A report published this week has revealed the opportunities onshore wind presents for Wales if the country is able to achieve it’s renewable energy targets. The report, entitled ‘Economic Opportunities for Wales from Future Onshore Wind Development‘ was produced in partnership between the Cardiff Business School and Regeneris Consulting.
Wales could stand to benefit from an annual £2.3 billion sum contributing to GVA between 2012 -2050. Additionally the onshore wind industry would be able to support 2,000 annual jobs over the same time-frame in a variety of fields including construction, maintenance and decommissioning. Such benefits would obviously be dependant upon achieving the Welsh Assembly’s target of 2,000 MW of installed onshore wind power by 2025.
However, the report also highlighted some of the problems existing with Wales’ current planning policy. It was estimated that if Welsh onshore wind continues to be approved and installed at current rates then the 2025 target will not be achieved. Onshore wind’s contribution to the Welsh economy would stand at a level below £1 billion and the industry would be able to support less than 1,000 jobs in the country.
Reactions to the report were generally positive whilst also trying to make the case for increased devolvement of planning powers to the Welsh Assembly. Dr David Clubb, Director of RenewableUK Cymru commented:
“The report demonstrates that onshore wind energy could provide substantial economic benefits for Wales and also help us to become a more sustainable nation. The opportunity will only arise if the industry is enabled to meet Welsh Government aspirations for onshore wind, which in turn requires a much higher consenting rate.
“Without a significant shift in the consenting rate, and in the overall approach of planning policy in Wales to this sector, we will continue to be held hostage by rising fossil fuel prices and we will fail to meet our renewable energy ambitions with a corresponding missed opportunity to generate livelihoods for more than 2,000 people in Wales.”
John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development strongly made the case for further powers for the Welsh Assembly:
“This report is a welcome addition to the body of evidence that demonstrates that a low carbon transition is not just an environmental imperative, but also a significant economic opportunity for Wales.
“The Welsh Government will be working with the industry and looking to them to demonstrate how, with our help, they ensure that job creation and GVA are delivered against the expectations set out in this report.
“We continue to believe the Welsh Government is best placed to align Wales’ energy aspirations with the needs of our communities. That is why we have repeatedly called upon the UK Government to transfer the power over the consenting of large-scale energy projects to the Welsh Government, in line with the powers already devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland.”
Professor Calvin Jones, Deputy Associate Dean for Engagement, Cardiff Business School echoed these calls:
“Previous research by Cardiff Business School has shown that Wales is the most fossil fuel dependant of British regions. This report shows that there are significant economic benefits from investment in alternative technologies, but only if we can find a regulation and planning regime that encourages such investment within a proper strategy approach to energy generation in Wales.”
The report also serves to illustrate some of the advantages Scotland enjoys when it comes to renewable energy. More ambitious targets, a more enthusiastic devolved government and control over planning policy.