General Election 2015

Issues affecting electricity generators and the energy market as a whole.

Having taken a good look at the energy polices of the big two parties in our inaugural post we thought, with just two weeks before the General Election it made sense to look at the polices of some of the smaller parties because these parties may well hold the balance of power if either of the two major parties (as looks likely) fail to garner a majority.

It makes sense to start with UKIP as Nigel Farage has been on the stump in the last week championing coal-fired power stations so there is some clear blue water there already. The big idea is to scrap the carbon tax on the basis that coal fired generation should be dovetailed with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology investments like the coal-gasification power plant in Grangemouth, which was recently boosted by a £4.2m government research grant. UKIP also promised to halt the decline of coal fired power stations by seeking private funding to develop new, more efficient plants.

UKIP would also scrap compliance with the EU's large combustion plant directive and the planned medium combustion plant directive, claiming these “attempt to close down secure, reliable and economic electricity generation and replace it with expensive, intermittent, unreliable renewables”. Well at least we know exactly where they stand on EU ‘meddling’.

The Green Party, by contrast, unveiled their five key energy manifesto commitments including coming up with a carbon quota for the sales of fossil fuels or electricity to consumers. We will all get the same quota but can sell a portion of it to others if we are generating our own energy or just using less of it. The have promised £35bn investment in renewable energy market and will ban fracking completely.

The Scottish National Party, who many think are prepared to do a deal with the Labour Party to help Ed Miliband into Number 10, are promising to wage war on National Grid itself for setting its transmission charges for Scotland’s power plants way above those for generators further south. Figures quoted in one piece suggest that power from some northern Scotland plants cost up to £26 per kW, whereas in Somerset that figure is just £3.94/kW. The charges are of course based on amount of generation relative to local demand and Scotland is over-producing compared to its own needs with 11GW of generation capacity as against 5.4GW of peak demand north of the border.

Finally the Liberal Democrats drew their green line in the sand in the event of being included in a coalition government again. They have promised us a Zero Carbon Bill which sets out a plan to double the UK's production of renewable electricity by 2020 and make Britain zero carbon by 2050. They will also put a new legally-binding ‘decarbonisation by 2030’ target to electricity generators to support investment in all forms of low carbon electricity. To move power generators in the right direction more quickly they will force Emissions Performance Standards (EPS) to existing coal plants from 2025 to end use of unabated coal generation.
The Lib Dems also plan to establish an Office for Accelerated Low Carbon Innovation to fast-track new green tech investment including tidal power, renewable heat, ultra-low emission vehicles, energy storage and CCS. Full borrowing powers which they will pass to the Green Investment Bank, will further boost investment in low carbon technology. Furthermore their Heating & Energy Efficiency Bill promises lower council tax for 10 years for households that improve their energy efficiency through measures like improved insulation. Finally they are spearheading a Green Transport Bill which will only allow low-emission vehicles on the road by 2040 and a Nature Bill which will set local targets for clean air, biodiversity, clean waste and access to green space.

It is interesting stuff and on the face of it the Lib Dems have more well-developed and workable green policies than even the Green Party…if that’s possible. So let’s assume for a moment that Nick Clegg and his mob help David Cameron over the line once again come 8th May. Are we all ready for the green changes which they will be pushing hard for and how many of them will genuinely prove ‘non-negotiable’ if they help form the UK Government for a second five year stint? Questions to ponder as we make our way to the ballot box in less than three weeks’ time…..

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