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Tackle the Grid and Give Wales the Rural Powerhouse We Need

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“Wales needs a determined plan of action to upgrade the electricity grid to accommodate renewable energy projects,” says CLA Director, Nigel Hollett. The comments come in response to the Welsh Government’s Statement: Outcome of the Deep Dive into Renewable Energy earlier this month. In it, the Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, sets out the Government’s approach to identify barriers to significantly scale-up the use of renewable energy and match our energy use to renewable energy generation. Nigel Hollett continues, “We need to harness the natural energy-generation potential of the countryside, rural business-peoples’ entrepreneurship, and insatiable appetite of the community for sustainable solutions.”

“The Minister’s statement refers to challenges presented by the grid, but underplays the priority of creating a grid which is fit for purpose to draw energy from many local sustainable sources. It needs substantial investment as a major national project. To meet future needs the grid needs strategic planning by network operators to define where this resource is directed.

“Some of this investment will be – and should be – private. Today, projects that need grid connections face no change in the prospect of prohibitively high charges to do so, because of the lack of such a strategic plan. Farmers and rural businesses throughout Wales, identify opportunity to create prosperous and more sustainable businesses – often provide power and heat for local communities – through investment into local, private renewable energy projects: hydro, wind and solar. However many have encountered frustration as obstacles stand in their way: a negatively biased planning regime, high cost of installation, technical issues in connecting with the grid, disincentivising business rates and finally a general misunderstanding that they are committed to creating sustainable solutions.”

“Despite net-zero, existing and planned renewable energy projects are thwarted owing to a lack of commitment on the ground to local rural renewables. The Welsh Government must reverse its recently announced removal of the business rates relief for private hydro schemes and transform the planning system to become an enabler of sustainable change.

“We are all committed to play our part in tackling climate change and meeting the net-zero targets,” Nigel adds. “The National Energy Plan promised by 2024 needs a determined approach to develop solutions at a local level – mentioned as a priority in the Statement.”

Nigel concludes,

“The Deputy Minister’s Statement refers to the need to learn from past industrial revolutions. We will all recall how natural sources of energy from watermills and windmills drove the rural economy for generations before the introduction of fossil-fuel generated power.”