Next Government must prioritise renewables to boost economy, says RenewableUK

As the Conservatives confirmed plans for a price cap for energy bills, RenewableUK has launched its manifesto for the General Election and called on the next Government to embrace renewables and flexible energy to match the needs of the UK economy.

The Conservative party has today (9 May) confirmed that a price cap on standard variable tariffs for energy bills would form part of its election manifesto. Through the proposal, Ofgem would revise the price cap every six months to match the changing costs of energy use.

The suggestion has been likened to a policy proposed by Labour during the 2015 General Election, which was labelled by Conservatives at the time as an attempt to “revive 70s socialism”. However, business secretary Greg Clark said that the new cap proposal was essential to protect customers against rising energy bills.

RenewableUK has urged the new Government to focus on energy efficiency as a means to lower costs, rather than a price cap. The trade association released its Powering Britain manifesto in the run-up to the election, and is calling on the policymakers to set a long-term, low-carbon vision for the energy system.

“The next Government has a clear opportunity to ensure that the renewable energy sector can continue to grow and deliver even cheaper electricity to UK homes and businesses,” RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said.

“The first steps to achieving this include confirming existing investment commitments, and ensuring a competitive process is in place to secure cheap new generation. We need a transparent procurement system which is fair to all technologies. Stable policy will allow industry to keep delivering. Government should be at the heart of building our strong energy future.”

Pinchbeck noted that the looming departure from the European Union (EU) gave the next Government an opportunity to “show leadership” by introducing a plan to deliver the UK’s climate commitments. Current Government calculations suggest that the UK will miss upcoming carbon budgets.

Modern structures

The manifesto calls for the creation of a modern and flexible energy grid and infrastructure that plays to the strengths of renewables, which can only feed the grid during certain conditions. The National Grid is already supporting demand response schemes, and the manifesto calls on these concepts to be partnered with energy storage and an increased renewables capacity.

Renewable electricity provides around a quarter of UK power and outperformed coal for the first time last year. However, abrupt policy amendments have stunted investor confidence in renewables, and as Brexit negotiations continue, the sector could be used to boost trading prospects.

The manifesto notes that renewable energy companies will invest more than £15.6bn in UK infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to boost capacity and production. These companies also export to 43 countries globally, and providing a secure political landscape for renewables could strengthen economic and export opportunities as the UK departs the EU, according to RenewableUK.

RenewableUK’s manifesto was launched a week after the UK Green Building Council (UK GBC) issued its own manifesto, echoing calls that “the next Government should recognise energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority”.

Specifically, the UK GBC calls on the next Government to “tighten” building regulations and require that all new buildings must be built to zero-carbon standards from 2020. The manifesto also calls for assurances that environmental and climate policies are “as strong as, or stronger than” current standards once the UK leaves the EU.

Matt Mace

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