Responding to the statement by the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, in the Senedd yesterday on the urgent need to upgrade Wales’ electricity grid network, RenewableUK Cymru’s Director, Jess Hooper said:
“We support the Welsh Government’s recognition of the necessary proactive coordinated action required and the urgent need for new infrastructure to move away from fossil fuels. It is imperative we take action now, and we look forward to working with them to understand the scale and scope of the infrastructure needed. Our recent report, ‘The Critical Role of Welsh Wind Power’, highlights that Wales needs to quadruple how much wind power it generates in just over a decade in order to stay on track to meet the Welsh Government’s target for electricity to be 100% renewable by 2035.
“The shift away from fossil fuels is bringing about a rapid change in our energy system, and the success of this transition is underpinned by the need for a significant amount of new transmission and distribution infrastructure, in the form of cables, substations and pylons.
“Determining the best locations for both energy generation and demand will give us an integrated solution with the least possible cost and impact. It also supports a significant necessity for parts of Mid Wales in terms of electricity provision, broadband connectivity, and enabling a clean energy supply for heating and transport systems.”
The presumption in Wales is that wherever possible, new grid infrastructure should be underground to reduce visual impact, in contrast to the UK Government’s position that new transmission connections will be overhead lines.
Responding to the comments made by the Minister in reference to the potential of using a technology known as ‘cable-ploughing’, as an alternative to conventional undergrounding of transmission lines, Jess Hooper continued:
“Renewable energy companies are exploring a range of innovative options for the construction and operation of green energy infrastructure. It is essential that the new infrastructure Wales needs is designed and routed sensitively, with host communities benefitting directing where possible.
“As a sector we would emphasise the long term need to ensure operating costs are also a consideration. The technical specification for underground cables is likely to be more substantial, costly and environmentally disruptive to maintain and repair.
“Our members, including renewable energy developers and independent distribution network operators are committed to working in partnership with the Welsh Government and local communities to deliver a proactive, coordinated and strategic solution for Wales.
“We were delighted to host the Minister at our ‘Future Energy Wales’ conference in Newport last week and discuss what the renewable energy sector can do to provide a ‘gold standard’ community benefits system for the communities which host this vital infrastructure.”