Renewables in the 2019 General Election

It’s less then three weeks to go till the general election and, though the final decision of the public still remains very hard to predict, nearly all of the major parties have published their manifestos, giving us a glimpse into the future. In this RenewableUK blog, Senior Public Affairs Manager, Nathan Bennett, compares the major parties' manifesto commitments to renewables.

Nathan Bennett, Senior Public Affairs Manager

Climate change has been a higher feature of this election than any one previously. To add to this, renewables have never been more popular, more affordable (as the cheapest source of new power) and more proven drivers of economic growth and export opportunity.


RenewableUK have been clear that any incoming Government which is serious about reaching net zero is going to have to use all the tools in the box when it comes to renewables, including onshore wind, offshore wind and innovative technologies, and push forward the move to a modern and flexible energy system. You can read our full manifesto here.


So what did the manifestos tell us about each of the parties?


First, there’s the big picture – their target dates of reaching net zero carbon emissions. The Conservatives have stuck to the 2050 date outlined by the Committee on Climate Change, the Lib Dems a slightly sooner date of 2045 proposed by several NGOs, and Labour a more ambitious target of a “significant majority” of carbon emissions eradicated 2030 (a softening on their party conference motion on 2030 net zero).


Understandably, these different ‘net zero target dates have fed through into each party’s respective commitments to renewable energy targets. It’s clear that, regardless of it being Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson in No10, we’re set to see an increase in our offshore wind targets for 2030 – to 40GW under the Conservatives and 52GW under Labour. Although the SNP are still unknown, they and the Lib Dems can be expected to enthusiastically back expansion, especially as the Lib Dems have their own target of 80% electricity generation from renewables by 2030.


Both the Conservatives and Labour have committed to increasing offshore wind capacity targets

For onshore wind, solar and other renewables, the parties are less clear. While all three parties support a step-up in renewables, only the Labour Party set out in detailed GWs what the future energy mix would look like. The Conservatives committing to a general increase in renewables to reach their ‘guaranteed’ net zero target, while the Lib Dems emphasise their target of 80% renewable power by 2030 target and highlight a renewed support for onshore wind and solar, have chosen to keep the GW mix of their 2030 target out of the manifesto. Labour’s more detailed breakdown of the energy mix couples their 52GW offshore wind target by 2030 with a 30GW onshore wind target, as well as plans for enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches.


Just as interesting was the varying degrees of commitment to innovative technologies. Following RenewableUK’s report on the potential economic benefits of floating offshore wind, we were delighted that the Conservatives explicitly committed to enabling new floating wind farms in their manifesto. With an openness to the new renewables which will be part of the future energy mix – could they also be open to supporting wave and tidal stream technologies too? In contrast, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been explicit in their intention to support tidal energy (and also wave for the Lib Dems) but haven’t outlined a position on floating wind.


Finally, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all recognised the need for grid enhancements, and support for energy storage and technologies like hydrogen. Markedly from the others, Labour see the re-nationalisation of grid infrastructure as part of this transformation agenda, which is not a view we share. The Liberal Democrats have the strongest focus on the need for a smarter, more flexible energy system, and recognised the need for Ofgem to be working towards our decarbonisation targets. This is a welcome step towards incorporating net zero into Ofgem’s remit, as we have advocated, in order to avoid regulation undermining the growth of renewables – as we are currently seeing in Ofgem’s Targeted Charging Review process.


Finally, word count has meant that I haven’t been able to fit in analysis of the Green Party’s manifesto, but any party that has a detailed enough ambition for a decarbonisation that they discuss the need for demand side response gets a positive shout out from me. You can read their full manifesto here.

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