Wales has always been on the forefront of British renewable developments. The Celtic nation was one of the first in Europe to take green technologies seriously with the Centre for Alternative Technology opening and spearheading research back in the early 1970s.
Fast-forward a decade and the pioneering Dulas consultancy opened its doors, almost immediately leading the way with an impressive list of British firsts. Design and installation of the first off-grid solar PV system, installation of the first 10-metre-high wind monitoring masts and the world’s first solar powered vaccine refrigeration system for use in developing nations.
This culture of innovation continues today with companies like Riversimple springing up and making history with their hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles. And on a community scale, Wales has enacted some of the greatest transformations seen across the whole of the British Isles. Port Talbot – a location strongly associated with the ravages of the oil industry – has become a shining example of renewal and revolution. The town has recently taken the crown for being the area with the greatest renewable energy generation (1122 GWh).
So it’s no surprise that announcements around further renewable developments come thick and fast from the tiny but mighty nation.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen three news items that, taken collectively, demonstrate that for those building careers in green technologies, Wales is the place to be.
Ambitious future-proofing plans announced
To kick things off, the Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters published an “intensive deep dive” into Welsh renewables.
“Our vision is clear”, Waters stated, “we want Wales to generate renewable energy to at least fully meet our energy needs and utilise surplus generation to tackle the nature and climate emergencies.”
The minister has worked alongside a panel of experts to identify barriers to further renewables progress and to draw up a game plan to meet gaps in provision.
“To meet Net Zero we’ve got to increase the amount of green energy we generate five-fold in the next 30 years”, he stated, promising that the Welsh Government will prioritise actions to reaffirm Welsh commitment to transformational energy generation.
The report’s recommendations include:
*A clearer vision and plan for Welsh renewables.
*A scaling up of local energy plans to create a national energy plan by 2024.
*A commitment to work with Natural Resources Wales to carry out an end-to-end review of the marine licensing, consenting and *supporting advisory processes to remove barriers.
*A promise to explore ways of drawing down additional investment in renewable energy generation in Wales.
*That the Welsh Government will prioritise local and community ownership to maximise local economic and social value.
In addition to that, Welsh fortunes were boosted by an announcement of continued private investment from energy giant SP (Scottish Power) Energy Networks.
SP Energy Networks is about to embark on a multi-billion-pound spend to support the rapid growth of renewables needed to reach Net Zero targets as well as the uptake of new, green technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps.
As part of this plan, Scottish Power will be supporting the Welsh Government’s Net Zero Wales Plan in its role as network operator for North and Mid Wales.
Frank Mitchell, CEO of ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN), said: “We’re committed to working with the Welsh Government and our other network operators to deliver a network ready for Net Zero.”
“That’s why we’re looking to invest £650m ($880.4m) in the electricity distribution network in Wales from 2023 to 2028, supporting hundreds of green jobs and enabling the decarbonisation of heat and transport that is absolutely crucial to deliver Wales’ climate change targets.”
Welsh tidal energy
Adding to the good news, the UK Government has also set out plans this week to pump £20m ($27.1m) per year into tidal stream technology, kickstarting a brand-new chapter of Wales’ tidal industry and creating jobs across the Welsh coastline.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stated that, “With 1,200km of coastline and excellent tidal resource, Wales is perfectly placed to capitalise on clean marine energy, building on our booming offshore wind sector which is now a British industrial success story.”
“The investment today provides a major push for Welsh tidal power to become a key part of the next generation of renewable electricity projects needed to strengthen energy security as we work to reduce our dependency on volatile fossil fuels.”
Between established industries, private investment, public investment and both British and Welsh ministerial support, the future of Welsh renewables looks bright indeed.
For industry watchers and industry players alike, this long-sidelined country looks set to become a hub of experimental energy generation.
And with the impeccable credentials and history that the nation has within the green sector, there’s no doubt that they can pull it off.
Jemma King is a frequent blogger for Renewable Energy World, and is an Associate Project Manager at Arevon Energy.