Election fallout: What now for the UK’s energy industry?
On Thursday 7th May 2015, millions of people across the UK took to the polls to cast their votes in what was guaranteed to be an extremely uncertain election. The next day, David Cameron was set to re-enter Number 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister, this time winning in an overall majority of 331 seats.
Prior to voting day, there was a great deal of speculation surrounding each of the major political parties and their policies concerning Britain’s energy, largely thanks to the well-publicised energy bill crisis. But with a winner being declared, the public will now be wondering whether the Conservatives will be delivering on their promises.
We take a look at the energy policies that were outlined and what is being asked of the current government to ensure a strong future for Britain’s energy and environment.
The rising cost of energy in the UK has been a hot topic over the past few years and as one of the parties that has been in charge for the past five years, many people were keen to scrutinise the Conservative’s policies on energy bills. In their manifesto, the Tories stated that they are committed towards a long-term plan when it comes to reducing energy prices, and that they want to achieve “healthy competition, not short-termist political intervention”.
Rather than choosing a short-term fix to the energy bill crisis, much like Labour’s proposed energy bill freeze, the Tories want to focus on producing “affordable, reliable energy” that will ensure that “we have secured decent, affordable energy supplies not just for the coming years, but for the coming decades”. Some of their proposals include focusing on nuclear power, reducing onshore wind farms and focusing on those offshore, and continued drilling for shale gas. Their intent to focus on non-renewable sources of energy such as shale gas and nuclear power has not been particularly popular, with The Independent reporting that some campaigners believe a Tory victory is a huge blow to the country’s green energy industry. However, the Conservatives believe that building on these energy sources will result in stability in the industry and a steady supply of cheap energy, as well as creating thousands of new jobs.
The short term
Although the Tories have stated that they are very much focused on the long term in regard to reducing energy bills, they also have announced plans to try and ease the situation sooner. They will remain focused on their ‘Power to Switch’ scheme to encourage homes and businesses to compare energy suppliers and switch if they find a better deal, with the Department of Energy and Climate change reporting in March that “more than £38 million was saved by 130,000 households switching energy supplier” in just one month.
Over the next five years, the Conservative government also hopes to help homes take control of their energy usage in order to cut bills, by distributing Smart Meters to every home and business across the UK by the year 2020. According to their manifesto, this will allow users to keep an eye on their energy usage and, if they find that their bills are costing too much, switch to an alternative provider within a single day. They have also continued their commitment to increasing building efficiency, by pledging to insulate at least a million homes by the time the next General Election comes around.
Following the Conservative majority on 7th May, many companies in the green energy sector have expressed their concern for the future of renewable energy under the new government. Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, encouraged David Cameron not to turn his back on greener sources of energy: “We urge the new administration to confirm the importance of onshore wind as an essential part of our electricity mix, as it is one of the most cost-effective ways to generate electricity, and is consistently supported by two-thirds of the public.”
Recently, Love Energy Savings wrote about how the UK has become a hub of renewable energy activity, and one of the main reasons for this is the huge jobs boost that the renewable energy sector has experienced. Statistics from the Renewable Energy Association show that employment in green energy increased by 9% to 112,026 in 2013/14, seven times faster than the national average growth.
Those who were fearful for the UK’s green energy industry have largely welcomed the appointment of Amber Rudd as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in David Cameron’s recent reshuffle of the Cabinet, as she is a decisively pro-green candidate. Commenting on the appointment of Rudd, the Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, Nina Skorupska, said it was a good step in the right direction: “Amber Rudd has been a champion of renewables and the low-carbon economy in the past year, and her appointment will do much to allay the fears some may have after the General Election,” she commented.
“We look forward to continue working with her on some of the pressing challenges ahead, ensuring we meet our targets in the most efficient way, laying the foundations for post 2020 and making sure the UK is leading the way in green jobs and cost-effective renewables.”
There is little doubt that the future of the UK’s energy is still uncertain. Regardless of how the government goes about securing the nation’s energy future, it will be intriguing to see how consumers’ power bills will be affected as a result. In the meantime, homeowners and businesses are encouraged to shop around for the best energy deals, so if you’re looking to slash your bills and save your business some cash, click here to compare prices within seconds.