Who should you vote for if Climate Change and Renewable Energy are important to you?
I put party attitudes in two categories. Twentieth century concepts of centralised energy generation, fossil fuel and nuclear technologies and a reluctance to push forward with renewables quickly to avoid the worst effects of a changed climate future, dominate UKIP and Conservative thinking. Decentralisation, strong government incentives for a rapid switch to renewables, lack of sympathy for entrenched fossil fuel dominated companies and a sense that climate change is a fairness issue because the poorest in the country/the world cannot pay to get themselves out of the firing line of flooding, sea level rise and drought characterise the other parties.
Rather surprisingly, considering their appreciation of the need to “be independent and take control of our own destiny” UKIP have not made any link between home grown renewable energy, UK resilience and reduced dependence on energy from “dodgy” countries. Instead, they express intense dislike for wind turbines in particular and “renewable energy subsidies which penalise consumers.” Let’s be honest, generally speaking, UKIPers don’t accept the premise that man-made climate change is a serious threat to our well-being. It’s clear that UKIP MPs will not be voting for any government promotion of renewable energy.
The Greens have an extensive set of policies relating to renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. They want to see “a complete transformation of our energy supply systems to one based on efficient use of energy supplied mainly by electricity from renewable sources, accelerated heat production from renewable sources, improved energy performance of buildings, heat and energy storage, stimulation of research and development, a land and sea framework for development of renewable energy, a diversity of ownership of energy generation and energy democracy. Green MPs would evidently be voting to support renewables, as well as challenging bills that prevent or slow down development of renewables.
Conservatives support the current regime of continually reducing renewables subsidies. They promise to end the on shore wind turbine subsidy (currently the cheapest renewable!) and restrict new solar farms. Eric Pickles has called in nearly all recent planning permissions for on-shore wind turbines and quite a few solar farms. They much prefer on roof PV and would support changes in planning law to encourage this. Conservatives are enthusiastic supporters of fracking and value the contribution fossil fuels make to the economy. One senses their support for renewables is conditional, that they don’t understand the full potential of renewables to growing the economy, and would expect renewables to flourish in spite of, rather than because of, government policies.
A Labour government set up the Feed in tariff, the Renewable heat Incentive and a pathway to zero carbon homes. The coalition have continued these. More recently, Labour have announced policies on energy efficiency, interest free home improvement loans, replacement of Ofgem and freezing energy prices. Labour have a good track record with renewables and have recently stated that they “will support community energy, and explore the huge potential for individuals and communities to create and save energy through community ownership and collective consumer action.” They have not explained the instruments they would use but it seems likely that Labour would provide strong support for renewables.
Liberal Democrat controlled DECC has overseen huge expansion of PV and off-shore wind against Conservative scepticism. Their manifesto includes “doubling renewable electricity and heat generation by 2020, making the UK zero carbon by 2050, a zero carbon bill with a legally binding decarbonisation target for the power sector up to 2030, an office for accelerated low carbon innovation to fast-track new green tech including tidal power, renewable heat, ultra-low emission vehicles and energy storage.” It’s clear that a strong Liberal Democrat presence in parliament is good for the renewables industry.
The economy is the second most important issue for voters so we should focus on the fact that every pound invested in renewables contributes £3.20 to GDP and £1.27 in taxes. The UK could be self-sufficient in renewable energy, thus giving us a more resilient economy. To achieve this, the renewables industry wants stable financial and regulatory support while it matures and drives costs down. I think that’s worth voting for.