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  • Writer's pictureBrad Martin

Labour Vows To Back Solar Energy In First Term.


Labour has criticised prime minister Liz Truss’s plan to ban solar power from most of England’s farmland and vowed to treble the renewable energy source in its first term.

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate secretary, will visit a solar farm on Friday. He is to lay out his opposition to plans by Truss and her environment secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, who the Guardian revealed earlier this week are hoping to ban solar from about 41% of the land area of England, or about 58% of agricultural land.

“This government cannot deliver when you have a prime minister who is a longstanding opponent of solar, and an environment secretary doing her bidding,” Miliband told the Guardian.

Labour is hoping to make the most of a cabinet rift over energy strategy. On Thursday, the business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, came out in opposition to plans to ban solar.

In a piece for the Guardian, Rees-Mogg insisted he was persuaded of the need to boost renewable energy. He also revealed new policies including loosening regulations for businesses to put solar power in place and giving homeowners grants to install panels on their houses.

Miliband said: “The problem for Liz Truss is that her anti-clean-power dogma is now catching up with her.”

Labour is to say that blocking solar would “rob the UK of potential for cheap power that could bring down bills for households” and tell voters that even before the Ukraine crisis, new solar was a quarter of the price of gas.

Miliband will accuse Truss of trying to “destroy the solar industry” and argue this will “make the UK energy sector even more insecure”. Labour’s calculations show each 5GW of additional solar would cut UK gas imports by 2%, and that solar power could supply 17% of the UK’s annual electricity needs by 2035, supporting 60,000 jobs.

He will also declare Labour’s plans to block fracking, saying that this and an expansion of solar would make the UK a “world-leading clean energy superpower” by 2030. At their party conference, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, announced plans to deliver a zero-carbon electricity system by 2030 as well as to create a publicly owned clean energy company.

The Liberal Democrats have also criticised Truss’s plans. Their chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, the MP for North East Fife, said: “People are facing higher energy bills, and the UK urgently needs more renewable, reliable energy … solar power is clean, cheap and popular. We shouldn’t block solar but encourage opportunities to develop it.”

Truss’s spokesperson confirmed on Monday that plans to ban solar from agricultural land would go ahead despite analysis in the Financial Times showing that in doing so, England would lose £20bn in investment.

During Truss’s party leadership campaign this summer, she dismissed solar panels as “paraphernalia”, adding: “On my watch, we will not lose swathes of our best farmland to solar farms.”

NOTE: We claim no right or title to this article which appears on The guardian dot com Author Helena Horton.

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