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The politicians’ plans for Wales

More than 50 of Britain’s biggest energy projects, including wind farms, power stations, gas storage sites and high-voltage transmission lines, could be fast-tracked through the planning system under powers handed to the Government today. In the biggest shake-up to Britain’s planning regime in 60 years, the IPC formally came into existence this month. Its goal will be to slash the time needed to secure planning consent for projects considered to be of national importance from as long as seven years to less than a year.

Seven proposed wind farms in Wales, including RWE's 85-megawatt project at Clocaenog Forest and others at Nant-y-Moch, Coed Morgannwg, Carno and Brechfa Forest, are also likely to fall under the brief of the IPC.

See C-Questor Carbon Markets and Climate Change News Letter   By Graham Crawford

 

On the 15th of July 2009 the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon. Mr Ed Miliband MP, published The UK Renewable Energy Strategy (see http://www.decc.gov.uk). The strategy is designed to meet the EU Renewable Energy Directive which specifies that that the UK should supply 15% of its Final Energy Consumption (FEC) from renewables by 2020.

In a recent report the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) concludes that the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy is extremely and heroically optimistic about the scale of the targets, and so almost certainly underestimates the risks, the difficulties and the costs facing the UK. Click here to download the report in pdf format.

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) has warned that Wales will miss its self-imposed wind energy targets of having 800MW installed capacity by 2010 because councils are not giving planning permission quickly enough. Click here to read more of their report.

Christopher Booker, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, takes a closer look at Lord Hunt’s claims that by 2020 thousands of offshore wind turbines could provide ‘more that a quarter of UK’s electricity needs’.

To read the full article, which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on June 28, 2009, follow this link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/5664119/A-pipedream-of-six-turbines-a-day-until-2020.html

 

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the lobbying body for the wind industry, is planning to ask the government for additional financial aid for wind farm developers. The cost of importing turbines has risen as a result of the lower value of the British pound, so the wind industry wants the government to help it through these difficult times!

  To read the full article, which appeared in the Guardian newspaper on 8 March 2009, click here www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/mar/08/wind-farms-seek-state-funding

 

The Forestry Commission have recently announced their preferred developer in each Strategic Search Area (SSA):

TAN 8 SSA

Area

MW planned

Preferred developer

A Clocaenog Forest 140 Npower
B Carno North 290 Scottish Power
C Newtown South 70 No bids, no plans
D Nant-y-Moch 140 Airtricity
E Pontardawe 100 Nuon
F Coed Morgannwg 290 Nuon
G Brechfa Forest 90 Npower

 

 

First Minister Rhodri Morgan has announced that land managed by Forestry Commission Wales is now open for the construction of wind farms.

There is nothing new in this statement. For some time now developers have been assessing the potential for wind farm development on Forestry land. But with this announcement on 25 October at the Wales Forum on Europe sustainable energy event in Swansea, Rhodri Morgan has publicly acknowledged the Assembly’s strategy.

The First Minister said, ‘We want to encourage wind energy and it was only right that we assessed the possibilities of having wind farms on suitable areas of Assembly Government-owned Forestry Commission land.’ 

Forestry Commission Wales is responsible for forestry policy and looks after the 110,000 hectares (272,000 acres) of public forests owned by the Welsh Assembly. Coincidentally, many of the Strategic Search Areas that the Assembly has earmarked for wind farm development include Forestry Commission land.

  But trees and wind turbines do not mix. Trees interfere with wind flow and must be removed to increase turbine output, and profits. So when wind farms are built on forested land, as at Cefn Croes, thousands of acres of trees are cut down to make way for turbines, access roads and overhead power lines.

  The Forestry Commission’s mission statement is to protect and expand Wales’ forests and woodlands. So one wonders if wind farm development is a legitimate, or even legal, use of Forestry Commission land.

In June 2006, the Planning department of the Carmarthenshire County Council released a draft discussion paper intended as "supplementary planning guidance on renewable energy developments" in the county.

The final draft supplementary planning guidance, together with background documents, has now been posted on the Carmarthenshire County Council website: http://www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/index.asp?locID=1277&docID=-1

There are few changes from the original document. The underlying assumptions remain the same: wind farms are an effective strategy in fighting global warming and the Brechfa Forest is a suitable site for this type of industrial development. The County Council planning department has still not replied to the questions we asked in our response to the original draft document (see below).

  It appears that the planning department considers any discussion or debate on the wisdom or the effectiveness of such a strategy is beyond their remit.


In summary, the purpose of this document is to adopt new planning guidelines that will facilitate the development of wind farms in the Brechfa Forest area. The area for wind turbine development is extended, in this document, outside the TAN 8 Strategic Search Area G  (shown by the solid red line below). The extended area, as defined by the document and shown below by the dotted red line, covers 135 square miles, extending south almost to the A40, west of the A485 to Llandysul, north to the A482, and east to the B4802, near Talley. Obviously, wind farm development in this area will have an affect on all of us in Carmarthenshire. Wind turbines will be visible for many miles and bring dramatic changes to the local landscape.  

   The MLAG Working Group prepared a response to this document which was sent to the planning department on November 6, 2006. Click here to see the document.

A covering letter was also sent to all the Carmarthenshire County Councillors warning them of the new planning guidelines and their consequences. Click here to see the cover letter.

 

In October 2005, the Welsh Affairs Committee of the House of Commons announced its terms of reference for an inquiry into Energy in Wales. Click here to read the press release.

The MLAG sent a submission to the committee. Click here to read the cover letter and here to read the submission document.

In July 2006, the final report was published by the Welsh Affairs Committee:

House of Commons, Welsh Affairs Committee. "Energy in Wales", Third report of Session 2005-06. Volume 1: Report, together with formal minutes, and Volume 2: Oral and written evidence (available from The Stationary Office, London, www.tsoshop.co.uk ).

The report gives several references to the MLAG submission, and is critical of many aspects of the government's policy on wind turbines. It has also called into question the democratic validity of the TAN8 policy guideline:

When these two procedures [TAN8 and the Electricity Act] are combined, they leave little – if any – opportunity for local residents in Wales to mount a defence against applications for large wind farms in their locality. Not only is this deeply frustrating, it also undermines the democratic accountability that underpins decision-making in this policy area. We recommend that the Government review this position as a matter of urgency in order to give fair access to the decision- making process for individuals affected by large-scale wind farms in Wales (page 47).

The report has this to say about the public’s right to a satisfactory explanation on the merits of wind energy:

  With the significant expansion of wind farms in Wales , the Welsh public is entitled to be given an objective assessment of its contribution to electricity supply in Wales (page 55).

  The report goes on to say . . .

  … It is unfair to dismiss all opposition to wind energy as nimbyism, without understanding the valid concerns that Wales is being overly populated by wind farms for what those opponents perceive as marginal benefit, set against the possible threat to leisure and tourist industries (page 59).

 

In July 2004, the Welsh Assembly published a draft consultation document outlining its plans for renewable energy initiatives for Wales. The document, known as: Technical Advice Note 8: Renewable Energy, or TAN8, is intended to serve as a guideline for local planning officers when dealing with planning applications for renewable energy projects. Although TAN8 is in theory concerned with all forms of renewable energy initiatives, in reality it deals almost exclusively with wind energy. As a land-use document, TAN8 is concerned with on-shore, rather than off-shore, wind farms.

To read more about TAN8, the consultation process, and the response from MLAG - click here.

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