What are the UK’s political parties promising on the energy transition?

There’s less than a month to go until the UK’s general election and most of the parties have now set out their commitments in full.

Whoever gets the keys to 10 Downing Street next month will face a mammoth in-tray. Top on the to-do list will be strengthening the economy, which will entail providing policy certainty to spur investment.

But are any of the Parties grasping the extent to which supporting fast-growing factions of the green economy could help with this mission? Recent CBI Economics analysis found that Britain’s net-zero economy grew by 9% last year, compared to a 1% rate for the general economy.

Here, we summarise what the Tories, Lib Dems, Green Party, Reform UK and Labour Party have included in their manifestoes on the clean energy transition.

Net-zero target

The only party to have stated that it would scrap the UK’s legally binding net-zero target is Reform UK. It does not specifiy how it would do so, but argues that doing so is sensible given that the UK’s domestic emissions currently account for around 1% of the global total.

There is also an element of climate denial in the manifesto, which downplays man-made greenhouse gases as a cause and speaks of long-term temperature cycles.

A Liberal Democrat government would bring the net-zero target forward to 2045. The Green Party wants to see the target set at 2040 at the latest.

Both Labour and the Conservatives want to keep the target in place for 2050. The Conservatives have promised a Parliamentary vote on how the next phase of the UK’s net-zero transition should be shaped. It is unclear whether this vote would over the next Parliamentary term or cover the 2038-2050 period, for which a carbon budget has not yet been formalised.

It bears noting that the Climate Change Committee believes that there are only robust policies in place to deliver around 25% of the emissions reductions the UK is legally required to achieve by the mid-2030s. If the next Government does not show more ambition and provide additional detail on its decarbonisation trajectory, this gap will widen further.

Low-carbon energy grid

The Conservative Party wants the UK’s electricity grid to be decarbonised by 2035. It aims to achieve this by scaling offshore wind, solar and nuclear and retrofitting gas-fired power stations with carbon capture. However, there’s no timescale for the retrofit programme, and the Party’s manifesto includes pledges for new gas-fired power capacity.

The Tories’ key targets are 50GW of offshore wind by 2030, 70GW of solar by 2035 and up to 24GW of nuclear by 2050, to come from a mix of large and small projects. Onshore wind would only be permitted in places with strong local support, and solar would be limited on land that could be farmed. Two new fleets would be approved within the first 100 days of the next Government.

Labour would move the grid decarbonisation target forward to 2030. It would extend the working life of operational nuclear sites, back both large-scale and small modular new nuclear, and scale a mix of renewables. The Party’s manifesto mentions quadrupling the nation’s offshore wind capacity, trebling solar capacity and doubling onshore wind capacity this decade.

Labour would not necessarily build new gas-fired power plants, but also has no plans for a phase-down.

Labour would set up Great British Energy, a publicly owned businesses, to invest in onshore renewables – both large projects and community arrays. It would be backed with £8.3bn from Whitehall coffers in the next Parliament.

The Green Party also envisions a decarbonised grid by 2030, while the Lib Dems would target a 90% renewable electricity mix by this point.

The Lib Dems and Greens are staunchly against developing new nuclear power plants and gas-fired power stations.

All four above-mentioned Party manifestoes highlight the importance of improving grid infrastructure to reduce grid connection queues. None of the four parties have a time-bound, numerical target to scale energy storage.

Reform UK would scrap all clean energy subsidies and increase taxes on the renewables sector. It foresees an energy mix dominated by gas and nuclear, prioritising small modular nuclear options. The manifesto also hints at an extension to coal burning. There is no mention of the grid or of storage.

Reform UK would also partially nationalise energy and power utilities. 50% of each company would be owned by the government and the other 50% by UK-based pension funds.

North Sea oil and gas

The incumbent Conservative Government has brought forward legislation to mandate the allocation, annually, of new North Sea oil and gas licences. It has done so using rhetoric around job protection and energy security that has repeatedly been scrutinized by climate groups.

The Tory manifesto reiterates the Party’s pledge to keep a 35% windfall tax in place for the sector until early 2029 unless prices fall sooner than expected. Businesses will, however, be able to claim hefty tax incentives for investing in new exploration and capacity.

A Labour government would end new oil and gas licencing and work to reskill workers for jobs in lower-carbon industries. Existing licences would be honoured.

Labour would increase the windfall tax to 38% and end the associated tax incentives.

The Liberal Democrats and Greens have gone further than Labour. They both advocate for the cancellation of oil and gas licences already issued, including permission for Rosebank to be developed. There would then be an end to all new licences. The Greens additionally want a rapid end to all oil and gas subsidies.

Reform UK is extremely pro-fossil fuels. Its manifesto promises fast-track licencing schemes for the North Sea, plus a two-year testing programme for fracking, overturning the current moratorium. Fracking would be scaled up “when safety is proven, with local compensation schemes”.

Energy efficiency

Poor energy efficiency in buildings, the Government has repeatedly been told, is undermining the UK’s net-zero transition and means the energy price crisis has been felt acutely.

In addition to schemes already in place, the Conservatives have promised a new energy efficiency voucher scheme open to every home in England. There’s no information on how much each home could claim, which homes are eligible, nor the total budget.

There’s a headline commitment to £6bn of spending on home energy efficiency within three years, and maintaining existing energy efficiency incentives for the public and private sectors.

Labour has said that it would invest £6.6bn more in home energy efficiency over the next Parliament than the conservatives. It has a target of reaching five million homes. The manifesto provides little information on how this would be allocated in practice.

Labour would require all rented homes to meet EPC C standards or higher by 2030. The Conservatives last year scrapped this requirement for 2028 and there’s no sign of it being reinstated in the manifesto. The Lib Dems would reinstate the 2028 requirement. The Green Party would give renters a new right to demand energy efficiency improvements.

The Green Party manifesto touts £29bn for home energy efficiency improvements over the next Parliament – £12bn for social housing and £17bn for privately owned homes. A further £4bn is floated for the public sector and £1bn for the private sector.

The Lib Dems are promising a ten-year emergency home upgrade scheme, starting with free insulation for low-income homes. No budget is stated.

Reform UK’s manifesto does not mention energy efficiency for existing buildings. It states that the Party would incentivise the use of new construction technologies to make new buildings more efficient.

Innovation and industry

Labour and the Lib Dems have both stated that delivering a new, modern industrial strategy would be a priority.

Labour’s manifesto stipulates that £7.3bn would be spent on key low-carbon industries over the next parliament, including decarbonised steel, gigafactories, hydrogen and green shipping.

The Lib Dems’ manifesto, meanwhile, includes a commitment to increase the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund and support carbon capture at steel and cement plants.

The Conservative Party manifesto does not mention an industrial strategy. It states that the Party would “push forward” with plans to spend £4.5bn on strategic manufacturing sectors including EVs. Existing commitments to create industrial carbon capture clusters, grow clean energy manufacturing hubs and decarbonise steel are reiterated.

The Green Party estimates is advocating for a regional strategy to identify industrial strengths across the country and transition workers. It would invest £4bn per year for skills and training, plus a further £7bn on the low-carbon industrial transition.

Reform UK makes no mention of an industrial strategy nor any new funding for manufacturing or heavy industry. It states that the Government should “get out of the way” of “innovators and industrialists”, including by scrapping net-zero transition requirements.

Heat transition

The Conservative Government has set aside £1.5bn to help homes switch from fossil fuel heating to heat pumps. Each home can claim up to £7,500 in grant funding under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which would be continued until the budget runs out. This does not cover the full, upfront cost of a heat pump, and the Government has sent mixed messages to heating manufacturers.

Labour’s manifesto does not include a clear plan for decarbonising heat. It mentions additional investment in low-carbon heating as a means of cutting home energy bills in passing.

Both the Labour and Tory manifestoes reassure readers that they will not be forced to rip out boilers and install heat pumps. There is a lack of strategic guidance from either party on heat networks.

The Lib Dem manifesto includes a commitment to free heat pumps for low-income households for ten years. The Green Party wants to see £9bn invested in the heat transition over the next five years and its manifesto mentions the need for a strategic approach to heat pump deployment and expanding heat networks.

None of the manifestoes make any commitments on hydrogen heating. The current Conservative administration would take a strategic decision on this matter in 2026.

Reform UK’s manifesto does not mention heat at all.

Low-carbon transport

Transport is the UK’s highest-emitting sector, and approaches to cutting emissions vary significantly between the parties.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are in support of reinstating the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans which was set by Boris Johnson and pushed back to 2035 under Rishi Sunak. The Green Party would bring the ban forward to 2027.

A Conservative Government would seek to undo the expansion of London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and give local communities more rights to block or reverse measures such as low or no-traffic neighbourhoods and 20mph speed limit zones. The Tory manifesto also includes a £1bn pledge to electrify the North Wales Main Line and a commitment to extend the £2 cap on single bus fares.

The Conservative manifesto states an ambition to make walking and cycling safer and easier, but there are no specific targets or new investments. Labour’s manifesto is similarly vague on active transport.

Labour is promising to “overhaul” Britain’s railways by creating Great British Railways – a state-owned public body which would operate most rail infrastructure. There would also be new measures to promote rail freight.

The Lib Dem and Green manifestoes are bolder. Lib Dems want to freeze rail fares, launch a major electrification programme for rail and buses and develop a new nationwide active travel strategy.

Greens will push for £7bn of public transport spending and £4bn for road transport decarbonisation annually. The Party is also in favour of nationalizing railways. Funding would support free bus travel for under-18s, increased bus services, rail electrification and re-opening lines and stations.

Reform UK’s manifesto, like the Tories’, argues that motorists are at a disadvantage. It promises to scrap the Zero-Emission Vehicle mandate and ban on petrol and diesel cars. Reform would also reduce fuel duty and prevent councils from setting low-emission zones or creating low-traffic neighbourhoods.

Reform would go ahead with all public and active transport infrastructure investments already in train, except HS2. It would launch a national database in an attempt to integrate transport infrastructure planning, tackling delays.

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