The Labour Party is fairly troubled by the electoral manifestation of this Green surge, and is rushing to outbid everyone else in its *promises*. Noting the universal scorn for the ER's "zero carbon by 2020", they are toying with a 2030 target. Ah well: as one of the ER demonstrators said to a TV interviewer: this is no time to be realistic.
Far more significantly, under this green smokescreen they are also planning to renationalise the gas and electricity transmission grids and distribution networks (DNOs). For hardcore C@W readers, if you give even half a chance to there ever being a Labour government with McDonnell holding the reins this is a subject for serious study.
- Choice of target. Assuming (as we must) that McDonnell actually intends ultimately to nationalise far more than this, the Grid + DNOs is quite a shrewd starting point, politically speaking, for getting his ball rolling. Not many people carry a torch for this lot. They are natural monopolies. They are still under public ownership in many EU countries, so it's hard to claim nationalisation will obviously be disastrous, or fundamentally contra to EU law. They are asset-rich, really easy to finance (guaranteed, regulated revenues) and heavily unionised. Many are owned by wicked foreigners. (And, frankly, several of the DNOs have pig-shit thick management.)
- Paying for it. They are a bit vague on this, musing that perhaps they don't need to "pay compensation" (morally speaking, that is - because the wicked shareholders have been ripping us all off for decades); but then again, maybe (legally speaking) they do. However this plays out, they'd be exchanging equity for government bonds. They've obviously taken some fairly well-informed accounting advice and reckon it will be neutral as regards government borrowing.
- Grand plans. You need to read the stuff to get the full measure of this, because it's far from a simple change of ownership they have in mind. Briefly, it is intended as a springboard for getting councils, unions and 'local communities' in on the action, with control of energy distribution being atomised into at very least several hundred local authority-based mini-regions, but ultimately down to thousands of micro-regions: cooperatives, housing estates, business parks etc etc. (These must be sufficiently 'open and democratic': wealthy gated communities or fat-cat County-set windfarmers need not apply.) All with 'maximal union involvement', natch. Plus a bizarre edifice of regulation and governance - which will be much needed: this is gas & electricity we're talking about!
- "Rationale". The ostensible reasons for doing this are threefold. (A) reduce costs to the consumer - because coupon for bondholders will be less than divi, and managament salaries will be slashed. (B) Facilitate the Green Revolution - because the Grid and DNOs have been dragging their feet. (C) Democratisation and local participation. Curiously, they don't admit to outright doctrinaire bullshit, though it's not particularly disguised, either.
a) it will quickly bog down in protracted legal challenges over (i) compo, and (ii) compatibility with some very complex EU regulations covering the fundamentally complex electricity sector. (Of course, these are illustrations of why Corbyn et al want out of the EU. But any forseeable 'deal' won't let them off these hooks at all quickly; and No Deal will leave them with No Time for ideological indulgences like this.)
b) even if they can get past a), the sheer practical difficulties involved in the fatuous Grand Plan aspects will ensure nothing much changes in substance for a long, long time. People really do insist on a continuous electricity supply! And mostly, they have not the faintest idea how difficult it is.
c) rationales A and B are non-starters. I just mention this for completeness, really. Costs will of course go up, not least because staff numbers will go through the roof as soon as they try C, plus the 'maximal union involvement' thing. And no amount of well-meaning 'local community' enthusiasm will kick-start the Green Revolution, which will need to be a tightly-managed, highly technical affair.
All in all, we should be entirely delighted if this crazy scheme, which has obvious superficial attractions for all manner of lefty-greens, were to absorb all their energies right from the start of a New Regime. A bigger distraction from more damaging potential forms of political meddling could hardly be imagined. And of all the many baleful things McDonnell is plotting, this lunacy is by far the easiest to throw into reverse.
Keep watching this one: it's interesting.