How the economy works, what it produces and their impact on how we relate to each other and the political decisions we make is a fascinating subject. People, organisations and politicians alike are recognising that increasing inequality between economic groups, generations and parts of the country, combined with issues of environmental degradation and the growth of new and more precarious forms of work, are among the less desirable results of our current economic system with direct political outcomes.
So I am heartened to see the publication of a new report from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Funding Renewable Energy Projects in Wales, that comes hot on the heels of Making the most of Brexit – our own recent report in partnership with the think-tank Demos, that addressed the opportunities and threats to the creation of a more resilient economic system in the UK after Brexit. The report confirmed that in the wake of Brexit, the economy in Wales may be particularly vulnerable to economic shock. Yet increased diversity within the economies of regions and nations in the UK – including Wales – could do much to mediate some of the sectoral and geographical risks that Brexit brings.
Central to the theme of Funding Renewable Energy Projects in Wales is the need for more community owned renewable energy schemes. As a Foundation, we ourselves are beginning to explore the use of our capital base to increase the scale of community-controlled renewable energy, through direct investment in enterprises such as AWEL community renewables, as well as challenging the utilities sector to incorporate such schemes in their business models through engagement through our mainstream investment portfolio.
I strongly believe that the role of renewable energy to grow economic potential can’t be underestimated and building more “clean” and “green” on-shore capacity in the next two years will do much to create sustainable economies. Renewable energy across Wales has the potential to substantially boost the Welsh economy and to significantly help Wales to meet its climate change target. It’s good to see that such work is underway, creating solutions to address industrial policy development in Wales that are appropriate in scale, focus and ambition to Wales’ long term needs.
The IWA’s excellent report highlights the missed opportunities and the main barriers to raising financial capital for renewable energy schemes from within Wales in order to ensure that wider economic and social benefits are retained locally.
In the post Brexit world we’re entering, a vision for change will be vital. Over the coming years, Friends Provident Foundation will devote its resources toward working with partners to develop a vision for the economies of the British Isles that maximises the opportunities and manages the risks as we move into this new era.