With people across the UK heading to the polling stations in just a few days, we’ve looked at the parties’ policies on energy; and in particular, energy in the home.
Energy Saving Trust's view is simple, because regardless of who is elected, we’re clear about what the next Government’s priorities should be:
This is very important because improving the energy efficiency of our homes is the best way to tackle fuel poverty, keep bills down, reduce emissions and improve the reliability of the energy system.
We have long been calling for Government to set energy efficiency as an infrastructure priority and implement a national retrofit investment programme, in recognition of all the benefits investing in energy efficiency brings about. So it’s very encouraging that this commitment has been included in the Lib Dem, the Labour and the Green party manifestos.
Looking at more specific pledges, the Conservatives reaffirm their commitment to bringing all fuel poor homes up to a minimum of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C.
We strongly support this but the real test will be whether the money to meet the target is made available as outlines in our recent blog on tackling fuel poverty.
When it comes to numbers, Labour and the Lib Dems both pledge to insulate four million homes, which is impressive. Especially when compared to the 2015 Conservative manifesto commitment to insulate just one million.
The Lib Dems take it a step further and their manifesto includes a long term target to bring every home to EPC band C by 2035. In comparison the Green party pledges to insulate nine million homes, which dwarfs the four million homes commitment.
And when it comes down to it, insulating nine million homes and setting an all home targets is the level of ambition we need if we are serious about hitting our 2050 climate change target.
So, when it comes to retrofitting homes, the Greens and Lib Dems are the most ambitious, with Labour heading in the right direction.
Setting ambitious energy efficiency standards for new buildings is vital to future-proof homes and avoids having to go back and retrofit them in 10 or 20 years. Putting in place a ‘2050-ready’ new-build homes policy is another of our asks for the next Government, as we explain in an earlier blog article.
The Lib Dems, the Greens and Labour all support setting zero carbon home standards and the Conservatives commit to review energy efficiency standards.
It’s great that zero carbon homes get a mention in the manifestos. But the next step is holding politicians to account to ensure they deliver.
There are some bold high level pledges on clean energy.
Labour, very ambitiously, pledge to ensure that 60 per cent of energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030.
This means that the majority of all energy used for electricity generation, transport and heating would have to come from zero carbon sources: a challenging goal. At the moment we currently generate less than 10 per cent of our energy from renewable sources so reaching 60 per cent in 13 years is a big task.
The Lib Dems pledge to generate 60 per cent of electricity from renewable sources, a less ambitious, but arguably more achievable target.
While the Conservatives do not commit to a renewable target they do express support for onshore wind in Scotland (although disappointingly not in England) and state that they will explore harnessing Welsh natural resources.
Something that we were very pleased to see in some manifestos was a commitment to community energy which is supported by Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP.
Community energy is sometimes overlooked in the energy debate but community energy projects deliver significant benefits to local communities and get people interested in energy issues so we strongly believe that the next Government needs to support the sector.
There are a lot of good things in the manifestos but there are also some key things missing. The big one being heat.
Although responsible for the majority of household emissions the topic is barely mentioned.
The Greens are the only party that explicitly refer to decarbonising heat, pledging to publish a comprehensive plan and start running pilots for low carbon residential and commercial heat projects.
Although the 60 per cent renewable energy target in the Labour manifesto includes heat, no detail is given on what specific measures would be put in place.
This is a problematic. The UK has made good progress decarbonising centralised electricity generation progress but progress decarbonising heat has been lacklustre.
Whilst there are economically and technically viable options out there, replacing a home’s heating system can be disruptive and require significant changes to the home. That’s why it’s so important to have the right policies in place to support householders switching to low carbon heat.
If we want to cut emissions in homes then getting heat right is key.
It’s disappointing that this message doesn’t seem to have got through to those drafting the manifestos. That’s not good enough in our opinion and both Labour and the Conservatives, as the two major parties, need to lay out detailed plans on how they plan to decarbonise heating.
All in all, it’s a mixed bag. There are some good things and some underwhelming things. And there are also bits missing. But what does that mean for the next Government?
Well, realistically, there are two possible Prime Ministers come June 9th: Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn. And the Manifestos show two very different ways of looking at energy.
On the one hand, the Conservatives are focussed on keeping bills low for householders and businesses while sticking to our climate change targets and maintaining an energy system that is fit for purpose.
They recognise that the energy market has not been working well for consumers and have set out proposals to rectify it. The Conservatives do not, however, want to dramatically change our energy system, instead envisaging targeted interventions to address specific issues.
How this approach translates into Government support for renewable energy, energy efficiency and low carbon transport remains to be seen. But, if we go by the record of the Conservative Government since 2015 then there is some cause for concern.
There’s no sugar coating it. From a home energy point of view the Labour manifesto is much more encouraging than the Conservative one.
Labour put forward a more radical agenda to overhaul energy in Great Britain with some ambitious commitments on renewable energy, energy efficiency and Government investment in the energy system generally. But the manifesto is far from perfect: it leaves out some important things and is lacking detail in certain areas.
Ultimately, regardless of who gets elected, we will continue to push for an ambitious approach to home energy to ensure that households are effectively supported to make the right choices, save energy in homes and play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions.