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How Might The General Election Impact Net Zero?

With July 4th set for the general election, Adveco outlines the policies on energy and net zero of those vying for government, and asks what this could mean for commercial and public sector organisations in the coming years…

As the UK approaches the general election, it makes sense to compare the energy and net zero policies of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Green Party, and independent candidates. All have outlined their policies on energy and net zero emissions, which are expected to be crucial topics given the nation’s ambitious targets for carbon neutrality by 2050.

The currently incumbent Conservative Party has consistently supported what it believes to be a balanced approach to energy policy, combining renewable energy investments with a continued reliance on nuclear and natural gas.

Their current strategy emphasises the following:

Renewable Energy Expansion: The Conservatives aim to significantly expand offshore wind capacity, targeting 40GW by 2030. They also support solar and tidal energy projects but have faced criticism for not committing enough to onshore wind due to local opposition.

Nuclear Power: The Conservatives are strong proponents of nuclear energy as a stable, low-carbon energy source. They have backed projects like Hinkley Point C and are investing in small modular reactors (SMRs).

Hydrogen Economy: They have initiated the UK’s Hydrogen Strategy, aiming to produce 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030. This includes both green hydrogen (from renewable energy) and blue hydrogen (from natural gas with carbon capture). The delays to the hydrogen village projects as test beds have however been a setback, particularly in terms of gaining a clear indication of the commitment to the technology.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): There is a significant push for CCS technology to reduce emissions from industries that are hard to decarbonise.

Energy Efficiency: The party supports upgrading building insulation and promoting heat pumps to replace traditional heating systems, which is crucial for reducing emissions from residential and commercial properties. The initial focus has very much been targeted on the domestic market to the detriment of commercial properties, which still represent a considerable proportion of buildings contributing higher carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Labour’s energy and net zero policy is more ambitious, focusing on rapid decarbonisation and substantial public investment:

Green New Deal: Labour advocates for a comprehensive Green New Deal, aiming for net zero by 2030. This includes massive investments in renewable energy infrastructure, particularly wind and solar.

Public Ownership and Investment: Labour proposes nationalising parts of the energy sector to ensure a just transition and to reinvest profits into further decarbonisation efforts. This includes creating a new publicly-owned energy generation company, Great British Energy.

Job Creation and Skills: Labour emphasises the creation of green jobs and training programs to ensure the workforce can support the energy transition. This includes support for apprenticeships in green industries.

Energy Efficiency: Labour plans to retrofit homes and public buildings for energy efficiency, aiming to upgrade millions of homes with better insulation and low-carbon heating systems like heat pumps.

Community Energy: The party supports community energy projects, encouraging local renewable energy generation and giving communities more control over their energy supply.

The Green Party offers the most radical approach, advocating for swift and comprehensive action to address climate change:

100% Renewable Energy: The Greens aim for the UK to rely entirely on renewable energy by 2030. They propose a massive scale-up of wind, solar, and tidal energy projects, along with significant investment in battery storage technology.

Decentralisation: They support decentralising the energy system, and promoting local and community-owned renewable energy projects to increase resilience and local benefits.

Fossil Fuel Phase-Out: The Green Party proposes a rapid phase-out of all fossil fuels, including a ban on new fossil fuel extraction projects and the cessation of existing operations by 2030.

Public Transport and Active Travel: They advocate for significant investments in public transport and active travel infrastructure (walking and cycling), reducing reliance on private cars and cutting transport emissions.

Circular Economy: The Greens push for a circular economy, emphasising waste reduction, recycling, and sustainable production methods across all sectors.

Independent candidates’ policies on energy and net zero vary widely, but tend to focus on local issues and innovative solutions:

Local Initiatives: Many independents support local renewable energy projects and emphasise the role of local authorities in driving the energy transition.

Innovative Technologies: Independents may advocate for cutting-edge technologies like advanced nuclear reactors, innovative storage solutions, or next-generation renewable energy systems.

Community Engagement: A common theme among independents is the emphasis on community involvement and grassroots solutions to energy challenges, ensuring policies are tailored to local needs and contexts.

So, what does the outcome of a general election mean for commercial and public sector organisations?

For commercial organisations, the Conservatives policy is intended to offer stability and continued support for established industries, including nuclear and natural gas. This approach benefits large energy firms and industries reliant on stable, high-capacity power. However, the slower transition to renewables might limit opportunities in emerging green sectors. Labour’s more aggressive push for renewables and public ownership can create more opportunities in green technologies and renewable energy. However, the uncertainty around nationalisation might deter private investment. The Green Party’s rapid transition to 100% renewables would significantly disrupt the current energy market but create vast opportunities in renewable energy and related technologies. Their focus on decentralisation and community energy would tend to benefit smaller, more innovative firms.

Independent policies vary, but those supporting local and innovative solutions may present niche opportunities for businesses specialising in novel technologies or community-based projects.

Supporting the public sector will be a surefire vote winner in this general election. The Conservatives aim to continue to focus on energy efficiency and a gradual transition aligns well with the public sector’s need for stable, long-term planning and budget considerations. Labour’s policy on retrofitting and green jobs provides extensive support for public sector projects, including schools, hospitals, and public buildings. The emphasis on public ownership may simplify procurement processes and align with public sector values. The Greens’ ambitious targets would require the public sector to lead by example, potentially increasing initial costs but also fostering innovation and rapid change. Finally, the Independents’ support for local initiatives and community engagement aligns well with the public sector’s mandate to serve local communities, potentially leading to tailored, locally-driven projects.

Each party offers distinct pathways to achieving net zero, with varying implications for the UK’s commercial and public sectors. The Conservatives provide a more steady, balanced approach favouring stability and gradual change. Labour’s ambitious policies could drive rapid transformation, especially in renewables and public infrastructure, albeit with some risk due to potential nationalisation. The Green Party’s radical stance promises significant opportunities in renewable energy and sustainability, though it could disrupt current market dynamics. Independent candidates offer diverse, localised solutions that may foster innovation and community resilience.

Commercial and public sector organisations need to consider these policies’ short- and long-term impacts, aligning their sustainability strategies to work with those of the winning party of the general election to ensure future operational needs and sustainability goals continue to be met.