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Unlocking Wales’ green future

3 min read

Ben Lake MP, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for environment, food and rural affairs, puts forward a plan for unlocking Wales’ green future by boosting renewable energy potential, reducing energy demand and ensuring a just transition for workers.

This year, Wales had its hottest September since the Met Office began keeping records in 1884. 

This is astonishing and shows the importance of not resting on our laurels when it comes to tackling climate change. 

Wales has made significant progress in the past, but it is vital we continue to reduce our emissions at pace into the future.  

It was incredibly concerning to read the Climate Change Committee’s report this summer, which warned that Wales is on track to miss its future climate goals unless decarbonisation efforts are significantly accelerated. 

Wales has enormous renewable energy potential. Reaching this potential would make an important contribution to our decarbonisation efforts, as well as creating well-paid jobs in some of the poorest areas in the UK. 

It was deeply disappointing to see this potential being squandered with the lack of investment in floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea in the latest round of bidding earlier this year.  

Erebus, the flagship offshore wind farm due to be commissioned in 2026, would have seen Wales kick start the floating offshore wind industry which would have delivered jobs and opportunities for local people in Pembrokeshire and southwest Wales more widely. 

The current model of investment isn’t working. 

Whilst reform of the contracts for difference model is needed, we should also be promoting alternative models of energy generation and ownership, such as through community energy groups. 

Not only do these groups often have the benefit of selling at cheap rates to local people, but they also help retain wealth within our communities. 

The UK Government must take swift action in this area by improving grid capacity and reforming regulations to facilitate the sale of energy generated by community groups.  

Additionally, if Wales had powers over the management of the Crown Estate, as in Scotland, the Senedd could strengthen requirements for the use of local supply chains and mandate a percentage of community ownership in renewable energy projects developed on the estate.  

These measures would also build on the work already underway in Wales, including supporting Ynni Cymru, the new Welsh national energy company established by Plaid Cymru’s Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government.  

Ynni Cymru’s purpose is to promote community-owned projects in Wales. So far £750,000 has been given out through grants to 11 projects, with £2.47m being earmarked for this year, as well as £10m to spend on infrastructure. 

It is also vital that we reduce energy demand and improve energy efficiency in Wales through a mass retrofitting programme. 

Wales has some of the oldest and least efficient housing in Western Europe, with rural housing often suffering from particularly poor insulation.  

“Wales has made significant progress in the past, but it is vital we continue to reduce our emissions at pace into the future"

Compared to the UK as a whole, sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction contribute a much higher proportion of Wales’s total emissions.  

Whilst it is important that we decarbonise these sectors, this must not come at the expense of workers.  

We cannot afford to repeat the situation at TATA Steel in Port Talbot, where the transition to cleaner forms of steel production will lead to 3,000 people losing their jobs. Workers should be re-trained and reskilled rather than discarded in this way. 

Plaid Cymru’s Co-operation Agreement has created an independent advice panel to examine potential pathways to net zero by 2035. This panel will look at the impact on sectors of our economy and how any adverse effects may be mitigated, including the fair sharing of costs and benefits.  

This is how we unlock Wales’ green future – by boosting our renewable energy potential, reducing our energy demand, and ensuring a just transition for workers. 

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