April 1, 2014

Call to Devolve All Renewable Energy Projects to Make Wales a Leader in Green Energy

Responsibility over all renewable energy projects should be devolved to a Welsh department dedicated to energy and climate change to make Wales a “leader” in green energy, the former chair of the Assembly’s Environment Committee has said.

Plaid Cymru AM Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said all powers over renewable energy – regardless of scale – should be rapidly transferred to a Welsh Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), in a speech at Aberystwyth University.

Lord Elis-Thomas, the AM for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, was ousted as chair of the Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability Committee by his own leader, Leanne Wood, earlier this month after he spoke out against her approach of attacking Ukip ahead of the European elections in May.

In his speech, the former Presiding Officer-turned environmentalist AM criticised the proposal to raise of the scale of consents over energy generation projects to 350MW, from the current 50MW limit, proposed by the Silk Commission as a “political compromise” with “no logic to it”.

In its second report into the future of devolution in non-financial matters, Silk proposed the National Assembly should have powers over consents up to 350MW, which would mean responsibility over almost all existing energy projects (including power stations and nuclear applications) outside of renewables would still be reserved to Westminster.

Any devolution over renewable energy powers to Wales would likely meet serious resistance in pockets of Wales, where there has been sustained opposition to the Welsh Government’s planning policy of segmenting seven areas of Mid and South Wales as potential sites for renewable energy projects.

Montgomeryshire Conservative MP Glyn Davies, tweeting ahead of the report’s publication, said responsibility for more energy powers would happen “over [his] dead body”.

But Lord Elis-Thomas said in his lecture: “Over two years of intensive study of energy and planning policy in Wales has convinced me that we are missing a massive economic, environmental and social opportunity for Wales in not seizing the opportunity to be the lead renewable energy nation in the UK.

“Traditionally Wales has – because of its geography and geology – generated energy well above its own needs.

“In a global world of huge energy and conservation pressures this effort needs to be redoubled with renewable sources having priority in a move to help de-carbonise all our energy production.

“Currently, on UK DECC figures, 13% of energy generated in Wales is consumed outside in UK, EU and global energy markets. Yet only less than 8% of this comes from renewable energy sources, with carbon-based sources of oil and gas by far accounting for most of Welsh generation.

“This compares hugely unfavourably with Scotland at 27% and Northern Ireland at 13%. While Wales processes 30% of oil and gas consumed in UK the fact that less than 10% of UK energy is generated from renewable sources shows the huge potential of a spirited business drive by Welsh Government and businesses to de-carbonise.”

Lord Elis-Thomas said a shift from being a major coal producer to a “renewables leader” would need “new forms of government” as well as international investment.

He said a Welsh DECC, with a dedicated minister, should be set up to negotiate the transfer of “all energy functions” from the UK DECC, beginning with renewable energy policy.

He said: “Currently Welsh ministers only have powers to grant consents up to 50MW onshore and 1MW offshore, and while the proposed devolution of all energy generation projects over 350MW recommended by the Commission on Devolution in Wales is a distinct improvement on the current position, it has no logic to it, and is really a political compromise.

“This is why I will now be campaigning for the total transfer of all renewable energy consents to kickstart the renewable revolution that we have talked about for so long – but will never achieve with current policies and actions.”

The beefed-up powers proposals have also been criticised by environmental groups as being unambitious, with Friends of the Earth Cymru director Gareth Clubb accusing Silk of displaying “breathtaking timidity” in its recommendations and that it had “done us all a phenomenal disservice”.

He wrote on the Click on Wales website: “Perhaps the most depressing aspect of Silk’s response on energy is that it confines the political classes to the irrational and poorly thought-out ceiling of 350MW.

“Political parties will find it more difficult to commit in manifestos to full devolution of powers given that the cross-party Silk Commission came to a decision that 350MW was an appropriate response to Wales’ energy policy requirements.

“It means years, perhaps decades, of further discussions over energy consenting, rather than getting on with the real business of propelling Wales to the forefront of the renewable revolution.”

No comments:

Post a Comment