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Welsh Government 'going backwards' over renewables

The Welsh Government has been accused of “going backwards” with its renewable energy policies after figures revealed it had seen a fall in output last year

Figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) showed that Wales had missed its renewable energy targets by an “embarrassing margin”, Friends of the Earth Cymru claimed.

The green group said that less electricity was generated from renewables last year than in 2008, a 0.3 per cent fall, while the UK as a whole had increased its generation by more than 20 per cent in the same period.

But the Welsh Government maintained it was on target to exceed targets for renewable energy in 2020 – and blamed the fall on weather conditions affecting the efficiency of renewable stations.

But Gareth Clubb, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said that it was evidence that something had gone “badly wrong” in Wales, and said it didn’t bode well for Carwyn Jones’ plea for the devolution of renewable projects up to 100mw.

Mr Clubb said: “We’re constantly told that Wales is ahead of the game in sustainability.

“But the Welsh Government’s flagship target on renewable energy has been missed by such a huge margin it’s embarrassing.

“While green energy generation has steadily grown around the world, in Wales we’re going backwards.

“Every other country in the UK has moved ahead – Scotland now produces nearly six times more renewable energy than Wales. Welsh Ministers need to wake up to the fact that renewables like solar, wind and tidal power mean jobs.”

Kim Bryan, spokeswoman for the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Powys, also criticised the figures, saying that the centre was “extremely concerned” at the slow progress.

She said: “Wales has huge potential for the development of renewables to provide many needed jobs and stimulate the Welsh manufacturing sector whilst tackling the crucial issue of climate change.

“We are extremely concerned by the slow progress of the deployment of renewables in Wales and the implications for the Welsh economy and global environment.

“Welsh ministers need to take action now to pave the way for a renewable energy future – this includes negotiating with Westminster but also effective communications and consultations strategies to get the public on side.”

But a spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said that while the drop was “disappointing”, fluctuating weather conditions had a “major influence” on the generating efficiency of renewable stations.

She said: “We have actually doubled our capacity for renewable energy output since 2007.

“However weather conditions are a major influence on the generating efficiency of renewable stations and we appreciate that the average level of rainfall and wind speed will fluctuate from year to year and will affect the total generation figures.”

She said that latest figures showed Wales producing 3TWh of electricity from renewables, and another 5TWh was either consented, under construction or in the planning process, meaning Wales was on course to exceed the original 2020 target of 7TWh.

She added: “We do believe that the process for consenting major onshore and offshore energy infrastructure projects is not operating as efficiently as it should be. It is vital to address this to ensure that Wales’ gets the maximum benefit from the predicted £50bn of investment in energy.

“We are already working to streamline and improve the planning system more generally so that it provides clarity for Welsh businesses and individuals. Also the First Minister has called repeatedly for the UK Government to devolve responsibility for consenting major energy projects to Wales so that we have the necessary power and tools to fully address this issue.”