On-shore renewables offer massive opportunities, but are we failing to grasp them?


Paul has been at CAT for over twenty years, and is now Director of Outreach. Trained as an engineer, he helped design, develop and produce a wide range of renewable energy systems including solar-powered medical systems for use in Bosnia, Eritrea and many other parts of the world. Paul now leads the Zero Carbon Britain strategy programme, liaising with key policy-makers and business leaders to spread CAT’s message. Below, he writes about the Future of Renewable Energy in Wales conference that was held recently at CAT.

In the 18 months since the launch of Zero Carbon Britain there has been a flurry of new scenarios showing how renewables can make a big difference to our energy supply. Scotland is steaming ahead with its objective of meeting 100% of electricity demand with renewable energy by 2020. Launched this week a new WWF report “Positive Energy: how renewable electricity can transform the UK by 2030” recommends that a target should be set for renewables to supply at least 60% of UK electricity demand by 2030. Together with appropriate long-term policies and investment, this will give the renewable energy supply chain the certainty it needs to invest in the UK. By using this amount of renewable energy, we can decarbonise the power sector without resorting to new nuclear power. We will also be able to maintain system security – that is, provide enough electricity at all times to make sure there’s never a risk of the ‘lights going out’.

A conference attendee puts a question to the panel.

However the latest State of the Industry report from trade association RenewableUK revealed that planning approval rates in 2010/11 for new wind farms fell by 11 per cent to an all-time low of just 42 per cent. Meanwhile, the average amount of time projects wait for planning approval increased from 24 to 33 months.

To catalyse a process of closer collaboration to make wind happen, in October 2011, CAT hosted a conference bringing together key players in the future of renewable energy in Wales. The event was very well attended, providing a unique forum for discussion between industry, nature conservation bodies, government, planning consultants and third sector agents on how to better achieve our goals for clean energy generation in Wales. The event resulted in agreement to explore much deeper collaborations.

The panel (left to right: Peter Davies, Brian Morgan, Chair Cynog Dafis)

One of the crucial areas identified was planning, not least as in Wales it has been devolved, and is in the control of Welsh Government. To further explore this area, Eversheds are holding a conference on “Planning for renewable energy in Wales: Essential policy update & practical guidance on Welsh planning projects” on the 29th November in Cardiff. This conference sets out to provide an update on changes to the planning process, provide practical guidance on building successful applications for renewable energy projects, and explore how to overcome key problems associated with Welsh planning procedures.  For more details see this brochure.