Thursday, 30 August 2012


The news that the Welsh Government has been warned that it is not harnessing the full potential of its natural environment should come as no real surprise. A report produced by the Green Alliance (an environmental think tank) shows that the UK's green economy has remained relatively healthy since the banking crisis but Wales could do much better when it comes to developing sustainable energy and sustainable energy related jobs.

Some 41,500 people work in what are classed as low-carbon or environmental jobs in Wales. While that is more than the work in financial services or the motor trade it is well short of the biggest employers such as the health sector where more than 190,000 people work or the retail sector which employs 140,000. The report reveals that £ 443 million was invested in renewable energy sector in Wales last year, yet only around 6.29% of the electricity used in Wales is produced from renewable sources.

This depressing figure is actually lower than the UK average of 7.45% and significantly behind Scotland's 22.45%. This might be interpreted to suggest that the Welsh (Labour) Government in Cardiff is fairly indifferent to developing sustainable energy resources in Wales. The situation is very different in Scotland where the Scottish Government views things very differently and is acting with a sense of urgency.

Perhaps, aside form having their hands tied by planning restrictions and powers, more to the point they have (so far) utterly failed to grasp a real opportunity to think differently and generate energy jobs. Perhaps simply lacking the imagination or the political will to think for themselves, preferring to rely on costly inefficient ‘British’ solutions to our energy needs. The later may be closer to the mark considering New and Old Labours historic indifference towards the concept of Wales.

1 comment:

  1. The 6.29% figure is disappointing, Jonathan, but it all depends on how you do the maths. The calculations Green Alliance did are here.

    Both Wales and Scotland export electricity. But GA have done the maths in such a way that a proportion of electricity generated in Wales and Scotland from renewables is accounted as being used in England.

    They start with net electricity generated, and rightly make a percentage allowance for transmission and distribution losses (on average 7.5%). So far so good, but they then indulge in some mathematical sleight of hand by compounding this with the electricity Wales and Scotland export. The effect is to reduce the percentage figure from renewables in Wales and Scotland but increase it for importers of electricity like England and Northern Ireland.

    Therefore Wales' electricity generation from renewables gets reduced by 31.1% instead of 7.5% (it's slightly less, but the UK average figure will do), Scotland's gets reduced by 27.6% instead of 7.5%, England's gets reduced by 2.6% instead of 7.5% and NI's actually increases by 21.7% instead of reducing by 7.5%.

    This is not exactly wrong, for electricity is electricity no matter how it has been generated. But it masks the overall picture, which is that England and NI are consuming renewable electricity that has been disproportionately generated in Wales and Scotland.

    It would be clearer to say that Wales' 1,621 GWh/yr should be reduced by only 7.5% for transmission and distribution losses to 1,499 GWh/yr, i.e. that the electricity we generate from renewables accounts for 8.45% of the electricity we consume rather than 6.29%. The equivalent figure for Scotland would be 28.67% instead of 22.45%, for NI 8.34% instead of 10.98%, and for England 4.87% instead of 5.12%.