What it takes: Re-energising Wales.

Alberto Gallotta

Alberto Gallotta, Sustainability Consultant

Helping the country embrace renewables.

When countries make a concerted effort to focus on renewable energy, great things can happen. However, these big ambitions require robust planning and combined expertise spanning sectors and specialisms.

I recently attended the Re-energising Wales event, which brought together industry experts to help craft a practical ‘Renewable Energy Delivery Plan for Wales’.

Globally, on average, we emit 7 tonnes of CO2 per person, per year. In Wales, the average is 13 tonnes.

Based on 2017 data, Wales produces twice as much energy than it uses, making the country a net energy exporter toward the rest of UK. Currently, some 48 percent of the electricity consumed in Wales is produced from renewable resources with an increase of 5 percent against the previous year.

Despite this positive achievement, Wales is aiming to increase its renewables energy production. The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, confirmed this target in his speech, committing the Welsh Government to developing a wider strategy that will help the country become a leader in the renewable sector.

To achieve this ambitious goal, Wales needs massive investment and a drastic change. During the past three years, the Institute of Welsh Affair’s Re-energising Wales project has intensively researched how the country can work towards meeting its projected energy demands entirely from renewable energy sources by 2035.

How it will happen

So what does a 100%-renewable-energy-generating Wales looks like?

Well firstly, nuclear energy will be replaced by a variety of renewable sources. The type of energy generation that is set to increase the most is tidal/wave which is seen as an essential addition to energy generation mix.

The planned annual split for renewable energy generation is for:

  • 2,670 mega-watts of power (MW) to be generated from solar PV
  • 2,545 MW via onshore wind
  • 1,700 MW via offshore wind
  • 4,000 MW from tidal range, tidal stream, wave and floating wind facilities
  • 55 MW from in-stream hydropower
The plan demands a step change in how energy is generated, moving away from a single big plant concept to a more locally based approach.

Reducing demand

As well as decarbonising Wales’ grid, there is also the complementary requirement of reducing people’s consumption. Wales’ 1.4 million homes cover a wide-range of housing types and buildings, and these residential buildings account for 9 percent of the country’s overall energy demand.

As part of the Re-energising Wales plans, 870,000 homes need to be upgraded to become more energy efficient; all new houses built will have their heating and domestic hot water provided by air-source-heat-pumps (ASHP). And the government is set on making this happen; in fact Philip Hammond has said gas heating will be banned for all new houses in UK from 2025.

Funding, funding, funding

So it’s clear the commitment is there, now its all about the funding to make it possible.

£25 billion of investment is required to make this change for Wales, and that doesn’t include  investment in the electricity grid, which will need to be upgraded.

While this amount seems a lot, according to Louise Wilson of Abundance Investment: “Funding and money are not a problem. The funding requirement is coverable in one year.”

Hywel Lloyd, who conducted the research for the Re-energising Wales ‘A Framework for Action: Next steps for Regulatory and Policy Powers over Energy in Wales’, adds: “We need a mind change; if each of us invest a bit of our savings in renewables, we can make the difference.”

The Re-energising Wales study also defines renewables as an essential factor in increasing job opportunities, especially on a local scale. If the plan to lead Wales to be 100% renewable by 2035 is implemented, it’s estimated that 10,000 full time jobs would be created, making a positive impact on the local communities.

I, for one, am excited to see Wales commit to, invest and ultimately transform in to a country powered by renewable resources. The aspiration is high but we have the capabilities to lead create a more sustainable future!