UK Election 2024: Unpacking Labour and Conservative Pledges on Net Zero, Renewables and Data Centres

Posted on 28 June 2024

Thanuja Bandara
Engineering Analyst

Comes from a background of Chemical Engineering and specialised in energy market research and biofuel techniques.

Introduction 

The UK election 2024 is scheduled for Thursday, 4 July 2024. This crucial election will determine the composition of the House of Commons, thereby shaping the future government of the United Kingdom. Climate change, energy policy, and digital infrastructure are at the forefront of the political debate, with Labour and Conservative parties presenting distinct visions for the country’s path towards Net Zero, renewable energy adoption, and the development of data centres.

Net Zero Commitments

Conservative Party: The Conservative manifesto reaffirms a commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050, focusing on technological innovation and market mechanisms. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged continued investment in nuclear energy, including large-scale projects like Hinkley Point C and smaller initiatives such as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Additionally, the Conservatives plan to maintain and enhance the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to ensure a market-driven approach to reducing carbon emissions.

Labour Party: Labour, under the leadership of Keir Starmer, aims for a more ambitious Net Zero target of 2035. Their strategy involves a comprehensive green industrial revolution, promising a £28 billion annual investment into green jobs and infrastructure. Their target is to restore the UK’s global leadership in tacking climate crisis. Labour plans to decarbonise the UK grid entirely by 2030, including aggressive expansion of renewable energy sources and retrofitting homes for energy efficiency. They also support emerging technologies Hydrogen sector, wave energy and nuclear energy sector.

Renewable Energy Policies

Conservative Party: The Conservatives advocate for a balanced energy mix, with significant investments in offshore wind capacity. Their goal is to triple offshore wind capacity and increase solar capacity up to 70GW by 2035. They plan to build two carbon capture and storage (CCS) clusters and support hydrogen sector, aiming to ensure that the transition to renewable energy does not compromise the reliability of the energy supply. They emphasis that they will accelerate the rollout of renewable energy without additional cost or without imposing new green levies.

Labour Party: Labour’s renewable energy policy includes a strong emphasis on community energy schemes and the public ownership of energy utilities. They plan to t onshore wind capacity to 35GW, triple solar power to 50GW, and quadruple offshore wind with a target of 55GW by 2030 and emphasis on becoming a ‘clean energy superpower’. Labour also promises to create a new publicly owned National Energy Agency to oversee the energy transition and ensure affordability for all citizens. They have pledged to allocate £8 billion over the five years for this.

Data Centres and Digital Infrastructure

Conservative Party: Recognising the critical role of data centres in the digital economy, the Conservatives pledge to support the sector through improved planning policies and incentives for energy-efficient data centres. They also aim to enhance the UK’s digital infrastructure by expanding broadband and 5G coverage, ensuring that data centres have the necessary connectivity to thrive.

Labour Party: Labour has proposed a controversial but strategic move to allow data centres on London’s green belt land to meet growing demand for digital infrastructure. This proposal has sparked debate, balancing environmental concerns with the necessity for expanded data storage and processing capabilities. Labour argues that this strategy is essential to support the UK’s burgeoning tech industry and maintain its competitive edge globally. They also plan to overhaul planning policies to facilitate the construction and sustainable operation of data centres.

Conclusion

The pledges from both Labour and Conservative parties reflect a shared recognition of the urgent need to address climate change and modernise the UK’s energy and digital infrastructure. However, their approaches differ in ambition and execution. The Conservatives focus on maintaining a balanced and market-driven energy transition focusing on ‘pragmatic and proportionate’ growth, while Labour aims for rapid decarbonisation with substantial public investment and a more interventionist approach. As the UK election 2024 draws near, voters will have to weigh these differences and decide which vision aligns best with their hopes for country’s future.

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