Wales demands CfD access for onshore wind

UK: National government energy policy has "decimated" swathes of the renewable energy sector in Wales, according to its government and a consortium of environmental groups.

Welsh ministers believe onshore wind projects like the 228MW Pen y Cymoedd (above) site can help it meet its renewable energy target of 70% by 2030

In a bid to highlight the danger it faces from Westminster-based energy policy, the devolved Welsh government's environment secretary Lesley Griffiths said a new framework was needed.

Although consent for renewable energy schemes up to 350MW has been devolved to Wales since January, control over subsidies paid out to power generators remains with Westminster.

The most important factor for Wales to reach its ambitious renewable energy target of 70% by 2030 is including onshore wind and solar power in the next contracts for difference (CfD) subsidy auction, she said.

Both generation resources have been excluded from it since 2015, but wind projects on the remote Scottish islands of Shetney, the Orkneys and the Hebrides were cleared to apply for support in the next CfD auction to be held in spring 2019.

Both solar PV and onshore wind present the greatest opportunities for Wales to best manage energy bills, offering businesses and the rural economy the opportunity to be "more resilient and self sufficient in a future outside of the EU," Griffiths said.

Energy generation from renewable sources has trebled in Wales since 2010, producing 32% of all electricity used in the country in 2015. But it now faces a deployment shortage in the near-term.

A lack of financial support in the form of CfDs for solar PV and onshore wind is "excluding the most affordable technologies from market mechanisms," the consortium said, adding that the restriction made little sense.

The government-headed group, which includes lobbying groups Natural Resource Wales, the National Trust and RenewableUK, identified a worrying future for both technologies.

Last year no new applications for planning permission were made within the nation’s specified areas of land-use (Strategic Search Areas) and a number of developments with planning consent are not progressing.  

Larger ground-mounted solar developments in Wales are also no longer being taken through the planning system, with the last consented schemes being built out by the end of March 2017, the group said.

In England a monster 350MW subsidy-free solar farm in Kent was announced in November, made possible due to economies of scale, coupled with the rapidly falling costs of solar panels, chiefly driven by China.

But the Welsh group has called on the UK government to look beyond its "cost-only" principles for selecting decentralised renewable generation technologies. It wants to see the auction process opened up to wider social and economic benefits of such schemes, including factors like job creation and community ownership.

Another shadow looms over Wales as the proposed 320MW tidal lagoon project in Swansea Bay awaits the nod from London to back its development. There was no mention of it in either the Clean Growth Strategy or the Industrial Strategy.

Orginally published on Ends Report.