UK to be Ruled by English Conservative Party

I have been in Brussels this week, visiting the Zeebrugge LNG import terminal and giving a talk at a commercial energy storage conference. Since getting home yesterday I have been rather distracted by the UK election. The political landscape has changed completely  while barely changing at all. Conservatives in control at Westminster is nothing new. The Scottish National Party winning 56 of 59 Scottish seats is. Constitutional change is now inevitable.

Will Ed Davey be missed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change?

Rarely have we witnessed three party leaders resigning so swiftly in the wake of an election. Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage and Ed Milliband have all fallen on their swords. In his resignation speech Nick Clegg mentioned how green the Lib Dems were several times, but clearly this is not a huge draw for most Brits. The Green Party won a single seat. Former Secretary of State for Energy, Ed Davey lost his seat – good riddance to that anti capitalist Green. But the green state of the British mind is not so simple to analyse. The SNP have the most progressive renewable energy policy of any party anywhere. And UKIP, with perhaps the most sensible energy policy won only a single seat. I think its fair to say that affordable and secure energy supplies were not uppermost in voters’ minds yesterday. Nor was re-writing the constitution of the UK, but that is what we have got.

So what will the new government be doing on energy policy? The Tory energy manifesto is reproduced below the fold.

Guaranteeing you clean, affordable and secure energy supplies

Our commitment to you:

Affordable, reliable energy is critical to our economy, to our national security, and to family budgets. We will:

  • keep your bills as low as possible and promote competition in the energy market
  • ensure your homes and businesses have energy supplies they can rely on
  • help you insulate your home
  • halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms
  • meet our climate change commitments, cutting carbon emissions as cheaply as possible, to save you money

Without secure energy supplies our country becomes less safe and less prosperous

Without secure energy supplies, we leave British families and business at the mercy of fluctuating global oil and gas prices; we increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy; and we become less safe and less prosperous as a result.

National energy policy demands a willingness to take decisions today for the good of tomorrow. But Labour took the opposite approach. Power margins – the safety cushion we need to prevent blackouts – have fallen to record lows because of their historic failure to invest in new capacity. Domestic sources of oil and gas were unexploited. And Labour failed to deliver the next generation of energy projects that will help us keep the lights on, drive bills down and reduce carbon emissions.

All this hurt consumers. The number of major energy suppliers halved and energy bills soared, with the average gas bill more than doubling.

We have taken a different approach. Where Labour was chronically short-termist, we have secured decent, affordable energy supplies not just for the coming years, but for the coming decades.

Our long-term plan has unlocked £59 billion of investment in electricity. All parts of the UK will soon be helping to deliver secure, affordable and low-carbon energy, from the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, to offshore wind turbine manufacturing at the new Green Port in Hull, the next generation of pipelines West of Shetland and the Swansea tidal lagoon. Our tax cuts have encouraged record levels of investment in existing North Sea gas, and the birth of a new industry, shale gas, which could create many thousands of jobs.

And we have delivered a better deal for consumers too. We have demanded that energy companies simplify their tariffs; encouraged more independent suppliers – which now account for ten per cent of the household market; and made it much easier for people to switch energy providers.

But the job is only half done. We need a Conservative Government to see through this long-term plan and secure clean but affordable energy supplies for generations to come. This means a significant expansion in new nuclear and gas; backing good-value green energy; and pushing for more new investment in UK energy sources. Healthy competition, not short-termist political intervention, is the best way to secure a good deal for consumers. So we will keep on relentlessly pushing for more competition to keep bills low.

This is a long-term plan to keep the lights on; keep our homes warm; and keep families from endless worry about their energy bills.

Under Labour, the average gas bill more than doubled

Our plan of action:

We will promote competition to keep your bills as low as possible

We have helped increase the number of independent energy suppliers from seven to 21, made it easier for customers to switch to better deals, slashed the number of tariffs to just 4 per supplier, and cut switching times in half. We will go even further, implementing the recommendations of the Competition and Markets Authority investigation that we triggered. We will ensure that every home and business in the country has a Smart Meter by 2020, delivered as cost-effectively as possible, so consumers have instant, accurate bills and can switch to an alternative provider within one day. And we will support low-cost measures on energy efficiency, with the goal of insulating a million more homes over the next five years, supporting our commitment to tackle fuel poverty.

