Energy policies in UK general election manifestos

Out-Law Guide | 28 Nov 2019 | 11:37 am | 7 min. read

The main parties will clash on policies to mitigate the climate impact of producing and consuming energy; the scale of their green energy investment plans, and how to fund and manage electricity infrastructure.

Doubts have already been cast on Labour's plan to use a windfall tax on oil and gas to re-skill workers for green energy projects.

You can also see what the parties say about infrastructure; manufacturing and technology; real estate; retail, and financial services in our companion guides.

Conservative

The Conservative Party manifesto notes that "conservation has always been at the very heart of Conservatism". As such, the manifesto contains a number of policies aimed at addressing the climate emergency, including a commitment to prioritise their first budget on the environment. The party will also invest £800 million to build the first fully deployed carbon capture storage cluster by the mid-2020s and will not support fracking unless the science demonstrates it can be done safely.

Energy commitments include plans to:

  • increase offshore wind capacity to 40GW by 2030;
  • invest £800m to build the first fully-deployed carbon capture storage cluster by the mid-2020s;
  • invest £500m to help energy-intensive industries move to low-carbon techniques;
  • support gas for hydrogen production and nuclear energy, including fusion, as important parts of the energy system;
  • not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely;
  • help lower energy bills by investing £9.2 billion in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals;
  • use the £1bn Ayrton fund to develop affordable and accessible energy;
  • use increased R&D funding from government to attract and kick start private investment;
  • introduce an oil and gas sector deal for Scotland in the move towards a net-zero economy.

Labour

Labour acknowledges its plans to tackle the climate emergency require significant investment and has committed to launching a National Transformation Fund of £400bn which will focus spending on projects that are compatible with Labour's climate and environmental targets.

The party has also confirmed its commitment to bringing the energy networks and the supply arms of the big six energy companies into public ownership. Energy commitments include plans to:

  • put the UK on track for a net-zero-carbon energy system within the 2030s – and deliver nearly 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030;
  • create one million jobs through a 'green industrial revolution';
  • establish a new UK National Energy Agency that will own and maintain the national grid infrastructure and oversee the delivery of decarbonisation targets;
  • establish 14 new Regional Energy Agencies which will replace the existing district network operators and hold statutory responsibility for decarbonising electricity and heat and reducing fuel poverty;
  • bring the supply arms of the big six energy companies into public ownership where they will continue to supply households with energy while helping them to reduce their energy demands;
  • pledge to build 7,000 new offshore wind turbines, 2,000 new onshore wind turbines and "enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches";
  • reinvest profits whenever public money is invested in an energy generation project;
  • commit to building new nuclear power needed for energy security;
  • trial and expand tidal energy and invest to reduce the costs of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production;
  • upgrade almost all of the UK’s 27 million homes to the highest energy-efficiency standards;
  • introduce a zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes;
  • increase the roll out technologies like heat pumps, solar hot water and hydrogen, and invest in district heat networks using waste heat;
  • expand power storage and invest in grid enhancements and interconnectors;
  • expand distributed and community energy, and immediately and permanently ban fracking;
  • support energy workers through transition and guarantee them retraining and a new, unionised job on equivalent terms and conditions;
  • introduce a windfall tax on oil companies and provide a strategy to safeguard the people, jobs and skills that depend on the offshore oil and gas industry;
  • instruct the Committee on Climate Change to assess the emissions the UK imports as well as those it produces, and recommend policies to tackle them;
  • establish a Foundation Industries Sector Council to provide a clean and long-term future for existing heavy industries like steel and glass and fund R&D into newer technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture and storage;
  • position the UK at the forefront of the development of ultra-low emission vehicles and invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and in electric community car clubs;
  • accelerate the transition of the UK's public sector car fleets and public buses to zero-emissions vehicles.

SNP

The SNP manifesto says that Scotland has the "world’s most ambitious emissions reductions targets in law" and argues that the UK can only end its contribution to climate change if the UK government meets its own targets.

The party calls for greater support for the renewable energy industry and says it will ask for the powers to deliver this if support isn't forthcoming from the next UK government. The SNP also proposes a 'green energy deal' that will provide certainty to green energy schemes.

