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The Engineering And Technology Sector Reacts To Labour Pledges

With Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party having won the 2024 general election in a landslide victory, all eyes will now turn to its manifesto pledges.

The IET has welcomed the new Labour government and looks forward to working with it. As Ed Almond, IET’s chief executive, said: “This is a chance for the new administration to work with experts and provide strong leadership to address some of the key challenges and seize the huge opportunities that the UK will face over the course of the next parliament.

“In particular, the opportunities around decarbonising to reach net-zero and ensuring a competitive and resilient innovation sector through an industrial strategy backed by a secure skills pipeline,” he added.

Transport

In its manifesto, one of the standout commitments in terms of transport was the creation of Great British Railways – an effective renationalisation of the UK’s rail system that will happen gradually as existing private contracts elapse.

Labour also pledges to boost the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) by accelerating the roll-out of chargepoints while giving certainty to manufacturers by restoring the phase-out date of 2030 for new cars with internal combustion engines.

In reaction to this pledge, tech start up Dootrix, which has worked alongside EV charging business GRIDSERVE since 2019 to build a national EV charging network, says the new Labour government must honour this phase-out commitment.

Dootrix’s chief technology officer, Kev Smith, commented: “We’re calling on Keir Starmer to take advantage of the unique opportunity that he has as the new Prime Minister to honour his party’s commitment, made in 2023, to work with the automotive sector to hit the original target, and ensure Britain is leading the drive for change.”

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Infrastructure

Labour also plans to overhaul the planning system to help it “forge ahead with new roads, railways, reservoirs, and other nationally significant infrastructure”.

The hope is that this will lower the cost of future projects by slashing red tape, while making it easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure and gigafactories.

Greenpower Park, which will house a gigafactory supplying advanced lithium-ion batteries, welcomes Labour’s stance on making it easier to build such infrastructure that will “accelerate the UK’s transition to an electrified future”.

A spokesperson for Greenpower Park said: “From automotive to energy storage, there is an urgent need to secure global battery manufacturers along with the associated supply chain to meet the growing demand for electrification in the UK.”

Matthew Lumsden, CEO of Connected Energy, picks up on Labour’s intention to promote a circular economy for critical minerals while strengthening the UK’s domestic battery manufacturing capabilities.

Lumsden commented: “Second life EV batteries – repurposed into battery energy storage – should form a key part of this plan as they reduce our reliance on critical mineral imports while also creating the stability needed for an increasingly renewable electricity grid.”

However, Chris Godsmark, managing director at Houlihan Lokey, a multinational independent investment bank and financial services company, says that the Labour manifesto is short on detail regarding digital infrastructure with more around 5G than fibre networks.

“Labour’s landslide victory in the election will clearly lead to many questions for digital infrastructure providers and in particular those rolling out competing fibre networks. A new government means a new opportunity to engage in strategy and policy, and given the huge majority, perhaps a longer-term strategic outlook,” he said.

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Energy and net zero

Roughly mirroring its rail plans, Labour said it will create a new publicly owned energy firm called Great British Energy, which will aim to boost domestic electricity production through investments in low-carbon sources such as renewables and nuclear.

This stance on prioritising green policies and placing them “at the heart” of its growth, prosperity, and climate resilience plans has garnered many positive reactions from the renewable energy industry.

Greg Jackson, founder of Octopus Energy, said: “The results look clear – voters have rejected anti net zero rhetoric and chosen cheaper, cleaner, more secure energy. This looks like a landslide for a green economy.”

While Stuart Lemmon, CEO of climate change consultancy EcoAct, commented that while  this result is a real opportunity for the UK to reclaim its leadership in the global race to net zero, the new government must progress from promises to providing a robust, actionable roadmap to make net-zero possible by 2050.

“With 2030 just around the corner, the government must create an environment where transitioning is not just feasible but is actively progressing and aligned with international climate goals,” said Lemmon.

Amir Cohen, CEO at EGM (Electrical Grid Monitoring), said that the focus must also turn to electricity grid infrastructure, which is currently hindering renewable energy integration.

“To tackle this, the new government must consider accelerating permitting and planning reforms, and supporting the adoption of more advanced monitoring systems, which would create a more agile and responsive grid infrastructure,” said Cohen.

Source: E&T

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