Keir Starmer will pledge to deliver a new era of economic growth and permanently lower energy bills by turning the UK into an independent green “superpower” before 2030, through a massive expansion of wind and solar energy.
Announcing details of the plan exclusively to the Observer, the Labour leader says he will double the amount of onshore wind, triple solar and more than quadruple offshore wind power, “re-industrialising” the country to create a zero carbon, self-sufficient electricity system, by the end of this decade.
Starmer says the move – far more ambitious than any green policy advanced by the Tories and the most far-reaching of his leadership so far – would release the British people from the mercy of “dictators” such as Russian president Vladimir Putin over energy bills.
It would also, he says, cut hundreds of pounds off annual household energy bills “for good”, create up to half a million UK jobs, and make this country the first to have a zero-emission power system.
Labour’s new approach is unveiled as the government’s blueprint to boost economic growth through a sweeping programme of tax cuts – announced by Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor, on Friday – encounters mounting criticism.
Yesterday thinktanks and leading economists said the Conservative plan would mainly help the richest and benefit the more prosperous south of England, rather than provide assistance to struggling households and parts of the country which are more deprived. It also spooked the financial markets.
In the hours after Kwarteng addressed MPs in the Commons, the pound slumped more than 3% against the dollar to levels last seen 37 years ago and the cost of government borrowing suffered its biggest one-day rise since 1991.
These initial reactions have fuelled fears of more carnage when markets reopen on Monday. Some economists believe the Bank of England could be forced to hold an emergency meeting to consider further interest rates rises to prevent a rout.
Former Bank policymaker Martin Weale said markets were “frightened” by unfunded tax cuts being pumped into the economy at a time of high inflation. “It is hard to see this policy [of tax cuts] ending happily.” He added: “I expect sterling will continue falling next week, and if it does the Bank of England may need to step in with even higher interest rates.”
Starmer made clear that his alternative approach to boosting growth involved tackling three crises jointly – the climate, the cost of living, and the wider economy.
Party aides said history showed Labour was at its best and most successful when it captured a sense of “modernity and the future”, as in 1964 when Harold Wilson became prime minister with a vision to create a new Britain in the “white heat” of “scientific revolution”.
Starmer said that while the Conservatives were indulging in “casino economics” and “gambling the mortgages and finances of every family in the country”, Labour was looking to create a secure future for everyone, both economically and in the face of climate change.
“The British people are sick and tired of rocketing energy bills and our energy system being exposed to dictators,” Starmer said, before Labour’s annual conference which opens in Liverpool on Sunday.
“They want long-term solutions to cut bills for good. A central mission of my government will be to turn the UK into a clean energy superpower.
“This is a plan that will drive jobs, tackle the cost of living, and protect our homes for future generations by tackling the climate crisis.”
Starmer, along with Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary of state for climate change, has been working for months on what they call their green prosperity plan.
The idea at its core is to build a self-sufficient power system run entirely by cheap, homegrown renewables and nuclear, by the end of the decade. This, they argue, would also allow the country to become a major energy exporter.
In the interview, Starmer said the arrival of Liz Truss as prime minister had created a clearer ideological divide between the Conservatives and Labour that was evident in the way the two party leaders approached challenges over the cost of living and energy prices.
There was, Starmer said, “a big divide on the economy and the question of who grows the economy”.
While Labour wants to create growth by putting working people at the heart of a green economic revolution, he said Truss wanted her tax cuts to benefit “those at the top, therefore she wants trickle-down economics, to make the rich richer, give them tax cuts. So there is a huge ideological gap there.”
The Labour leader added that his party could now fight the next election on issues outside its traditional “comfort zones” such as the NHS. It was now in a position to present a more credible argument to the electorate than the Tories on economic policy as a whole.
Starmer said that following the new government’s mini-budget on Friday it was clear that “the roles are switched” and that Labour was now the party of “fiscal responsibility”.
The latest Opinium poll for the Observer today, taken mainly before the chancellor’s tax-cutting announcements and the first since Truss entered No 10, shows no boost to the Conservatives from the change of leader and prime minister.
It shows Labour leading by 5 points (up 1 point compared with three weeks ago) on 39% while the Tories are unchanged on 34%.
Commenting on Labour’s energy plan, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics Rebecca Newsom said: “The only way out of this mess is a moonshot mission to roll out a renewables based energy system that can lower bills, cut emissions, create jobs and break our dependence on gas markets and fossil fuel autocrats.
“Labour seems to have understood that, the Conservatives don’t.”