Which political party is best for renewable energy in the May 2015 general election?

In the UK all the news at the moment is about the general election to decide the next government.  Understandably the mainstream media are concentrating on the "big" issues like the NHS and the economy, but what about renewable energy?  With seemingly more parties than ever before there is quite a diverse range of opinions towards renewable energy.  Furthermore, with a hung parliament extremely likely there has probably never been a better time to get opinions on "niche" subjects like renewable energy support onto the political agenda.

The main GB parties will be ranked in support of renewable energy, with 1 being most favourable and 5 being least favourable.

  1. Green party - Unsurprisingly the Greens come top of support for renewable energy.  They favour a very quick movement to a decarbonised energy supply, involving a vast increase in wind and solar capacity and a movement towards renewable electricity for heating and transport.  They 100% oppose new nuclear power stations.  
  2. Liberal Democrats - The Lib Dems come second in the ranking of political parties and their support for renewable energy.  Arguably without them being in the coalition government support for wind and solar would have been a lot less the last few years.  Traditionally they oppose nuclear power stations, however, they have been part of the coalition which has supported new nuclear at Hinkley Point C but that may have been a compromise to the Tories to allow more wind and solar.
  3. Labour Party - The Labour Party are traditionally supporters of a shift to renewable energy as evidenced by the large growth seen in the industry between 1997 and 2010 when they were last in government.  The labour party is traditionally strong in urban areas and so feels less political pressure to reject wind turbines and solar farms in the countryside.  The only possible downside to Labour is their promise to freeze electricity bills - this may result in less investment in new generating plant such as renewables and Labour may also decide to reduce government support for renewables to keep bills down.
  4. Conservatives - The Conservative Party have been the dominant party in the coaltion since 2010 and famously proclaimed they would lead the "greenest government ever".  However, since then their actions have shown otherwise.  Whilst support for renewable energy can be cut as prices come down, sometimes the Conservatives have cut support disproportionately to the cost decreases eg large scale solar which no longer qualify for ROCs but struggle to compete with onshore wind for Contracts for Difference (CFDs).  Further evidence of the Tories opposition to renewable energy is through Eric Pickles rejecting many onshore wind and solar farms over the last few years (often even when expert planning inspectors recommend approval) and the plans for a moratorium on onshore wind should they get back in power.
  5. UKIP - UKIP are probably the most anti renewables of all the main GB parties.  They intend on stopping all support for renewable energy and prevent any new projects getting planning permission.  
The Scottish National Party (SNP) have not been ranked above, since they are only fielding candidates in Scotland.  However, they are very strongly pro-renewables especially wind and they would probably slot in round the Liberal Democrats.    

With the above rankings, it is generally best to support the party higher up the rankings if renewable energy determines how you are going to vote.  However, in many seats it may be worth voting tactically as in these candidates from only 2 parties may have a realistic chance of winning.  In these cases, it is worth voting for the party that ranks the highest out of the 2 or 3 that are competing to win in the seat.

Ultimately, whilst it is likely there will be a hung parliament, Labour and the Conservatives will each have more MPs than all the minor parties put together and therefore the next government will primarily be made up of either Labour or the Tories with the prime minister either Ed Miliband or David Cameron.  In a choice between Labour and The Conservatives on support for renewable energy, Labour comes out on top.  This is something the industry recognises with Ecotricity even donating £250k to the Labour party to help them compete against the Conservatives.  

It's worth mentioning that in addition to the general election to elect MPs many areas also have local elections to elect councillors.  These make local level policy decisions and decide on whether to grant planning permission on all but the largest wind and solar schemes therefore the make-up of the local authorities will also impact on renewable energy in the UK.  As before, the local candidates tend to follow party line so it is worth using the ranking method above.  However, if intendeing to tactical vote, remember different parties may be competitive in the general and local elections.

Should any local candidates be in touch, it is worth mentioning support for renewable energy as even if the candidate is from a party that opposes renewable energy if they realise public opinion is against them the stance of the local candidate and the wider political party may move to one of supporting wind, solar and all other forms of renewable energy.

Note, this post was created before the publication of the various mainfestos, however, if anything massively changes when these are released an update will be posted.    

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