Future Energy Wales 2022 was bustling, buzzing and brimming with optimism.
A renewed focus on the Celtic Sea auction was the main story in town. But it was more than that. Wales has a huge role to play in shaping a future around its natural resources, tapping into its industrial talent, and working together on a critical purpose – generating clean energy and reaching net zero.
As we know, net zero is not easy. There are billions of pounds of investment waiting to go into Wales, political will and (almost) all the right policies. The planning process is in place too.
There are six themes which came up at Future Energy Wales:
- Ports – Wales has some excellent ports and the Celtic Sea leasing round offers an opportunity for scale. Government’s Freeport’s policy also presents an opportunity to ensure ports are diverse, vibrant centres of innovation.
- Grid – for Wales to maximise the opportunity for generating electricity from its natural resources (and new nuclear), new connections are needed. Although an uncomfortable truth for some, the lack of suitable capacity is a hand break on the Welsh economy.
- Long term market and skills – the next Celtic Sea leasing round is unlikely to be the last. Onshore wind is supported by the Welsh Government. In order to sustain long term investment in the green economy, industry needs a long term market. When asked, most delegates felt the Welsh Government should have a GW energy target, not an energy consumption target. The sentiment behind this is an opportunity for Wales to be a net exporter of renewable energy and in return a booming market.
- Skills – Wales’ industrial heritage means it also has an opportunity to build a new skills profile in renewable energy generation for the 21st Century. This would enable Wales to become a global market leader of green energy, as when Cardiff port handled more coal than any other in the world at the beginning of the previous century. This requires investment from stakeholders across the board.
- Welsh government owned energy company – the Welsh Government plans to set up its own energy company by 2024 with the aim of generating more than 1GW by 2030. This is a similar policy to the Labour Party’s position in England, announced at the party’s conference by Sir Keir Starmer in September. While it makes sense for government to want to take a more active role, private business will require clarity about access to sites and planning.
- Hydrogen and decarbonisation – Wales has an opportunity to play a globally leading role in decarbonising its core industries, especially in South Wales – steel, energy generation and port operation. New technologies, CCS, hydrogen production and transport are major opportunities.
Future Energy Wales demonstrated the commitment, intelligence and latent investment ready to go into Wales’ renewables market. As one delegate said, aside from Wales not delivering on this opportunity, the biggest failure would be for turbines to be shipped into Wales without any content created domestically.