Wales: A Renewable Energy Future

Shea Buckland-Jones shares major new research from the Re-energising Wales project and calls for increased action on renewable energy.

Today marks an important day for the IWA Re-energising Wales project. Today we launch a significant amount of the project’s research, following a huge amount of time, consideration and debate with our steering group members and many others who support the project’s ambition. I’ll be honest, it’s involved blood, sweat and tears (tears mine) to get us to this point, and we’re enormously grateful to everyone who has worked with us on taking these important steps towards our goal.  


The vision of the Re-energising Wales project is for Wales to meet 100% of its energy demand from renewables by 2035.  Wales’ natural resources provide us with a huge potential to achieve this.


In all honesty, we were frustrated by people just talking about Wales’ potential and decided that we needed to prove it.  So that’s exactly what we’ve sought to do through the project by providing the evidence base and numbers that policy makers, industry and communities can use to take action.  


Through this 3 year project, we are creating a practical plan for achieving this ambitious vision. It is led by the IWA and supported by a steering group of experts from industry, communities and academia. The project is divided into six workstreams, two of which are being launched today.


Firstly, in partnership with Cardiff University, we have produced a report on the energy demands of buildings in Wales. WE’ve also produced a summary. This will help us better understand how, when and where we use our energy. The report’s findings can be used by a whole range of organisations and individuals to develop options for reducing energy demand and to compare renewable energy supply profiles with the likely demand in different geographical areas across Wales. For example, this data could be used by local authorities and Registered Social Landlords to develop local, tailor-made solutions at postcode, local authority or building level, when considering where to deploy energy efficiency measures, renewable energy supply measures and tackle fuel poverty most effectively.


Secondly, we have created a model to use this demand data and other evidence to show how we can make the most of Wales’ renewable energy potential. Our partnership with Regen has used the Swansea Bay City Region (SBCR) as a case study to show how to make the most of renewable energy potential on a regional scale. The model we have developed is openly available for regions and cities across Wales,  the UK, and beyond so that they can use a similar approach in their area.


Our results show that the SBCR is well-placed to act as a pathfinder for Wales and demonstrate the practical steps needed to maximise the potential of renewable energy.  With ambitious, urgent action, our case study shows the region can make significant progress towards the project’s 2035 goal. Some of these key opportunities include:


  • A massive uptake of energy efficiency measures, combined with heat-pump technology and on-site renewable generation through roof-top and integrated building PV. Over 200,000 domestic properties within the SBCR would need energy efficiency improvements. In the IWA’s view, Wales needs an implementation plan to improve energy efficiency drastically, delivering on the ambitions set out in Welsh Government’s Energy Efficiency in Wales strategy.
  • Wales needs to harness its offshore wind and marine energy and seize the opportunity to push for more wind farms in Wales in the upcoming Crown Estate leasing rounds, due in 2018/19. Wales has a significant marine resource which offers considerable opportunity for technology development from which the SBCR can create new jobs, investment and capabilities.
  • The decarbonisation of heat will create opportunities for Wales to develop new capabilities and accelerate its transition to a thriving low carbon economy. The commercial exploitation of bioenergy offers perhaps the greatest overall opportunity and we need an evidence-based assessment of bioenergy potential in Wales.
  • SBCR has already shown great leadership on energy, and should be commended for their ambition and actions to date. We believe the region can act as a pathfinder for Wales: it should bring together  public, private and voluntary sectors to take action and ensure the region takes full advantage of the smart energy transformation for its people and communities.
  • Transport is a significant driver of climate change and air pollution. Exponential growth is needed in Ultra Low Emission Vehicles alongside a push for active travel and increased use of public transport.


One thing that’s clear is while our case study vision demonstrates a realistic view of the potential of what could be achieved, delivering the vision presents very significant challenges. These challenges can only be met by regions in Wales working together, within an overall supportive policy framework and in partnership with industry.


The top five opportunity areas identified above are just the tip of the iceberg. Similar analysis, if conducted for other city regions and rural areas in Wales, would show the breadth of opportunity that exists across the country and highlight the potential for Wales to position itself in the vanguard of the low carbon energy transformation.


Arguably, the high level policy framework from Welsh Government is in place. The priority now should be to turn overarching goals into targets and shorter-term objectives that can be actioned at a local and regional level. Targets that will act as a call to action for the many individuals, communities, businesses and other organisations that will be needed to deliver a new low carbon economy for Wales.


Watch this space for more research coming out of the Re-energising Wales project  in 2018 on economic impact, community and local ownership of renewable assets, and on the consideration of the powers and regulation needed to support growth in renewable energy. All these findings will be combined in a final project plan that we will publish at the beginning of 2019.  We will continue to work to secure cross-party support in creating an ambitious but achievable renewable energy programme for Wales.


I’m ready for further blood, sweat and tears.  It will be worth it.




Shea Buckland-Jones is Re-energising Wales Project Coordinator.

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