We will secure your energy supplies

We will continue to support the safe development of shale gas, and ensure that local communities share the proceeds through generous community benefit packages. We will create a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England, so that the shale gas resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North. We will continue to support development of North Sea oil and gas. We will provide start-up funding for promising new renewable technologies and research, but will only give significant support to those that clearly represent value for money.

We want a better deal – and low bills – for hardworking families

3.1 million people are now on better energy tariffs

We will halt the spread of onshore windfarms

Onshore wind now makes a meaningful contribution to our energy mix and has been part of the necessary increase in renewable capacity. Onshore windfarms often fail to win public support, however, and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires. As a result, we will end any new public subsidy for them and change the law so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications.

We will protect our planet for our children

We have been the greenest government ever, setting up the world’s first Green Investment Bank, signing a deal to build the first new nuclear plant in a generation, trebling renewable energy generation to 19 per cent, bringing energy efficiency measures to over one million homes, and committing £1 billion for carbon capture and storage. We are the largest offshore wind market in the world. We will push for a strong global climate deal later this year – one that keeps the goal of limiting global warming to two-degrees firmly in reach. At home, we will continue to support the UK Climate Change Act. We will cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible, and will not support additional distorting and expensive power sector targets.

This is a bit of a mixed bag trying to be all things to all people. Some of the themes are transparently good. A commitment to affordability and security of supplies is good. A commitment to protecting the environment is also good – a broad commitment, not just the single focus on CO2 emissions. An ongoing commitment to energy efficiency and insulating homes is good. The ending of the onshore wind subsidy gravy train will also please many south of the border. I’m not sure if this will apply up north. Continued support for the North Sea is clearly welcome as is support for R&D into sensible renewable technologies.

Support for nuclear power is also welcome but here a little more than support is required. The forces that have been allowed to grow within society that present barriers to the safe and economic development of the nuclear industry need to be rolled back.

But there is also an ugly side. Blaming Labour for the doubling of gas prices is a bit rich since global energy prices went through the roof outwith political control at that time. Believing that Labour may have been to blame belies ignorance of the real cause of soaring energy prices and without understanding the cause the remedies will not be pursued. Also claiming that they have created a shale gas industry is pure fantasy. And while they have now listened to the legitimate concerns of the public regarding the deployment of onshore wind turbines they should also consider the LEGITIMATE concerns of country dwellers who oppose fracking.

And while there is much to commend this raft of policies they have not managed to shake off the contradictory bonkers tail. They will find that continuing to pay lip service to emissions control and climate talks will make it difficult or near impossible to deliver the raft of common sense detailed above. And above all, how on Earth do they reconcile continued commitment to CCS whilst at the same time arguing for energy efficiency and lower prices? They could and should have made a commitment to repeal or amend the 2008 Climate Change Act that would have cleared the way to deliver affordability and security.

So who will replace Ed Davey? The return of Owen Paterson is one obvious possibility. He would simply ignore the bonkers parts of the manifesto. But it would be good to have a scientist or an engineer who actually understands some of the key components of energy delivery starting with thermodynamics.

This entry was posted in Political commentary and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to UK to be Ruled by English Conservative Party

  1. Probably an oversimplification, but did Scotland just vote for independence?

    • JerryC says:

      Scotland voted for independence, but that was expected. What was really interesting, and unexpected, was the Tories crushing Labour in England and Wales, in large measure by running against the SNP.

      Quite a black eye for the polling industry. No one saw this coming.

      • JerryC says:

        Interestingly, the polls in Scotland were spot on.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        I don’t think Scotland voted for independence. We had a referendum just months ago with a fairly resounding vote in favour of The Union. Scotland has been a Labour stronghold for so long as I can remember. So part of this is whole sale abandonment of New Labour. It could be that the electorate is more sophisticated than one might believe. It was Scottish New Labour Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling that delivered the finance crash in the UK.

