Wales – Energy self-sufficient before 2050?

Hywel Lloyd says we need to take a ‘whole system’ view of Energy Policy

Decisions that we make over the coming decade will do much to realize the energy that the Welsh people can draw upon in 2050, so I welcome this week’s IWA conference to consider Wales’ energy supply, security and resilience by 2050 that far into the future.  It is a proper recognition of the timescale of the investments that need to be made.


This week on Click on Wales

This week on Click on Wales we’ve be asking what type of energy policy we want for Wales.
This comes alongside the IWA’s energy summit held this week in Cardiff. To catchup on the debate follow the hashtag #energywales.

Having spent much of 2008/10 working on the UK National Energy Planning Policy Statements, and much of 2011/14 helping deliver the local energy potential of a number of local authorities in England and Wales I hope the following observations can help Wales make the most of its opportunities.

One of the hardest challenges is to ensure enough time is spent thinking through the situation that we will be dealing with, but that’s essential – we are making investment decisions to serve us for 30 or 40 years, and the world will have changed.

Time is needed to consider what I would call ‘the whole system’ to allow a vision of the future to emerge.  The ‘whole system’ has to include an understanding of the users and uses of energy (i.e. the nature of the economy, what sort of jobs will be done in 2030, 2040 and beyond); the system of managing demand and supply, and of course reducing unnecessary demand; the ways in which energy use interacts with resource use and waste management; and the many potential sources of energy and technologies we can deploy.

Taking a ‘whole system’ view is important, doing that with as many contributors as possible can make the difference between a hard and not so hard journey to implementation.

While the energy voices are perhaps obvious, they can also bring something of a vested interest in a certain type of solution.  Any consideration must include those who will use the energy.  While that would obviously include business and homeowners it is increasingly obvious that communities can and do form an important part of the future ‘energy system’ and should be properly heard.

Consideration should be given to the principles that should govern our approach. That could focus on reducing our affect on the climate; it could focus on jobs and developing the Welsh economy; it could focus on energy self-sufficiency.  All are valid drivers of what we could or should do, the challenge is to consider them equally and collectively for as long as possible to maximize those solutions that have a positive effect on them all, before considering less optimal solutions.

With an emerging view of our ‘energy purpose’ and a growing consensus from the many and varied parties who are involved, we should then consider what public bodies in Wales can already do.   I agree with the debate that says Wales should have more energy planning powers.  I would, though, go further and say that Wales, the Welsh government (nationally and locally) can already do much more on energy if they choose to make it an objective of government – from exhortation and making the case, to ensuring that all discretionary activity, in business development, on skills, on inward investment, are directed at delivering Wales’ energy ambitions.

In doing so Wales can and should build on the learning and experience of other places.  A debate that is restricted to Welsh voices will miss out on the learning of the core cities of England, of nations such as Iceland and New Zealand; and would risk us making some of their mistakes (when of course we should learn what we can from them and make our own, new mistakes).

Finally there is the whole question of what technology and what energy source.  For me these things should always be considered early as part of the ‘whole system’ view BUT decided on later in the conversation when there is a shared view of the purposes and needs our energy system is going to address.

Too many energy conversations are dominated about which kit.  That neglects the point of energy – to help us live and work, to build communities and our economy, to make our way in the world.

It is also true that too many energy conversations are about electricity.   Energy for heating and transport are easily as important to our future, to our communities and to our success in the world, be that economically or in showing climate leadership, so we should ensure we think about their use, generation and supply at least as hard as we do about electricity.

So, in summary, first take a step back and to try and take a whole system view; second, involve as many contributors as possible; third, consider what public bodies in Wales can already do; fourth, build on the learning and experience of others; and then decide which technology and policies will help deliver what we want in the way that we want it.

Hywel Lloyd is an independent advisor on public policy and delivery, and the Founder of Facilitating the Future Ltd.

2 thoughts on “Wales – Energy self-sufficient before 2050?

  1. Agree totally with the system approach. Eggs in a few basket approach eg nuclear, central grid and business as usual approach restricts economic growth. Cloud working, 3d printing, future travel, demand side management, smart… Everything! Are the top of the glacier. My wife told me that in 1990 that I could not even imagine the jobs which would exist in 2015. Therefore thinking from now to 2050 is unimaginable. But the one thing we need but engineers recoil from is ‘flexibility and adaptability’

    But let’s not spend too much time thinking how to repair the sinking boat or it will be too late.

    Best is the enemy of good enough!

  2. hywel writes “I agree with the debate that says Wales should have more energy planning powers”. It goes without saying that energy should be an area that is fully devolved to wales, as it would obviously be impossible for wales to get anywhere near energy self sufficiency if all the major decision making powers pertaining to energy should remain the preserve of westminister. To appreciate just how absurd and unacceptable the current state of affairs is consider the fact that the british government can decide to do something as contentious and far reaching as building a new nuclear power station at wylfa and we in wales are virtually powerless over the matter. Similarly the senedd is powerless on the matter of the issuing of fracking licenses in wales

    It is then disappointing to note that in a motion agreed by the 4 party leaders in the senedd, and which is to be laid before the senedd next week, that a rquest for further devolution of energy powers to wales appears to be missing. As even those opposed to energy being fully devolved to wales would have to concede that the current arrangement whereby the senedd only has powers over applications below 50MW is wholly inadequate for wales to put together a coherent and viable long term energy plan.

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