Election 2015 - Party Policies on Energy & Climate

With the General Election on 7th May 2015 fast approaching the pressure’s on for each party to get across its policies. So naturally we, at 2EA®, have summarised what the parties views are on UK energy and climate policy and how this could affect you as a business.

For this article we were going to be looking at the forerunners of the election which are Labour, The Conservative Party, The Liberal Democrats and The UK Independence Party (UKIP). However, as you can see from the below average of polls the UK Independence Party (UKIP) are currently more popular than Lib Dem.

For a brief summary of the views on energy and climate change of each of the forerunners in the 2015 General Election, highlighting what they will change, what they will add and what they will dispose of please view Election 2015: A Brief Summary of Party Policies on Energy and Climate or for a full summary of each party's intentions please click on the name of a party below.

Conservative Party

The Conservatives feel that affordable and reliable energy is crucial to the economy, national security and family budgets and are offering to guarantee clean, affordable and secure energy supplies by:

  • Keeping bills as low as possible and promoting competition in the energy market.
  • Ensuring homes and businesses have energy supplies they can rely on.
  • Helping to insulate homes.
  • Halting the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms.
  • Meeting their climate change commitments and cutting carbon emissions as cheaply as possible.

The Conservatives express concern that without secure energy supplies, British families and businesses are left at the mercy of fluctuating global oil and gas prices leaving Britain less safe and less prosperous.

They accuse Labour of being responsible for failing to exploit domestic sources of oil and gas, causing power-margins to fall to record lows and failing to deliver the ‘next generation’ of energy products, hurting consumers, halving the number of energy suppliers and increasing energy bills.

The Conservative party state that they have taken a different, long term approach which will help all parts of the UK to deliver secure affordable and low carbon energy, claiming that their tax cuts have encouraged record levels of investment in existing North Sea gas and shale gas which has the potential to create thousands of jobs.

Energy Costs

In order to secure clean - but affordable - energy the Conservatives believe that we need a Conservative government to see through their long term plans. They feel a significant expansion in new nuclear and gas energy, backing "good-value" green energy and pushing for more UK investment in UK energy sources is the best way to secure a good deal for consumers.

The Conservative party intend to promote competition by continuing to implement the recommendations of the Competition and Markets Authority investigation which they triggered during their current term.

Every home and business in the country is to have a Smart Meter by 2020, delivered as cost effectively as possible, to allow consumers to have accurate bills and be able to switch providers within one day.

They also offer to to support low cost measures on energy efficiency by aiming to insulate a million more homes over the next 5 years.

Fracking

Secure energy supplies will be provided by continuing to support the development of shale gas, ensuring that the proceeds are shared with local communities through community benefit packages. They will also create a "Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England" so that the shale gas resources are used to invest in the future of the North.

Renewable Energy

The Conservative party also intend to provide start-up funding for promising new renewable technologies and research, providing they present value for money.

Public subsidy for any new onshore wind farms will be ended on the grounds that wind farms often do not receive public support and are unable, by themselves, to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires.

Climate Change

The Conservative party plan to push for a strong global climate deal in the future that keeps the goal of limiting global warming to two-degrees. They will continue to support the UK Climate Change Act and cut emissions as cost effectively as possible.

View the full Conservative Party Manifesto here

Labour

When it comes to energy the Labour party intend to reform the broken markets that people rely on most to ensure that families and businesses get a better deal. They feel that lack of competition has caused an increase in energy bills allowing prices to rise when wholesale prices increase, but not cutting them when they fall.

Energy Costs

Labour plan to freeze energy prices until 2017 and during the freeze will work to reform the energy market so that it delivers fairer prices.

Labour will separate the generation and supply businesses of the "Big Six" energy companies who will be required to "open up their books" and sell their electricity through an open exchange.

They plan to simplify energy tariffs making it easier for people to compare prices and get better deals on their energy.

They will protect small businesses by ending unfair contracts and automatic rollovers to more expensive tariffs.

A tough new energy watchdog will enforce their reforms and have the power to strip energy companies of their licences should they repeatedly harm the interests of consumers and protect off grid households.

