Wales’ devolved government this afternoon declared its intention to meet 100% of the nation’s electricity needs from renewable sources as early as 2035.
Describing the 100% goal as ‘ambitious but credible’, Julie James AM, climate change minister in the Senedd, unveiled a consultation on how the target can be met, only a dozen years from now.
She confirmed Wales is already making good progress on previous targets set in 2017. The nation already generates 55% of its electricity from renewables, against the 38.2% contributed last year by clean, non-nuclear methods to the UK grid.
The minister today proposed at least 1.5 GigaWatt of renewables capacity should be locally owned by 2035, over and above any contribution from domestic or industrial heat pumps.
A 2035 target of a further 5.5 GigaWatt of additional Welsh generation from heat pumps is subject to increased support from Westminster’s UK-wide government, and falls in the cost of relevant technologies.
Minister James said: “Our previous targets in 2017 signalled our high ambitions for renewable energy and this Government’s desire to move away from use of, and reliance on, fossil fuels.
“However, the climate crisis shows that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Providing new targets compels us to stride towards Net Zero as quickly as we realistically can”.
If achieved, the goal will see Wales’ economy completing its switch to green power far faster than the UK as a whole.
Published in December 2020, then UK premier Johnson’s white paper on UK energy, ‘Powering our Net Zero Future’, contemplates around 5% per cent of power generation even in the Net Zero year of 2050 still coming from gas or hydrocarbon sources. Offsetting, possibly through financial instruments, would ensure the Zero goal.
Though renewables accounted in 2019 for 54% of all Britain’s electricity, the predicted need to grow output fourfold by mid-century makes complete UK-wide elimination of fossil-fuelled power difficult.
Minister James stressed that Wales’ infrastructure and supply chain would be key to hitting Cardiff’s targets. The Assembly will also underwrite £1m to explore the potential of offshore wind.
Matching the Senedd’s subsidies, Britain’s biggest harbour operator Associated British Ports said it would go pound for pound in funding preparatory work on floating offshore wind projects, earmarked to sail from Welsh ports.
The minister hailed the parties’ commitment to floating turbines.
“We will continue to work closely with Port Talbot, Milford Haven Port Authority and colleagues in the Celtic Sea Alliance to maximise the benefits from floating wind to Wales”, said Ms James AM.
The alliance began in October 2019 as an umbrella group of developers, operators and devolved and regional governments, tasked to promote marine energy. Its conference last September examined floating turbines’ commercial potential for Welsh energy.
Grants of ten-year leases in the Celtic Sea’s Welsh and neighbouring waters are due to be finalised over the next nine months. In December, lease facilitators the Crown Estate provided further pre-leasing information to likely developers.
Andrew Harston, ABP’s regional director added today: “Associated British Ports warmly welcomes this early-stage support from the Welsh government to help kick start the development of a major green energy hub at Port Talbot.
“This support is key to the construction of transformational infrastructure, which will enable the manufacturing, integration and assembly of floating offshore wind components at Port Talbot.
“The roll-out of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for South Wales to lead a global market and will play a major role in contributing to Wales and the UK’s net zero targets. By doing so it will support and create thousands of long-term, high-quality jobs.
“As the gateway to the Celtic Sea, and with unique capabilities and natural advantages, this support will help position Port Talbot at the heart of these emerging green technologies and industrial decarbonisation.”