What the political parties have in store for energy
As we approach the General Election, the papers are full of both promises and scare stories about what the different political parties have planned for the UK population, should they get elected.
For us, working in the energy industry, we are obviously keen to see what each party is pledging for our sector. After the pain of getting Electricity Market Reform off the ground, I think most of us would like to look forward to a period of greater stability, rather than yet more new policies and changes.
So how are the parties shaping up? Here is a snapshot of the key energy policies announced in the party manifestos.
UKIP shakes things up
Most parties share some common ground, with the exception of UKIP. If elected, UKIP say in the interests of reducing bills and enhancing industrial competitiveness, they’ll cancel all renewable subsidies and feed-in-tariffs, repeal the 2008 Climate Change Act, scrap the Large Combustion Plant Directive and instead base generation on nuclear, coal and gas, while also urgently assessing shale gas potential.
Before you think I’m being unfair with space allocation here – I’m not. It’s just this is UKIP’s stance in a nutshell, with nothing more to add!
Conservatives maintain status quo
While UKIP is anti the status quo, it comes as no surprise that the Conservatives, as the incumbents, are pro. So EMR mechanisms would continue, plus support for new build gas power stations to ensure security of supply, and a continuing positive stance on shale gas exploration.
Renewable energy is also supported, with the exception of onshore wind, which has never been popular with the Tories. However, they have explicitly ruled out any additional ‘distorting and expensive’ power sector targets, for example further renewable or decarbonisation goals.
But community power is on the agenda, plus encouraging greater competition in the energy market, with support for new entrants and small suppliers.
Labour puts Ofgem’s head on the chopping block
Labour also support EMR, especially Contracts for Difference, although have pledged to establish an Energy Security Board to plan and deliver the future generation mix. Ofgem would go and be replaced by a new industry watchdog.
But Labour’s big stance is on energy prices – with bills to be frozen to 2017 while the party ‘reforms’ the energy market and ‘’separates’ generation and retail businesses.
They would set a goal for all UK power to be carbon free by 2030, although they do support shale gas (albeit under a ‘robust’ environmental and regulatory regime). Labour also support the UK’s oil and gas industry but alongside Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.
Lib Dems embrace nuclear but continue low-carbon support
The Liberal Democrats have abandoned their opposition to nuclear but continue to be very pro renewables. They want to aim for 60% of electricity generated to be from renewables by 2030, supported by greater R&D investment in CCS, tidal technologies and energy storage.
They have plans to block unabated coal generation post 2025 and gas after 2030, but reservedly support shale gas, with the necessary safeguards. And they support the current EMR mechanisms, which perhaps isn’t surprising with Ed Davey the current Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
When it comes to competition, the Lib Dems are pro, wanting to encourage new entrants to the market. They want to see at least 30% of the household market supplied by small suppliers by 2020. And they are also supportive of a single EU energy market.
Interest in SNP policies widens
Who’d ever have thought a no vote for Scottish independence would have resulted in the SNP potentially wielding so much power in UK politics? UKIP may be getting a lot of coverage, but the reality is they are only currently forecast to win three seats, while the SNP are forecast (as of yesterday) to gain a whopping 49 to win a total of 55 seats!
Unsurprisingly, the party is pro renewables, particularly offshore wind and marine technologies. It is anti-nuclear and anti-shale but a big supporter of the oil and gas industry, wanting to create a task force to promote jobs in these and other energy sectors, and also invest in CCS.
Nothing specific has been pledged regarding EMR – although they have called for Scottish CfD projects to receive their ‘fair share of funding’. But the SNP is keen to reform the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and also sign up to an ambitious global carbon change agreement.
The best of the rest
The Green Party, Plaid Cwymru (Wales) and the DUP (Northern Ireland) are also under scrutiny for their potential role in a hung Parliament post May 2015, which most pundits are predicting.
They all share a commitment to renewable energy, as well as wanting to reduce carbon emissions. The Greens are committed to a zero-carbon future, while the DUP are keen to secure 40% of our consumption from renewable sources by 2020.
The DUP also support the expansion of energy-sharing interconnectors to help balance supply and demand between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The Greens instead focus on load balancing and demand shifting to increase security of supply.
The Greens want a review of EMR to assess if it’s fit for purpose, while Plaid Cwymru want the Welsh Assembly to take control of energy policy for Wales and to re-establish the publicly-owned energy company model. The DUP would like energy policy and strategy handled by just one government department.
Unsurprisingly, the Greens are also pro energy efficiency, low-carbon transport and community energy, with the DUP suggesting rate relief for businesses investing in greater energy efficiency.
So there you have it
Or at least here’s how it’s looking currently. In politics, anything can change – and probably will, despite what’s pledged in the pre-election manifestos. No doubt, there’ll be plenty more to say, so watch this space…
Wayne Mitchell is industrial & commercial markets director at npower.
This is a sponsored article.