A Smarter Energy Future

The Assembly's Environment & Sustainability Committee recently published its report on a Smarter Energy Future for Wales. As a member of the committee, here's my thoughts:

 

I was very pleased to visit Radyr Weir and see the work that’s going on to install two turbines. That is going to provide enough electricity for 550 homes.

I feel that all local authorities need to be inspecting the natural resources that are all around them. This is, after all, what local authorities used to do; they used to be municipal energy providers and they need to go back to doing that, not least because their future income from the rate support grant, given the UK Government’s proposals for English local authorities, is obviously quite uncertain. So, this would give local authorities a secure source of income as well as cheaper electricity for their communities.

I think one of the most important things that the next Welsh Government needs to do is to upgrade the part L regulations in relation to building controls. It was really disappointing when the Conservative Government tore up the nearly-zero-carbon regulations that were due to come in this year for goodness knows what reason, other than the fact that they didn’t have the Lib Dems sitting on their backs any longer to stop them doing it. It  is absolutely crucial for the next Welsh Government, because we know that the construction industry is ready to do it, because they thought they were going to have to do it anyway until recently.

I was pleased to hear the First Minister speaking about the importance of the new Wales Bill including the distribution, transmission and storage of energy regulations that the Welsh Government will need to have. At the moment, the energy market is completely dominated by large, foreign-owned distributors; all orchestrated by a private monopoly known as the National Grid.

So, I think a vision that would enable people to produce their own electricity, supply it to their neighbours and then reinvest the surplus value in their local communities: what’s not to like about it? That is the huge difference between community energy projects and foreign-owned energy companies, which, while they may be necessary for really big projects like the Swansea basin project, at the end of the day, the money from community projects should stay in Wales.

I hope that the Welsh Government will see that this is a massive opportunity for Wales, which we have been slow to take up until now, but we can see from places like Germany that it only took two women in a small village of 2,000 people to develop a business with 150,000 customers. That is the sort of dynamism and entrepreneurism that we need in Wales. I do hope that we will seize the opportunity.

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Jenny Rathbone | Assembly Member for Cardiff Central

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