Energy bills will be reduced by making homes more energy efficient, delivering a million interest free loans for energy home improvements in the next parliament and policies will be set in place to keep the homes of people on low incomes warm.

Climate Change

Labour plan to make Britain a world leader in low carbon technologies over the next decade, supported by ambitious domestic carbon reduction targets, including a legal target to remove the carbon from our electricity supply by 2030, and a major drive for energy efficiency.

Their industrial plan of action for the green economy will provide a timetable for the Green Investment Bank to be given further powers in order to invest in green businesses and technology.

Renewable Energy

They plan to make an "Energy Security Board" to plan and deliver the needed energy mix, to include: renewables, nuclear, green gas, carbon capture and storage, and clean coal.

Conventional Energy

Labour intend to safeguard the future of the offshore oil and gas industry by providing a continuing strategy for the industry, containing more certitude on tax rates and maximising the capability for carbon storage. For unconventional onshore oil and gas they will build a "robust environmental and regulatory regime before extraction can take place".

View the full Labour Party Manifesto here

Liberal Democrats

Energy Costs

The Liberal Democrats intend to further drive competition in the energy sector by speeding up switching of suppliers, forcing energy companies to allow customers to change to any cheaper supplier within 24 hours. They also intend to extend the principle of "gainer-led" switching, allowing the new provider to organise the switch.

They also intend to give people easier to understand information about their energy use by nationally rolling out smart gas and electricity meters. They "guarantee" that anyone on a prepayment meter can choose a smart meter instead by 2017.

They aim for at least 30% of the domestic market to be supplied by competitors to the "Big 6" within the next five years to encourage competition and drive down energy costs.

Climate Change

The Lib Dems intend to put the environment at the heart of their policy and feel the need to speed up energy efficiency investment in order to stop buildings leaking energy and wasting money. They have a goal of reducing energy demand by 50% by 2030, planning to make a low-carbon economy at the lowest cost for consumers.

To help achieve this they have created "Five Green Laws" which include a "Zero Carbon Britain Act" and a "Green Buildings Act":

Zero Carbon Britain Act

  • A new legally-binding target for Zero Carbon Britain by 2050, to be monitored and audited by the Climate Change Committee (CCC). The Climate Change Act 2008 established an aim to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 based on the 1990 baseline.
  • 2030 power sector decarbonisation target of 50-100g per kWh, as recommended by the CCC.
  • Emission Performance Standards for existing coal power stations, designed to ensure electricity generation from unabated coal will stop by 2025.
  • Giving full borrowing powers to the Green Investment Bank, to boost further investment in low-carbon technologies.

Green Buildings Act

  • A Council Tax discount for significant improvements in energy efficiency in homes.
  • Ambitious targets for all social and private rented homes to reach Energy Performance Certificate Band C by 2027.
  • A statutory target to bring the homes of all fuel-poor households to Band C by 2027.
  • A new legal framework to require regulators to facilitate the development of deep geothermal heat, large-scale heat pumps, waste industrial heat and energy storage systems.
  • New powers for government to introduce new energy efficiency and heat saving regulations to reduce heat and energy use.

Renewable Energy

The Liberal democrats believe that Britain's strengths in sectors such as offshore wind power, low-carbon vehicles and in green finance put us in a good position to compete with new world markets that are developing in low-carbon and resource-efficient technologies. They intend to:

  • Expand the potential of the Green Investment Bank by increasing its capitalisation, expanding its remit, allowing it to raise funds and enabling it to issue green bonds.
  • Task the Natural Capital Committee to determine the key natural resources being used unsustainably and recommend legally binding targets for reducing their net consumption and introduce incentives for businesses to improve resource efficiency.
  • Help incentivise sustainable behaviour by raising the proportion of tax revenue accounted for by green taxes.
  • Boost research and development and commercialisation support in four key low-carbon technologies where Britain could lead the world: tidal power, carbon capture and storage, energy storage and ultra-low emission vehicles.
  • Encourage onshore wind in appropriate locations, helping meet our climate targets at least cost. They will end ideologically motivated interference in local planning decisions for wind farms by Government Ministers.
  • Use biomass primarily for heating and small-scale power generation, act to encourage the wider use of biogas and argue for the reform of EU policies on biofuels and biomass which help drive deforestation, including ending all support for food-crop based biofuels after 2020.

