What does the general election mean for energy?

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 1 May 2015

Welcome to another general election themed briefing. Last week I summarised party policies on the environment, waste, fisheries, biodiversity and forestry. A few people got in touch to say it was useful so I thought it might be good to follow it with a look at what policies mean for the energy sector.

Again, much of what affects energy policy is devolved but with parties planning to vote on ‘England only issues’, and the fact that many Scottish policies rely on certain conditions in Westminster, I thought it might be worth having a look.


Labour

Labour’s policy is based in an energy mix of renewables, nuclear, green gas, carbon capture and storage, and clean coal. It will:

-          Expand the role of DfID to mitigate changing climate risks.

-          Seek an ambitious agreement on climate change at the Paris talks, and seek emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years. Labour will push for a goal of zero net global emissions in the second half of the century.

-          Produce an ‘ambitious’ climate change adaptation programme, with the new Infrastructure Commission prioritising investment in flood prevention.

-          Introduce a legal target to remove carbon from the electricity supply by 2030.

-          Fracking – extraction within a robust environmental and regulatory regime.

-          Ensure certainty on tax rates for offshore oil and gas industry while developing for carbon capture and storage.

-          Freeze energy bills until 2017 to ensure that bills can fall but not rise. During this time, the market will be reformed, with the generation and supply businesses of the ‘Big Six’ separated.

-          Create a new energy watchdog with power to strip energy companies of licences if they harm the interests of consumers.

-          Deliver one million interest free loans for energy home improvements in the next Parliament. They pledge to make 200,000 low income homes warm every year, delivered by local authorities and community organisations.

-          Ensure privately rented properties meet a ‘decency standard’ bringing warmth to a further three million homes. 


The Conservatives

Broadly speaking, the Tories are fed up with on shore wind, not quite as keen on home insulation as some of the others, but promise to help oil and gas. Main bits:

-          Significant expansion in new nuclear and gas while backing good-value green energy.

-          Support the safe development of shale gas, and ensure that local communities share the proceeds through community benefit packages (eg a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England).

-          Continue to support the development of North Sea oil and gas.

-          Provide start-up funding for new renewable technologies and research, but will only give significant support to those that clearly represented value for money.

-          Halt the development of onshore windfarms by ending any new public subsidy, give local people the final say on windfarm applications.

-          Push for a deal in Paris which limits global warming to two degrees.

-          Building 1,400 new flood defence schemes to protect 300,000 homes.

-          Promote competition in the energy industry to keep bills as low as possible. They will implement the findings from the Competition and Markets Authority review of the energy market.

-          Insulate a million more homes over the next five years.

-          Ensure that every home and business in the country has a smart meter by 2020. 


The SNP

The language of the SNP manifesto is a little different to the others in that, unlike Labour and the Tories, the party is aiming to influence a government rather than form one. As such the following are policies they will press for:

-          Push for the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) to be funded through general taxation and new powers to make sure energy companies pass on lower energy prices to consumers.

-          Ofgem should be empowered to enforce price reductions to reflect lower wholesale costs as a result of lower oil prices. The Scottish Government and UK government should have joint oversight of Ofgem.

-          Maintain the winter fuel allowance and ensure that pensioners whose homes are ‘off grid’ receive their winter fuel allowances earlier.

-          Clear timescale for the islands interconnector.

-          Change to the transmission charging system that penalises Scottish generators.

-          Continued moratorium on fracking.

-          Additional support for pump hydro and Carbon Capture and Storage schemes.

-          Maintain the Renewable Heat Incentive beyond 2015.

-          Use future energy revenues to create a Sovereign Wealth Fund under the ownership and management of the Scottish Parliament and Government.

-          Ensure the UK matches Scotland in creating a Climate Justice Fund.

-          Increase the capital available to the Green Investment Bank, and ask the next UK government to report on options including new borrowing powers for the bank. 

 

The Lib Dems

Like last week, the Lib Dem energy section is huge, so I have had to cut quite a bit out. I included the bits that make specific promises (no Nick Clegg jokes please) rather than the more general aims.

-          Expand the Green Investment Bank, increasing remit and capitalisation.

-          Ensure farming support is concentrated on sustainable food production, conservation and tackling climate change.

-          Set a legally binding decarbonisation target range for 2030 for the power sector of 50–100g of CO2 per kWh. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and developing the EU Energy Union.

-          Pledge to pass a Zero Carbon Britain Act to set a new legally binding target to bring net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

-          End the use of unabated coal in electricity generation by 2025. Require any new gas stations built after 2030 to be fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology and implement a second phase of CCS projects by 2020.

-          Set an indicative target of 60 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

-          Stimulate a minimum of £100bn more private investment in low-carbon energy infrastructure by 2020.

-          New nuclear power but without public subsidy.

-          Establish a Low-carbon Transition Fund using 50 per cent of any tax revenues from shale gas to fund energy efficiency, community energy, low-carbon innovation and renewable heat.

-          Establish an Office for Environmental Responsibility scrutinising Government environmental policy. 

 

Scottish Green Party

The Greens are a tricky one, because although the Scottish Greens and English and Welsh Greens are different parties, these are UK issues and I have been told by the party they will work on the same UK-wide policies if a Scottish MP gets elected. So this is a bit of a mix between the two.

-          Invest £35bn over the parliament in renewable generation, concentrating on expanding mature renewable technologies.

-          All public buildings to have solar panels by 2020.

-          £2.5bn over the parliament for research into wave and tidal, and into energy storage.

-          Maintain the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

-          At least 42 GW of community power by 2020. 

-          Require grid operators give priority access to community energy projects.

-          Support stable fixed price feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy generators.

-          Split up large vertically integrated companies so they can’t both produce energy and supply it to consumers.

-          Ensure there is a single scheme of regulation for the energy industry covering climate change targets and consumer interests.

-          Provide £4.5bn to support research into less energy-intensive industrial processes.

-          New aviation emissions target of below 37.5m tonnes C02 equivalent per year.

-          Secure public control over the National Grid.

-          Commit to introducing smart meters and appliances.

-          Make energy tariffs progressive, so small customers paid less per unit.

-          Give the Green Investment Bank full borrowing powers.

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