Energy and Wealth: Keeping it Local

If you’ve read about how Gower Power aims to keep wealth here in Wales, you may have seen the excellent “Leaky Bucket” animation by Transition Towns, explaining how prosperity is reduced when money is spent outside an area.  Fuel bills are a huge source of leakage from the Welsh economy, with vast sums being sent off to distant companies.

Welsh government acknowledged this problem, as well as the need to replace fossil fuels with renewables, when it set some important targets in 2017:

  • Wales to generate electricity equal to 70 % of its consumption from renewable sources by 2030
  • 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity in Wales to be locally owned by 2030
  • New renewable energy projects to have at least an element of local ownership from 2020

By the end of 2018, Wales had seen renewable electricity generation treble since 2010, and 778MW of renewable energy capacity was locally owned, with  Welsh renewable generators producing half the electricity necessary to meet Wales’s needs.  At this point the Welsh Government launched a “call for evidence” to learn more about how supporting local renewable energy generation could support the Welsh economy and local communities, as well as reduce carbon emissions.

The resulting Policy Statement on local ownership of energy generation in Wales, published February 2020, altered two of the 2017 targets, bringing heat capacity within scope as well as energy, and beefing up the commitment on local ownership.  From 2020, all new energy projects, whether renewable or not, have been required to have at least an element of local ownership.  This change ensures that renewable energy projects aren’t having to work harder than others on the local ownership element.  Creating local ownership can be a challenge, and it wouldn’t be right for only renewables to be forced to take it on.

A year later, February ’21, Welsh Government published the National Development Framework and the eleventh edition of Planning Policy Wales.  Setting clearer targets and commitments into the planning system, these are vital tools for ensuring that local authorities, through their planning permissions, support the necessary increase of renewable energy and heat generation, and of local ownership.

The latest Programme for Government, published following the May ’21 Senedd elections, adds an ambition to, “Expand renewable energy generation by public bodies and community groups in Wales by over 100MW by 2026”.

It’s great to see concerted efforts at a government level to make Wales more self-sufficient with energy generation and to prevent cash leaking out of our nation.  Of course we’re very proud to be playing our part, offering 100% green energy, from Wales’s first community-owned solar farm, for up to 300 local residential and business customers!  If you’d like to be one of them, please register here!

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