UK renewables up for the challenge as Tories focus on costs

UK renewables bodies gave a broad welcome to energy-related policies set out by the governing Conservative Party, the overwhelming favourite to win next month’s general election.

In their pre-election manifesto the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, pledged to hold an independent review into the cost of energy, with the aim of making power bills for households and businesses the lowest in Europe.

That focus on cost was seized upon by the UK renewables sector, which pointed to the big reductions achieved by the onshore and offshore wind sectors.

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RenewableUK chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “The sector is highly innovative; onshore wind is now the cheapest source of new power, and offshore wind has reduced its costs by over a third in the last four years. Because of this record-breaking cost reduction, we would also expect renewable energy to come out well from any independent costs review.”

There was little sign of a softening of Conservative antipathy to onshore wind development in England – but the manifesto appears to leave the door ajar in Scotland, where the devolved government backs onshore turbines.

The manifesto says: “We will support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities.”

McNeal added: “We’ve long made the case for remote Scottish Islands onshore wind projects so we’re especially pleased to see the Conservative and Unionist Party supporting the development of these projects. This is a good example of the right development in the right place: onshore wind going forward in parts of the UK where it is wanted and welcomed.”

As expected, the Conservatives, also known as the Tories, pledge to “maintain our position as a global leader in offshore wind”. The offshore sector's significant industrial knock-on benefits have made it a favourite of successive UK governments.

In its reaction to the manifesto, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) focused on commitments to low-carbon policies and governance.

CEO Nina Skorupska said: “The manifesto is a solid building block for the transition to a lower-cost, lower-carbon future. Our members will be pleased with the renewed commitment to the 2050 carbon targets and the transposition of existing EU law into the UK, as well as a commitment to leading the world in low-carbon transport.”

The opposition Labour Party – which polls suggest is a rank outsider in the 8 June election – said it would set a target for 60% of the UK’s energy to come from renewable or zero-carbon sources by 2030.