NOTHING is more damning of Westminster’s energy policy than the fact more than one-third of Scotland’s households live in fuel poverty. But as we transition to renewable energy, we risk repeating the very same mistakes of the past – and this time with the support of Holyrood as well as Westminster.

This week, Ofgem announced the new energy bills price cap for April 2023. With the UK Government’s Energy Price Guarantee set to cover less of people’s bills from April, too, the impact will be a rise of £500 for an average household’s energy bill in the UK despite the cap falling.

At the same time as these numbers drive thousands into fuel poverty, for a small number of companies this is boom time. We have seen major energy companies post record-breaking profit after record-breaking profit. For some of these companies, the recent profit surge has led to a change of plans when it comes to the energy transition too with BP announcing a scaling back of their plans to shift towards low-carbon energy globally.

We’re not seeing the immediate support for people necessary to tackle the cost of people’s bills or the longer-term thinking to ensure a safe climate for people across the world.

Underpinning – and even exacerbating – the climate and cost of living crises, is the relentless profiteering of global energy companies. Profiteering by companies like Shell who, just a few weeks ago announced profits of $40 billion. Companies like BP, which just days later announced profits of £23bn and whose own chief officer said it “has more cash than we know what to do with”.

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Companies like ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy, which have profit margins of more than 40% simply from the fact they own Scotland’s electricity grid, while they hike up energy bills for ordinary people.

And what do these companies have in common, besides their profits? They have all won a lease to develop offshore wind, on Scotland’s seabed. And that typifies the problem – in the same way that we saw the privatisation of oil and gas in the 1980s, and our electricity in the 1990s, we are now seeing the continuation of this failed approach with the outsourcing of Scotland’s renewables resource.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The extent of privatisation in the UK’s energy system is unique within Europe. The publicly run companies of our neighbours are major players here in the UK; Sweden’s Vattenfall, Denmark’s Orsted and even Munich’s Stadtwerke. When the UK Government stepped in to provide support on energy bills last year through the Energy Price Guarantee, it capped prices for households by paying the exorbitant prices to energy companies themselves.

Compare this to the situation in France where the government used its ownership of energy giant EDF to cap prices for people in France at 4% by redirecting the companies’ profits. Rather than allowing energy giants to dictate phenomenal price increases, the French state used its ownership of one major supplier to limit the cost of energy entirely.

The lack of control and the unwillingness to intervene in energy is holding us back from building an energy system that is designed to serve the workers and communities who rely on it. Soaring energy bills and multiple years of missed climate targets make the case clear – it’s not working for anyone except those at the top. Governments can no longer afford to ask nicely of billion-dollar profit-making conglomerates.

Yet a just transition is increasingly vital. As these firms post their record profits, working people in Scotland endure record energy prices. To deliver a fair shift in our energy will not only mean ensuring workers can transfer their skills and experience and that communities such as Aberdeen see new opportunities. It also means ending the existing injustices; fuel poverty, high energy bills, precarious work in the energy sector, and profiteering by energy companies.

So far, we’ve replicated much of the approach to energy in the emerging renewables sectors.

The industrial approach, privatising natural resources and encouraging any company to get involved has the full support of the UK and Scottish governments.

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With the powers they have over energy, albeit limited, the Scottish Government is careering down the same, well-trodden path. Workers throughout Scotland cannot countenance the government blindly following the same course.

We all know where this story ends. It ends in a race to the bottom – for our workers, for our communities, and ultimately for our planet.

The 2017 commitment to a Public Energy Company in Scotland should have been the first step towards a systematic shift of who owns and benefits from our energy sources, but it now sits abandoned.

The Scotwind leasing project, while ambitious, has gifted up to 25GW of renewable energy potential to some of the world’s largest energy companies. Whether it was the privatisation of BP and its oil resources, British Gas in the 1980s or ScottishPower and SSE in the 1990s, this approach of allowing rampant profiteering within our energy sector has consistently failed people in Scotland.

There is a huge appetite amongst workers and trade unions across Scotland to get the energy transition right. To make sure there are new quality jobs across the country, to secure economic opportunity in communities that have been ignored for decades and to provide energy affordably, particularly for those who need it most. Despite the willingness to drive this transformation, the approach by the UK and Scottish governments continue to favour private companies and leaves aside people across the country. But workers won’t sit back and watch on.

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We’ve seen workers at BiFab occupy renewables yards, in defence of green jobs. We’ve seen youth climate strikers standing with trade unionists on picket lines. We’ve seen trade unionists marching shoulder to shoulder alongside climate justice activists during COP26. We’ve seen the workers at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan, develop their own plans to decarbonise their workplace, and we’ve seen joint trade union, community, and environmental campaigns across Scotland’s key cities, on public transport and retrofitting. Campaigns that connect the climate crisis, to ordinary people’s everyday material concerns.

And never has that work been more important, or more urgent than now. Because the challenge before us is to transform our energy system in a way that addresses the climate crisis, the cost of living crisis, and the green jobs crisis, all together, at the same time. Workers have the answers and have shown time and again they are ready to deliver. Pursuing the same course that has led us here will simply not cut it.