Fracking

The UK has considerable stores of shale gas that can be accessed through fracking. The Liberal Democrats feel that it is vital that this process is properly regulated to protect our natural environment. The Liberal Democrats have already introduced "the world’s most robust regulatory regime for unconventional gas" and intend to take the following two steps to ensure that any shale gas assists a faster transition to a low-carbon economy:

  1. Establish a Low-carbon Transition Fund using 50% of any tax revenues from shale gas to fund energy efficiency, community energy, low-carbon innovation and renewable heat.
  2. Require that once a shale gas well is completed, it must be offered at no cost to geothermal heat developers, to enable more rapid expansion of this renewable technology.

Conventional Energy

The Liberal Democrats accept that new nuclear power stations can play a role in low carbon electricity supply provided concerns about safety, disposal of waste and cost are adequately addressed and without public subsidy for new build.

View the full Liberal Democrat Manifesto here

UKIP

The UK Independence Party have slightly different views on energy in comparison to the other leading parties. For instance, they believe that the 2008 Climate Change Act drives up cost, undermines competitiveness and hits jobs and growth.

They claim that the Climate Change Act is “doing untold damage” and is costing over £18 billion-a-year over forty years and therefore plan to repeal the Act.

They also plan to abandon the Large Combustion Plant Directive and stop the EU's planned Medium Combustion Plant Directive as they believe both directives pursue closing down secure, reliable and economical electricity generation and replacing it with "expensive, intermittent, unreliable renewables".

Energy Costs

UKIP believe that to be able to deliver secure and affordable energy supplies, they need to support a diverse energy market based on coal, nuclear, shale gas, conventional gas, oil, solar and hydro as well as other renewables provided they can be delivered at competitive prices. They will encourage the redevelopment of British power stations and industrial units providing on-site power generation.

With the government forcing energy companies to add nearly £3.2 Billion on to energy bills, to finance their energy and climate change policies in 2014, UKIP plan to do away with green taxes and levies and withdraw from the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme to reduce fuel bills and enhance industrial competitiveness.

They also plan to make the way consumers pay their energy bills more fair by stopping energy companies charging extra for those who use prepayment meters, who do not pay by direct debit or who require paper billing.

Fracking

UKIP want to support the development of shale gas on the grounds that safeguards are set in place to protect local communities and the environment. Community Infrastructure Levy will be set aside for lower Council Taxes or local community projects.

They believe that it is safer to support fracking - which has been successfully carried out in the USA, where tens of thousands of shale wells have been successfully drilled with a "remarkably unproblematic" outcome - than it is to rely on imports from politically unstable countries. They feel that "home-grown" shale gas is is an "enormous opportunity that we would be irresponsible to ignore".

UKIP plan to levy Petroleum Revenue Tax on any shale profits and invest the income into a Sovereign Wealth Fund, similar to the approach successfully taken by Norway.

Renewable Energy

UKIP claim to support renewables and that they will invest in them where they can deliver electricity at competitive prices. They feel that currently only hydro-technology is able to deliver energy competitively and therefore plan to withdraw taxpayer and consumer subsidies for new wind turbines and solar photovoltaic arrays. They will, however, respect existing contractual arrangements.

They feel that wind power in particular is "hopelessly inefficient", relying heavily on reserve back-up power from conventional sources, and that they have tainted landscapes and put money into the pockets of wealthy landowners.

Conventional Energy

UKIP believe that we will rely on fossil fuels for many years to come, claiming that 30% of our electricity is still produced from coal and that our remaining three coal mines are set to close by 2016 despite still having years of productive life left.

To have cheap, plentiful, reliable sources of energy UKIP feel that coal has to be part of the solution. To achieve this they plan to set-up a commission to assist and rejuvenate the coal industry and seek to ensure the survival of it by deep, opencast and drift mining.

They will drop all subsidies for wind and solar power to allow for a level playing field for coal and halt the deterioration of coal power stations and explore private funding to develop new, efficient plants. They also plan to discontinue the carbon floor tax on the provision that production from coal fired power stations is combined with carbon capture and storage.

View the full UKIP Manifesto here

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