Shea Buckland-Jones is Re-Energising Wales Project Coordinator for the IWA

Today marks another important milestone for IWA’s Re-energising Wales project as we launch two new reports.

The first report, produced in partnership with Cardiff Business School, focuses on the economic opportunity that arises from a transition to renewable energy in Wales. The second report, produced in partnership with Facilitating the Future, has clear messages around the policy and regulatory tools we need to use immediately in Wales to drive an increase in renewable energy.

Work on these reports was drawing to a conclusion just as the October 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was published. It reminds the nations of the world that time is short and urgent action is needed if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown. It predicts that: ‘the average global temperature will hit the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels by 2030.’

The message from both of our reports is very clear: The time for urgent, increased Welsh action on renewable energy is now, in this Assembly, and from this Welsh Government, not the next, nor the one after that.

Wales is facing dual, urgent challenges from Brexit and climate change. Wales’ natural resources provide us with huge potential to achieve the vision of our Re-energising Wales project – for Wales to meet 100% of its energy demand from renewables by 2035.  One of our key calls is therefore that:

‘Wales’ new First Minister should instigate a 12-18 months Low Carbon Stimulus. This would both ramp up Welsh action on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and boost the Welsh economy through the Brexit period.’

Our analysis has found that the development of an energy system that can enable Wales to become 100% self-sufficient in renewable electricity by 2035, according to our best current estimates, requires around £25bn of investment in renewable electricity generation, and £5bn in domestic energy efficiency interventions.

As well as tackling climate change, renewable energy schemes have wider benefits too.

Our analysis also suggests that some 40% of renewable electricity gross spending (£9.7bn) could potentially be captured by Wales, along with 70% of domestic energy efficiency gross spending (£3.7bn). These investments could support some 20,150 jobs annually across Wales during a (notional) 15-year investment period (2020-2035), with around £7.4bn in total Welsh GVA created in total.

We found that Wales can make significant economic gains from renewable energy projects, but unless Wales finds ways to make the investments required, we will miss out on the majority of economic benefits. These economic opportunities will only be grasped if Welsh firms and skilled workers are both competitive and available: a stark challenge, given the level of investment required and Wales’ poor prior energy supply chain performance.

Furthermore, there is almost no Welsh capital ownership in the energy sector. Benefits will arise only with ownership (in part or whole) of the capital and intellectual property that is employed in decarbonisation for Wales, and indeed elsewhere; unless Wales can, post-Brexit, attract significant relevant multinational manufacturing operations.

We view the instigation of a Low Carbon Stimulus, as set out above, as the first immediate action needed in the near future to drive this renewables agenda. The scale of this initial Low Carbon Stimulus should be proportionate to the support proposed for significant transport projects, for example the South Wales Metro or M4 equivalent.  The Low Carbon Stimulus should include measures to:

  • grow Welsh ownership of the energy economy
  • secure energy wealth in Wales through a whole house, every house, ‘homes as power stations’ type scheme
  • secure total coverage of Wales by electric vehicle and hydrogen refuelling facilities
  • establish the comparative advantage of hydrogen and marine energy as niche Welsh services in the wider UK and global economies.

Our research shows that Wales already has many of the powers to make substantial progress on renewable energy, including over planning and the built environment, along with new powers in the Wales Act 2017. Wales needs to take immediate action to make the most of Welsh powers through initiatives such as setting higher building standards, turning homes into power stations, using capital borrowing powers to deploy more local renewable energy, developing a proactive improvement plan to future proof the grid for Wales and ending fossil fuel power generation in Wales.  

As part of a recommended new Welsh Government Cabinet Portfolio strengthening the unity between energy, home, place and community, our report states that six interim targets should be set including a revised one where 100 per cent of Wales’ electricity consumption is met from renewable energy by 2030.  

These two newly launched reports, along with the evidence and numbers outlined in previous Re-energising Wales reports, provide a compelling picture of the scale of the challenge, as well as the scale of the opportunity. Now we actually have all of this evidence for the first time, it is clear that Wales needs to take action immediately to capture the benefits of a transition to a renewable energy future that has already begun.

Now, in this Assembly, and from this Welsh Government, not the next, nor the one after that.

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