the aftermath of the address the Labour leaders, Sir Keir Starmer MP and Anas Sarwar MSP, delivered to their party in Scotland on Great British Energy plans, Whitehouse noted: “It was good to hear again from Labour that if they win this General Election, they won’t turn off the taps and revoke oil and gas licences and they recognise the need for oil and gas in the UK for many decades to come.

“We now need to understand how they plan to work with the sector, to safeguard oil and gas jobs and build a sustainable and secure energy future that leaves no one behind. We share the ambition to make the UK a green energy superpower. A successful path can only be one that recognises that in the journey to net zero we need both renewables and our homegrown oil and gas sector.”

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In recent years, the erosion of energy producers’ investment confidence in the UK became visible, with OEUK highlighting the knock-on damaging impact of the Energy Profits Levy and other economic factors. Last year, Labour’s proposals came under heavy fire from Britain’s oil and gas industry, as the party faced a barrage of criticism over its plans to ban all new oil and gas developments in the North Sea. 

Whitehouse underlined: “You cannot protect jobs and communities, safeguard our energy security, create enduring economic value, and deliver on our climate goals without embracing our existing industrial strengths.

“Great British Energy’s ambition cannot be delivered without the UK’s oil and gas sector. OEUK will work with all parties during the election and in government to champion this message and develop the detail businesses need to have confidence to invest here in the UK.”

Flexibility – key to achieving ‘ambitious’ energy plans for renewables

In response to a recent election debate, the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) deemed party leaders politicizing net zero as “fundamentally unhelpful” for consumers and the climate while Pablo John, the ADE’s new Head of External Affairs, elaborated on the issue further by saying: “Distressing consumers around the cost of decarbonisation to score political points is fundamentally unhelpful.”

The ADE also underlined that ambitious energy plans set out in Labour’s mission to transform Great Britain into a clean energy superpower could potentially save the UK billions if they get voted into power, but only if demand-side flexibility is prioritized. The trade association also warned that without a clear set of targets and requirements to rapidly upscale flexibility within the energy sector, promises of delivering net zero, lower bills, and energy security would keep slipping further away from reality.

With this in mind, the ADE calls for whichever party forms the next government to take steps in their first 100 days towards a smart and flexible energy system, which could cut £14.1 billion (over $18.02 billion) off yearly energy system costs by 2040, save 770,000 jobs, increase carbon savings by 45%, and avoid spending £3.5 billion (more than $4.47 billion) on four new gas-fired power plants.

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The UK is not the only country preparing for the election race, as the European Union (EU) is now kicking off elections for the European Parliament, which are slated to take place on June 6-9, 2024. Given the rise of the far-right populist political parties over the past decade, analysts fear that such parties will win the upcoming elections, plunging Europe into what they deem to be an even bigger turmoil.

This is said to have the potential to unleash further discrimination, violence, more conflicts, and even bloodshed, returning the continent to those dark times in its history before the EU was created as a breath of fresh air after the cloying darkness of wars, horrible atrocities, and seemingly endless despair.

The birth of the EU gave European people not only hope but also a roadmap, and tools for a better tomorrow, thus, picking leaders at the ballot box who will nourish and preserve the key pillars on which this great endeavor was formed is the key to safeguard Europe from being destroyed from within and catapulted back into the chaos the far-right political wing brings and the bloodbath that would ensue in its wake.

To avoid a scenario that would put right-wing extremism on the throne in Europe, many EU experts advise and urge people to come in droves to vote against such parties rather than abstaining from voting if they cannot find an option they can wholly back up. The same advice is often given to American voters, who will choose a new president in November 2024.