Wales looks to marine power for low-CO2 future

15th March 2012


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Successful mass-deployment of wave and tidal power, along with greater energy efficiency, are central to the Welsh Assembly government's vision of a decarbonised electricity supply

In a new document outlining how the government plans to support the transition to a low-carbon energy supply, it argues that Wales’ coastal waters have the potential to generate more than 10GW of electricity, and pledges to improve planning processes and develop new infrastructure that supports the development of renewable technologies.

However, the government complains its efforts are being harmed by wider UK legislation, particularly the Renewables Obligation, which it argues benefits other parts of the country more.

Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, argues: “Wales is disadvantaged by UK energy policy … the energy market is not working effectively and we need clear long term support for key industries, such as marine, in Wales that is on a par with the rest of the UK.”

Alongside, promising to campaign to ensure Wales’ energy needs are better served as a result of the ongoing reformation of the UK’s electricity market, the government states it will work to simplify the planning system and consenting regimes associated with energy developments by April 2013, in time to coincide with the launch of Wales’ new single environment body.

The Welsh government’s vision for future energy generation is a combination of onshore and offshore wind, solar, wave and tidal. It is strongly in favour of deployment of tidal technologies in the Severn Estuary, if environmental concerns can be addressed.

The report also discusses the vital role of energy-efficiency in meeting the future challenges of decarbonisation and ensuring security of supply, stating that the government was: “determined to embed energy efficiency into all [its] activities”.

On a practical level, the government promises to review how it provides advice to businesses on improving energy and resource efficiency and to support energy-intensive industries in managing the increasing costs of carbon and energy.

It also pledges to help public and private sector organisations researching and developing commercial energy-saving devices. In particular it highlights the potential of smart technologies to improve the energy performance of buildings – smart grids and smart buildings – and pledges to work with researchers to pilot a “major smart-living project”.

“There is no escaping the challenges of climate change and energy security,” said Jones. “However, these challenges are also a golden opportunity for Wales to lead the way in creating a low-carbon economy and lay the foundations for a better future.”

The Welsh government’s report further highlights the importance of the successful development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, concluding that while natural gas will play an important role in the transition from using fossil fuels to renewables, it cannot have a long-term future in the energy mix without effective CCS.

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