Today sees the Welsh Government launch its consultation on the National Development Framework (NDF).

This is a critical piece of planning policy work which sets the direction for development of renewable energy projects (Onshore wind and solar) between 2020 and 2040.

Wales has been extremely progressive in its consideration of how the policy decisions it takes today resonate beyond the term of the current administration.

Underpinning this is the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) (2015).  This requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.

Renewable UK Cymru also recognises the recent announcement Welsh Government made that it wished to exceed the 95% GHG emissions reduction target recommended by the UK Climate Change Committee.  There is clear intent to tackle the climate emergency head on.

Critical to the NDF as far as renewable energy is concerned is its consideration of the potential areas in which renewable energy projects might be delivered in future.  The basic premise is a ‘traffic light’ system which indicates ‘preferred areas for development’, areas in which development is not permitted, and then everything else where there is no presumption/acceptance that development will take place and an expectation of no unacceptable adverse effects on the environment.

RenewableUK Cymru members will spend the next three months scrutinising the consultation document.

On first sight, there do appear to be some difficulties which must be addressed.

Most obviously is the fact that the new areas do not correspond neatly with the old ‘Strategic Search Area’ model, which leaves some question regarding the future viability of some projects which were previously within the areas deemed appropriate but now which aren’t.

Second, the ongoing absence of a market mechanism through which onshore wind can be brought forward makes factors such as wind-speed and turbine tip height critical in considering whether a potential project could be viable.   The locations outlined in the NDF consultation do not seem ideally situated to reflect these considerations.

Third, the application of an indicative housing buffer to the ‘preferred areas’ Welsh Government has outlined would seem to reveal that substantial areas would be unsuitable for onshore wind development at scale.

Whereas we welcome warmly the Welsh Government’s intent and commitment to driving renewable energy infrastructure as part of Wales’ energy transition, there is clearly some discussion warranted around the composition of the preferred areas of renewable energy development.

We look forward to putting these points across having reviewed thoroughly the content of the consultation document.