Part of Renewable UK’s bread and butter is talking to stakeholders about policy and regulatory interventions we think are required to reach net zero emissions.
This isn’t restricted to established technology of course. We’re now working hard to influence the investment decisions needed to underpin emerging renewable and low carbon technologies such as floating offshore wind and green hydrogen production.
In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, ‘build back better’ has become the epigram of choice to describe the way in which we should plan our way out of the crisis.
But, reflecting on this week’s ‘Re-think’ content broadcast by the BBC, history teaches that you can’t wish yourself to success when confronted with epoch-defining crises. History might have different ideas.
An initial commonality of purpose can and does quickly refract into constituent interests. It provides a huge challenge for Government.
The fact that Net zero is already a legally binding obligation to which all four countries of the UK are signatory (albeit on slightly different trajectories) provides some momentum.
But the scale of the climate and natural emergencies combined with insights we’re already gleaning from lock-down suggest that we can move a lot, lot faster.
I chaired a webinar last week – part of RenewableUK Cymru’s virtual energy group series – looking at what grid changes we needed to see in Wales, not just to decarbonise but to achieve a sustainable, balanced economy.
Grid has long been a vexed issue for Wales; a chronically constrained swathe of Mid Wales poses a significant challenge to ambitions to deliver decarbonisation, particularly under a ‘high electrification’ scenario.
Along the North and South Wales corridors, it’s likely there will be a need to accommodate significant new developments offshore.
In Mid Wales, it’s taken all the 2010s to not deliver the infrastructure which would be required to connect several ‘shovel ready’ projects. Many other projects have waited years to be connected.
We simply cannot afford to operate on these timescales anymore, and I don’t hear many people disagreeing with that.
If anything, there’s an understanding that we need to come at this problem from the other end – by consenting the infrastructure first, and then building the generation when needs arise.
This is obviously not a zero-cost option, but it does seem to be more consistent with a ‘least regrets’ pathway ethos.
And it’s good to see that strengthening energy networks “to support electrification of transport and heating” are front and centre of the UK Climate Change Committee’s recommendations in its annual report to parliament.
I am also pleased to be sitting on the steering group which has been convened to inform a new study looking at the specific challenges Mid Wales faces and how we unlock these.
It’s a little daunting because of the history, but this time, we have the wind in our sails.
Wales can chart its own course to a green, sustainable recovery.