21. 02. 2008

Renewable energy in Wales

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Helped launched the new Renewable Energy Route Map for the Welsh Assembly Government yesterday – out for consultation until May, and well worth a look.

What grabs you immediately is the seriousness of intent – with an ambition to generate all the electricity Wales uses from renewable sources within the next 20 years. And may be even a bit more to export to the rest of the UK.

The Route Map is also wholly integrated with plans for massively ramping up energy efficiency targets in Wales, all part and parcel of the plan to start reducing emissions of C02 by 3% per annum from 2011 onwards.

That kind of ambition level is bound to stir a bit of controversy. It means lots of wind farms – on and offshore; it means lots of energy from waste (done in the right way, in my opinion, at a suitably small scale, rather than just opting for mega-mass-burn incinerators); it means lots of biomass and microgeneration – the contribution of which to the overall target is small, but the ‘engagement value’ of which (as in getting people in Wales personally involved) is huge. And it raises the stakes even further as regards the Severn Barrage.

Listening to Jane Davidson, the Welsh Minister responsible for all this, putting forward such exciting plans made me compare all this to the UK-wide scene. Over the last month, a number of articles in the media have show just how dreadful our performance on renewables has been since 1997 – the lowest in Europe, at 2%, after Malta and Luxembourg, despite having the best available resource. Grant schemes have largely failed, the Renewables Obligation has under-performed, planning obstacles have not been addressed, Ofgem has been semi-detached, and Ministers have just muddled along as if it never really mattered. “Pathetic” is how I described it yesterday, and pathetic is what it is.

But is that about to change? BERR will be producing a new Renewable Energy Strategy later this year, and Malcolm Wicks (who really does mind about these things, must be deeply embarrassed at where the UK is today) has indicated that it will be far-reaching and very ambitious – indeed “revolutionary” – as it will need to be to restore any kind of credibility in terms of the UK’s need to meet our new target of 15% of all energy coming from renewables by 2020.

So the Wales Route Map provides a pretty good starting point for Malcolm to be getting along with.

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