Labour’s biggest union backer calls on party to nationalise energy sector

Public ownership of energy sector could save bill payers billions says Unite

Sharon Graham

Kier Starmer will be urged to reconsider Labour’s policy on renationalising the energy sector this week by Labour’s biggest financial backer Unite the union.  

Billions could be cut from average household bills if the sector was brought back into public ownership, the union has argued, putting an end to the current system which has led to “rampant profiteering” by energy companies.   

Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, is to urge Keir Starmer to reconsider Labour policy on nationalising the energy sector since the party leader U-turned on previous plans to nationalise the energy, mail and water industries.

The Labour party has promised to renationalise the rail system and to create a new, publicly-owned clean energy company to push for green energy.

But average energy bills could have been cut by £1,800 last year if the sector was fully nationalised, saving bill payers £45 billion, which is the amount companies made in profit from the UK domestic energy system in 2022, the latest report by Unite has revealed.

Taking control of the UK’s energy network would therefore end the “scandal of our energy system”, which allows profiteers to make billions whilst the public foot the bill.

Eye-watering profits revealed earlier this month by BP and Shell were slammed by Unite as bosses were accused of “rampant corporate profiteering”. 

Between January and March alone the two energy companies made a profit of £11.7 billion.

The union also argued that public control would have reduced inflation, as energy profits could have been used to freeze bills in summer 2021 when prices were rising, which would have kept inflation low, as household energy bills have been one of the biggest contributors to high inflation.

Unite estimated it would cost around £90 billion to nationalise the energy sector, equal to just two years of profits at the 2022 level, meaning it would pay for itself within a few years.

Graham said it was time to end the current system that allows profiteers to “pocket billions while workers and communities are left in the cold”.

She said the unions report reveals a “tragically missed opportunity” that public-ownership could have saved bill payers billions over the years.

“It’s a tragic missed opportunity that, if the energy system had been run for the benefit of all not the profits of a few, households could have saved £45 billion, avoiding high bills that have left millions in the cold or searching for ‘warm banks,” said Graham.

“It’s time to pull the plug on the energy profiteers. Unite is showing it’s no longer a question of ‘can we afford to’, it’s how long can we afford not to.”

Polling last summer found huge support across the political spectrum for nationalisation with 66% of the public wanting to see energy in public ownership, including 62% of Conservative voters.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Sky News / Youtube)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust logo
Comments are closed.