Energy commitments include:

  • support Scotland in being a world leader in the development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology;
  • pressure the UK Government to accelerate deployment of fully operational carbon capture utilisation and storage facilities in Scotland;
  • press the UK to accelerate action to decarbonise the gas grid;
  • ensure that all new homes must use renewable or low carbon heat from 2024;
  • call on the UK to properly support the renewables industry or else devolve the powers to Scotland;
  • oppose new nuclear power plants;
  • call for reform of the UK support for renewables to ensure it takes into account wider economic considerations such as supply chain benefits;
  • allow onshore wind and solar power to bid for ‘contracts for difference’ support;
  • campaign for 'contracts for difference' to be able to support less mature technologies like floating offshore wind and tidal stream generation;
  • oppose fracking – and confirm that the Scottish government will not issue licences for new unconventional oil and gas development;
  • demand the UK accelerates its action to meet Scotland’s climate change targets of a 75% reduction in emissions by 2035, net zero carbon emissions no later than 2040 and net zero of all emissions by 2045;
  • campaign for the UK government to bring forward plans to move to electric vehicles to match the Scottish target of 2032;
  • press for the accelerated deployment of fully operational carbon capture utilisation and storage facilities;
  • support substantial reforms to the UK tax system to support greener choices, including a greener tax deal for heating and energy efficiency improvements in homes and businesses and new vehicle and tax incentives regime for transport;
  • campaign for the UK to remain aligned with EU environmental regulations;
  • press for the introduction of an Ofgem database of people who have not switched suppliers alongside a national free switching service;
  • consider new legislation to cap the most expensive tariffs;

The manifesto proposes a 'green energy deal' that will:

  • ensure green energy projects get the long-term certainty needed to support investment;
  • deliver a wave and tidal energy industrial strategy with adequate funding;
  • allow onshore wind to compete for ‘contracts for difference’ support;
  • reform the transmission charging regime;
  • set a clear timescale for the delivery of the interconnectors to Scotland’s islands;
  • support a diesel scrappage scheme if trading in ultra-low emission vehicles;

The SNP said it would support legislation to:

  • put a duty on energy suppliers to use clear language in explaining tariffs and costs;
  • introduce a cap on credit that can be built up;
  • provide a minimum of quarterly bills so arrears cannot be built up;
  • contact all customers who have been on the same tariff for two years unless it is the cheapest tariff;
  • ensure that if an energy supplier fails the full credit built up by a consumer is paid back and if there are arrears to be paid, then customers are treated fairly and administrators follow Ofgem rules of repayment not their own.

Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrat manifesto criticises the Conservatives for cancelling energy efficiency schemes that they say would have reduced energy bills. The party has also criticised Labour's plans to nationalise the sector which the manifesto describes as "a distraction".

The Liberal Democrat Party has committed to accelerating the deployment of renewable energy by providing more funding, removing restrictions on solar and wind and building more interconnectors to ensure security of supply. The party has also pledged to support investment in energy technologies, including tidal and wave power, energy storage, demand response, smart grids and hydrogen.

In addition to this the party has committed to adopting a Zero-Carbon Heat Strategy which will include reforming the Renewable Heat Incentive and requiring the phased installation of heat pumps in homes and businesses off the gas grid.

Policies include:

  • an emergency 10 year programme to reduce energy consumption from all the UK’s buildings, cutting emissions and fuel bills and ending fuel poverty;
  • £5 billion of initial capital for a new Green Investment Bank, using public money to attract private investment for zero-carbon priorities;
  • cut energy bills, end fuel poverty by 2025;
  • reduce emissions from buildings, including by providing free retrofits for low-income homes, piloting a new subsidised Energy-Saving Homes scheme, graduating Stamp Duty Land Tax by the energy rating of the property and reducing VAT on home insulation;
  • empower councils to develop community energy-saving projects, including delivering housing energy efficiency improvements street by street to cuts costs;
  • reduce emissions from industrial processes by supporting carbon capture and storage and new low-carbon processes for cement and steel production;
  • provide more advice to companies on cutting emissions, support the development of regional industrial clusters for zero carbon innovation and increase the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund;
  • expand the market for green products and services with steadily higher green criteria in public procurement policy;
  • end support from UK Export Finance for fossil fuel-related activities, and press for higher environmental standards for export credit agencies throughout the OECD;
  • expand community and decentralised energy, support councils to develop local electricity generation and require all new homes to be fitted with solar panels;
  • ban fracking;
  • provide an additional £12bn over five years to support these commitments, and ensure that the National Infrastructure Commission, National Grid, the energy regulator Ofgem, and the Crown Estate work together to deliver the net zero climate objective.