100% of Electricity Needs from Renewables by 2035
This is the key headline from Welsh Government’s latest consultation on their proposals for a ‘more sustainable future for Wales’ and the drive to achieve net zero by 2050 (link below). In this short article, I will explore what this really means, how it compares with previous targets, before taking a look at what the opportunities and likely barriers are to achieving this.
2017 saw the Welsh Government set their original target. The headline being they would seek to generate 70% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. According to Welsh Government figures, in 2021 Wales generated 55% of electricity from renewable sources. An additional 15% over the next 9 years would therefore sound achievable. The latest announcement would require a significant shift and mobilisation of renewable energy schemes in Wales over and above the existing and, at the current rate of growth, such a target would be unachievable. What and where are the opportunities to meet this ambitious target?
There are probably three main potential sources of renewable energy generation in Wales; Onshore and Offshore Wind and Solar PV.
Wales has to some degree embraced onshore wind over the years, albeit a number have been slower than expected in coming forward. It could be argued that several of the ‘easier’ sites have now been developed and the more difficult ones will take even longer to come to fruition. I’d suggest, however, that the lessons learnt from previous schemes, along with the significantly greater emphasis on climate change and the need to be increasingly self sufficient from an energy generation perspective, ought to go some way in assisting with these sties coming forward.
Offshore wind is probably where the biggest potential lies – particularly around the proposals in the Celtic Sea. The potential of this is significant, and it is an exciting prospect for Wales both from an energy production perspective but also in terms of its economic benefits. There is, however, so much to do to realise this opportunity. The Celtic Freeport bid will be instrumental in laying some of the foundations for this. With a decision expected imminently from the UK Government on the application; if successful, the parties involved will need to mobilise quickly. Associated British Ports Port Talbot and the Port of Milford are ready to invest significant funds to support this and such investment needs the support of the UK Government.
Would therefore Solar PV be an ‘easy win’ in terms of consenting times and their ability to mobilise swiftly. Well, I think the overall answer to this would have to be yes. There are, however, ways in which such schemes could be simplified and expedited – including increasing the lower threshold for DNS applications from its current level of 10MW to at least 50MW or probably more. This would also need to be supported by greater resource to deal with subsequent applications. One suggestion might be a central pool of expertise that could be utilised by LPA’s to specifically deal with both solar and other renewable applications would help to speed up the consenting process.
Some of these difficulties are acknowledged in the Welsh Government’s consultation (I haven’t even mentioned the National Grid!) and if renewable energy deployment is going to accelerate and be sustained for a significant period of time (at a rate greater than that achieved over the last decade), then there needs to be significant investment and quickly. But what an opportunity this is for Wales and everyone working in the energy sector – from R&D, manufacturing and those involved in the consenting regime. There needs to be a concerted effort by everyone to make this happen – a glass half full approach.
Link to the Welsh Government Consultation – https://www.gov.wales/wales-aims-meet-100-its-electricity-needs-renewable-sources-2035