The Welsh Government has revealed plans to establish a publicly owned renewable energy developer to tackle energy security, the cost-of-living crisis and decarbonise the energy system.
Profits made from the energy developer will be used to deliver wider benefits for the population in Wales. The government stated that the funds would go back into the public purse to be reinvested in improving energy efficiency in homes alongside boosting clean energy jobs.
A range of renewable generation sources are currently being explored in order to reach the Welsh target of having more than 1GW of locally owned generation by 2030. The new state-owned energy developer will scale up renewable energy rollout, initially through the development of onshore wind projects on the Welsh Government woodland estate.
“We want to harvest our wind and use it to produce power that directly benefits people in Wales. We will set up a publicly owned renewable energy developer. This is a long-term sustainable investment that puts net zero and the communities of Wales at the heart of the transition we need,” said Julie James, the minister for climate change.
“We are in a climate emergency and our approach is in stark contrast to the UK Government that is focusing on fracking and fossil fuels – opposed by most communities and incompatible with our international obligations.”
Following two years of analysis from over 18 organisations, National Grid released the Zero 2050 report in October 2021, which detailed a number of achievable pathways to decarbonise in South Wales.
The report indicated that Wales could achieve this by expanding onshore renewables and improving energy efficiency in buildings through a major residential retrofit programme. This could include the development of a robust heat pump supply chain and the incentivisation of commercial and industrial energy efficiency.
Although onshore and offshore wind generation will be expanding over the coming years, hydrogen and solar have also been cited as potential avenues to explore to reach the 1GW threshold.
In 2017, Lesley Griffiths, the environment secretary at the time, stated that a mixture of wind, marine and some hydroelectric projects will make up the government’s efforts to decarbonise.
“This is an historic moment for Wales. The cost-of-living crisis is directly related to the major increase in the cost of energy, which strengthens the need for an approach that returns more to the people of Wales,” said Julie James, minister for climate change.
“If other countries are anything to go by, then we should expect considerable returns from our investment and – as we share the ambitions of these other nations – we have a genuine opportunity to produce an income that will really help us to deliver here.
“We are taking positive action to ensure we deliver on our net zero commitments in ways that benefit our communities.”
One of the largest projects currently being developed in Wales is the Blue Eden project. The £1.7 billion project will incorporate a tidal lagoon that could see 320MW generated.
The project will also include a 60,000 square metre battery energy storage manufacturing plant, a battery facility to store the renewable energy produced by Blue Eden – if this element were constructed now, it would be the “biggest battery facility in the world”, according to Swansea Council in 2021.
Alongside this, the project will incorporate a 72,000 square metre floating solar array anchored in the Queen’s dock area, a 94,000 square metre data centre – which will be powered entirely by the renewable generation on site – an oceanic and climate change research centre and approximately 150 floating, energy-efficient eco-homes.
All the buildings and facilities would be constructed alongside the lagoon, utilising existing land in the area. The site will sit just south of the Prince of Wales Dock in the SA1 area of Swansea.