With the UK general election just days away, here are the key points from the leading parties' manifestos in relation to energy policy.
Conservative: End of new public subsidies for onshore wind farms
- Over the last five years, the Conservatives claim to have committed “billions” in reducing emissions from transport and clean-up of seas and rivers but there is no mention of any specific achievements in their manifesto.
- A significant amount of money is to be invested in carbon capture and storage (£1 billion) and emissions reduction (£500 million), although there is no reference to the source of funds.
- There is a “long-term plan” to “unlock” £59 billion to be invested in electricity. They do discuss what they plan to do with the funds but there is no discussion of where the £59 billion came from or how it will be “unlocked”.
- Interestingly, the Conservatives have pledged to meet their climate change commitments and cut carbon emissions “as cheaply as possible” but the ending of subsidy for onshore windfarms has generated criticism. It is argued that onshore windfarms offer one of the cheapest forms of clean energy, unlike the new nuclear and offshore windfarm projects which the Conservatives continue to support.
Labour: Removal of carbon from electricity supply by 2030
- Ambitious targets to remove carbon from our electricity supply by 2030 and net zero global emissions in the second half of the century but there are no concrete examples of how they will achieve these targets.
- The word “ambitious” comes up fives times throughout the manifesto and only in relation to climate change and energy. Interestingly, despite the “ambition”, the only reference to any plan of action (or indeed to renewable energy or nuclear) is in the following sentence: “We will create an Energy Security Board to plan and deliver the energy mix we need, including renewables, nuclear, green gas, carbon capture and storage, and clean coal”. Sounds like the long grass.
SNP: Scotland, Scotland, Scotland
- As one would expect, emphasis is on promoting Scotland.
- The SNP expresses continued support for offshore wind and, unlike the Conservatives or UKIP, also support for onshore wind.
- Despite their various proposals for renewable energy, supporting oil & gas still seems to be a key commitment, particularly North Sea oil. The SNP is looking to increase investment, jobs and internationalisation of the sector.
- Interestingly, they do not use the word ‘coal’ in the manifesto but they express concerns regarding closure of Longannet coal fired power station.
Liberal Democrats: 60% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030
- They have really focused on winning “green” votes and their manifesto focuses very much on decarbonisation, emissions reduction and renewables.
- They have created the “Green Magna Carta” - five new laws to fight climate change.
- They are the only party (other than the Greens) who specifically refer to biomass, and they are also in favour of both onshore wind and nuclear power.
- They refer to a £100 billion investment in low-carbon energy infrastructure by 2020 but there is no mention of how that sum will be raised or how energy will compete with their many other spending priorities.
UKIP: Subsidy for wind and solar power to be withdrawn - coal industry to be revived
- Compared to the larger parties’ manifestos, this is probably the most contrarian in respect of energy policies and climate change.
- They aim to repeal the Climate Change Act (UK’s decarbonisation agenda) and scrap emissions regulations for power plants. Instead, they will encourage the re-development of coal-fired power stations and seek ways to rejuvenate the coal industry.
- In terms of energy policy, the manifesto mainly consists of what UKIP dislikes and what they will scrap, should the party come into power.
- Compared to the other manifestos (with the exception of the Labour manifesto), UKIP had relatively little to say regarding renewables, energy efficiency and energy bills.
- There is also no mention of nuclear, apart from in the generic statement supporting a “diverse energy market” on page 39. This statement propounds support for a “diverse energy market” if that diversity comes at “competitive prices”.
- Interestingly, they seek to rewind UK’s low-carbon policies and seek to revive more historic energy sources i.e. coal and oil & gas.
Greens: 90% reduction in greenhouse gases in the next 15-20 years
- As expected, the Green manifesto focuses mainly on electricity generation from renewables. They are planning to spend £35 billion to achieve this although it is not entirely clear how they would raise these funds.
- They aim to give Green Investment Bank a lot more borrowing power.
- Similar to the SNP manifesto, there is specific reference to community involvement and locally owned renewable generation.
- Interestingly, they go over and above the Climate Change Act and require a 90% reduction in greenhouse gases in the next 15-20 years (as opposed to 80% reduction by 2050).
- Not surprisingly, they are against fracking, fossil fuels and nuclear.