        I know many Scotts have felt they have not been represented by Westminster for a long time. Even with a Labour Government it was the wrong flavour of Labour. It is now transparently obvious that Scotland is not represented at all at Westminster – kind of surprised this has not been discussed on the box I have been listening to all day. England now rules the UK.

        The Tories are going to have to tread incredibly carefully if The Union is to survive.

        • JerryC says:

          I think the fundamental issue is that the Scots, in the aggregate, want a lot more socialism than do the English. But England is 10 times as big, so any kind of national government will inevitably be more attuned to English desires than Scottish.

        • Fred says:

          Where did you get the idea that the tories HAVE to tread carefully, and HAVE to look at constitutional change?

          They’ve just had a referendum and an election – and are now the majority party. They can quite happily see this as a mandate to ignore the SNP if they want – and there’s nothing the SNP can really do about it.

          Now, I think Cameron WILL be looking at constitutional change, if for no other reason than to put the SNP back in their hole. My guess is he will concentrate on local income taxes and local services being funded from those local income taxes – which will royally shaft the SNP.

          And I don’t think he’ll be supporting the North Sea with tax cuts – an oil free scotland is a scotland that will cause much less trouble in future.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Now, I think Cameron WILL be looking at constitutional change, if for no other reason than to put the SNP back in their hole.

            So you agree with me

      • Euan Mearns says:

        See my reply to Dave Rutledge. Tories gained seats from Lib Dems and Labour lost seats to the SNP.

  2. The meat of the Tory energy manifesto is here:

    “… a significant expansion in new nuclear and gas; backing good-value green energy; and pushing for more new investment in UK energy sources.”

    New nuclear – good

    New gas – good, always provided you can get the gas.

    Good-value green energy – not much of that around.

    More new investment in UK energy sources – good, if you can find and develop them. Fracking, anyone?

    If the Tories implement this policy on a large enough scale I think the UK can look forward to a reasonably energy-secure (and reasonably carbon-free) future, although the next few years could still be dodgy.

  3. Rob Slightam says:

    a referendum on our continuing membership of the EU is also due in 2017, another area of disagreement between Scotland and England.

  4. Hugh Sharman says:

    Euan, you are too kind to the Tories. Quoting from their Manifesto (promised deliveries)….

    “Our long-term plan has unlocked £59 billion of investment in electricity. All parts of the UK will soon be helping to deliver secure, affordable and low-carbon energy, from the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, to offshore wind turbine manufacturing at the new Green Port in Hull, the next generation of pipelines West of Shetland and the Swansea tidal lagoon.”

    Mostly bonkers projects of course!

    At Hinkley Point this Government is committing the public to the world’s most unsuccessful nuclear power technology, described by the most brilliant engineer I know who has direct experience of working with (French State-owned) AREVA as “probably unbuildable but if built, will be inoperable”.

    Tidal power in Swansea….? aaargh!

    And what happens to Siemens’ factory at Hull if the Government sensibly decides to take a knife to offshore wind?

    I wonder which revolving door will Ed Davie not conveniently walks through

    • One wonders what the Manifesto would have said if the Tories had known they were going to get an absolute majority and wouldn’t need the Lib Dems any more.

      • Hugh Sharman says:

        Good point Roger! But I am depressed to tell you that in one opinion poll after the other, the general public (generally) appears to support the further spread of (subsidized) wind power and PV.

        This may be because of the way the questions are asked. As the election just showed, polls can be notoriously unreliable and most of the mentioned polls are run by Renewables UK

        The deplorable technical incompetence of the Tories is illustrated by their handling of Hinkley Point!

        • Euan Mearns says:

          The deplorable technical incompetence of the Tories is illustrated by their handling of Hinkley Point!

          I’d be more inclined to lay the blame for that at the feet of Ed Davey – lets face it the Lib Dems were never pro-nuclear. I’d hope and expect to see the Hinkley process transformed.

          You just need to take a look at the political map of England to see a sea of blue with little pockets of red. The city dwellers may well want more wind but the political power lies with the Shires.

          I drove from Aberdeen to Bath a few weeks ago. A forest of turbines in the Scottish borders. Virtually no turbines for the rest of the way through England where a lot of the capacity is off shore.

