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United Kingdom

Battle over wind power in Wales -- Election issue

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Wales is falling even further behind the rest of the UK in its progress towards its renewable energy targets, warns the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA). Despite a target of an additional 800 MW by 2010, no new wind plants have come online in the country since last June. This puts Wales 74% behind schedule, the association says. The BWEA issued its warning as it welcomed the approval of a 30 MW wind farm at Blaengwen in Carmarthenshire.

The consent came through more than two years after developer Catamount Cymru lodged its planning application in January 2005, despite the project being sited in an area identified as suitable for wind development. The project was granted consent in August 2006, but the local council overturned the decision by its planning committee until a study by consultants Ove Arup confirmed that the site was suitable for wind development. "It has taken a long time getting here, but I congratulate Carmarthenshire County Council for following their own local guidance, as well as the Welsh Government's national policy on renewable energy," says Catamount's Jerry Sturman.

The BWEA says Blaengwen is only the second wind project to win approval in Wales since the Welsh Assembly published its renewables planning policy, known as TAN 8, in July 2005. Over the same period, three projects have been refused. Meantime, 1606 MW of onshore wind projects were consented throughout the UK, putting Wales's share at less than 3%.

With an election for the Welsh National Assembly this month, the BWEA is urging Wales' political parties to give their unequivocal support to wind energy. All the major parties say they intend to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions. But the BWEA's Llywelyn Rhys says: "There is a tendency for them to avoid realistic and practical solutions to achieve this." Three out of the four party manifestos fail to mention wind energy, he says.

All the parties have policies supporting micro-generation and energy efficiency. But politicians need to wake up to the severity of the situation, says Rhys. "If we are to cut carbon and achieve the 2010 and 2020 renewable energy targets as well as contribute to the UK and EU targets, then onshore wind power is currently the only game in town."

An anti-wind action group is fielding two regional candidates in the Welsh Assembly elections. South Wales Alternative To Turbines (SWATT) claims its intention is non-political. Candidate John Jenkins says: "Our single issue is to draw attention to the pointless exploitation of Wales by wind farm developers rushing to take advantage of Welsh Assembly TAN 8 policy and overly high Renewable Obligation financial subsidies." He adds that SWATT is calling for a moratorium on all further wind developments in Wales until the Assembly rules on their effect on human health, the environment and economy and produces a comprehensive energy policy which places energy efficiency at the forefront of greenhouse gas reduction and reduces reliance on wind power.

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