Here in Wales we need to create a national energy company for Wales to generate sustainable and reasonably priced energy, which can also be part of the solution to create a low carbon society. Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Simon Thomas, (Mid and West Plaid Cymru Assembly Member) has backed the idea to establish a national energy company, Ynni Cymru, which will run as a not-for-dividend company at arms-length from the Welsh Government.
Plaid Cymru’s vision for energy and the environment is for a Wales that reduces its carbon emissions, harnesses its natural resources sustainably, and seizes opportunities in the low-carbon and circular economies. The link between energy and climate change is clear.
One step, which the Party of Wales believes the Welsh Government should take now, to increase energy generation from renewables is to set up a national energy company, Ynni Cymru. to be run as a not-for-dividend company at arms-length from Welsh Government.
A number of actions could fall into the remit of Ynni Cymru, including: reducing the cost per unit of energy to homes and businesses in Wales, reducing the consumption of energy in homes and businesses and helping consumers to make informed decisions based on smart metering technology.
Ynni Cymru would be tasked with funding the mass installation, outsourced to local companies, of solar panels on the roofs of households, business premises and lampposts in Wales, beginning with public buildings and social housing. The company would coordinate and facilitate the use of publicly owned land for renewable energy purposes.
The company could finance the acquisition and development of new large-scale generating and storage capacity, ensuring Wales becomes self-sufficient in renewable energy and becomes a renewable energy exporter. It could boost our energy market by ensuring the development of a national producer cooperative among community energy organisations.
The problem we face is that our energy production and distribution model was restructured to primarily benefit the big 6 energy cartel members, their interests and their (City) profits. From the perspective of energy consumers and smaller scale energy producers, or anyone who wants things to change the problem is that all the Westminster based political parties have quietly bought into this cartel dominated model of energy production and ownership (or perhaps more truthfully were quietly bought).
The reality is that the UK’s cartel dominated model for energy production and distribution is not necessarily the norm everywhere in Europe or around the world. Now contrary to what you might think, and here from Westminster; realistic alternatives exist and actually prosper, a particularly good example of a balanced and healthy energy mix can be found in Germany. Small may very well be beautiful, even with a geographically sizeable state, especially in relation to energy, in 2012 some 22% of the countries energy came from small scale green entrepreneurs.
Community based co-operatives (both urban and rural), farmers and homeowners are part of the 1.3 million renewable energy producers and part of the energy mix. In Germany, citizens’, cooperatives, and communities own more than half of German renewable capacity. Small-scale electricity generation is having a knock on effect encouraging change throughout the energy system.
In Berlin, a cooperative (Burger Energie Berlin – literally Berlin Citizens Energy) continues to campaign to take control of the capital's electricity grid with some 35,000km of underground cables. The cooperative is a free, cross-party coalition of citizens who are committed to a sustainable, sustainable and democratic energy policy in Berlin. Members have one vote regardless of the amount their deposit and anyone who wants the power network to be in civil hand, is welcome.
Ordinary Berliners have invested their cash in the venture with the intention of producing a reliable 100 percent renewable energy supply. The aim is to promote the integration of renewable energy into the grid and to invest a portion of the profits from this directly into the transition to renewable energy.
At present the Berlin electricity grid is run by Vattenfall (whose concession runs out this year) regularly generates millions in profits, members of the co-operative believe that the profits from the grid operation should flow to Berlin’s citizens.
This is grass roots energy generation that has potentially the power to change the nature of the energy supply system (in Germany and elsewhere). They aim to build an energy grid that is better handle the rise of green power and allows local use of locally produced energy. This may well be a case of small being both beautiful and perhaps deeply disturbing from the perspective of Westminster and Cardiff Bay something that it is both community beneficial and community owned.
In Germany, there is a deliberate promoted policy of energy transition (or ‘Energiewende’) – this is a very different approach to what is practised in these islands (at least south of the Scottish border). For a start the ‘Energiewende’ is driven by a desire to reduce and eliminate any dependency on nuclear energy.
The introduction of the Feed-in-tariff (EEG) in 2008 was an important part of this process, along with (post Fukushima) the almost unanimous across the board political commitment to a wide range of targets (in 2011) which included a commitment to reduce energy demand (with a 50% reduction in primary energy use by 2050) and the achievement of an 80% renewable electricity share of total consumption (by 2050). This has resulted in a significant uptake of renewables in Germany.
The real striking difference is that the operation of the grid in Germany means that generated renewable electricity is used first and that distribution network operators (DNOs) are also seeking to reduce demand. This is so radically different from the way the energy is generated, distributed, exported and used here in our country.
A significant difference, aside from the scale and pattern of investment (in Germany), is that small businesses, co-operatives, individual households and local authorities benefit from investment distributed by a network of local banks (something we pretty much entirely lack in Wales). The whole thing is supported by the KfW (state investment bank) to the tune of 23.3 billion euro in the area of environment and climate protection (2012 figures).
These developments are a million miles away from the so-called ‘Free market’ for energy that exists in the UK, which is pretty dominated by the ‘Big 6’ energy cartel members. The fact that some former politicians have found rewarding post political career employment within the energy sector may be co-incidental but suggests that there is little desire for improvement within Westminster.
The way the current set up works, it is difficult to imagine ‘Government’ at most levels (at least outside of Scotland and perhaps Northern Ireland) in the UK grasping the concept, the practicalities and real possibilities of genuine community owned beneficial energy generation projects.
Here we have a visionless Conservative government in Westminster, which is hand in glove with despotic oil producing regimes in the Middle East and has little interest in renewables. This government , along with its predecessor continues to actively work to pull the rug out from under the renewables sector by cutting the feed in tariff something that has cost highly skilled jobs here in Wales.