    • Roberto says:

      ‘At Hinkley Point this Government is committing the public to the world’s most unsuccessful nuclear power technology, described by the most brilliant engineer I know who has direct experience of working with (French State-owned) AREVA as “probably unbuildable but if built, will be inoperable”.’

      How is that dictum?…. ‘extraordinary claims need extraordinary proofs’?… Why should be unbuildable (the 2 Chinese epr will both be running within 18 months or so), and why should be inoperable???….


  5. Ed says:

    One of the good things to come out of the electoral process was that energy policy was not politicised. Let the experts make the decisions rather than the politicians. My view is that ALL energy sources will be exploited eventually, whether the public like it or not. The greens may not like fracking but it will happen. The conservatives may not like onshore wind turbines but our countryside will be covered with them one day. It is just that our two ends of the political spectrum don’t know it yet 🙂 The Ponzi scheme needs to grow and for that we need energy, whatever the cost to the environment or one’s political colour. I’m a realist.

  6. Dave Rutledge says:

    Hi Euan,

    Have the Tories become the English National Party? They appear to have smashed Labour within England.


    • Euan Mearns says:

      No. Labour actually had a small net gain of seats from the Tories. The Tories smashed the Lib Dems in England in a very carefully managed campaign. And the SNP smashed Labour and the Lib Dems in Scotland.

      • Dave Rutledge says:

        Hi Euan,

        Thanks for clarifying that. I did not understand it.

        I noticed that the Shetlands did not go SNP.


  7. Ed says:

    Another interesting perspective; and I know how you all love my input, not. Scotland is cementing its place as a net energy exporting nation while England a net energy importing one; with huge implications. The missing piece is financial independence for Scotland which the English government will be hard pressed to resist

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Its impossible near term for the remainder of the UK (minus Scotland) to get anywhere close to the energy policy goals of security and emissions without Scotland. That’s one reason why they stick shale gas in there to try and pretend that England can have a shale gas industry and energy independence.

      To clarify my stance on shale gas once again. 1) A viable resource / reserve has yet to be proven and 2) even if proven I simply doubt that the country living English folks will tolerate the development.

    • Nial says:

      “Scotland is cementing its place as a net energy exporting nation”.

      I think we need to see where we stand after Longannet closes next year. At that point we are going to be heavily dependent on the r-UK for base load when the wind isn’t blowing (ie most of the time).

  8. oldfossil says:

    Why on earth would anyone want a scientist or engineer in the energy portfolio? We already have a whole lot of scientists (97% of the little shits or so it’s claimed) telling us to commit suicide or the planet will die. LIkewise we have a whole lot of engineers gaily erecting wind turbines that chop birds to pieces and solar farms that fry birds to a crisp, while producing less energy than they take to build and maintain.

    Scientists and engineers are very good at practical stuff. Engineers in particular I respect (and I worked for some years with a firm of insulting consulting engineers) because they have the smallest egos of any profession I can think of.

    Scientists and engineers are not very good at logic and reason, or anything to do with deploying their wonderful discoveries and designs in the real world. That is why a scientist or engineer should never be allowed anywhere near a government cabinet portfolio. A scientist will tell you that the settled science proves that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation, and therefore we must all commit suicide to save the planet, in the same way that an engineer might tell you that this is a brick, therefore take a whole lot of them and miraculously they will jump together and arrange themselves into a house — one of Al Gore’s mansions, for example.

    Anyway, don’t go giving Dave Cameron any stupid ideas or next thing we’ll have Paul Nurse advising the cabinet on how to screw up the scientific climate as hard as they can.

    Scientists and engineers are very bright in their own tiny little fields but politically they are extremely naïve.

    • Ed says:

      Priceless comment, oldfossil. You have just won the prize of the most bigoted comment I’ve read in 2015. Well done. 🙂

  9. Roger Andrews says:

    Having not lived in the UK for over 50 years I no longer have any hands-on familiarity with UK politics, but results like these:

    SNP: 1,454,436 votes, 56 seats
    DUP: 184,260 votes, 8 seats
    UKIP: 3,881,129 votes, 1 seat

    Suggest to me that the UK electoral system is in dire need of an overhaul.

Comments are closed.