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New Research Highlights Economic Opportunities to Wales from Onshore Wind Energy

30 January 2013
Onshore Wind Energy (Image courtesy of RenewableUK

The potential opportunities of onshore wind to Wales have been revealed today in a report commissioned by the wind energy industry in Wales, RenewableUK Cymru and the Welsh Government.

The report, entitled 'Economic Opportunities for Wales from Future Onshore Wind Development' was produced by Regeneris Consulting and Cardiff Business School. It highlights a potentially significant and steady stream of economic benefits for Wales from onshore wind energy development and operation. It also finds that £2.3 billion GVA could be added to the Welsh economy between 2012 and 2050, as long as the expected share of investment from the Welsh Government’s 2025 ambition of 2,000MW of onshore wind is captured.

The investment could support around 2,000 jobs annually over the same time period, through construction, operation and management, decommissioning and repowering of the turbines.

On the other hand, if consenting rates for onshore wind projects continue at the same rate as they have for 2001–2011, the contribution to the Welsh economy could drop to a total of£0.9billion between now and 2050 with less than 1,000 jobs per annum being supported by the industry over this period. The report estimates that whilst construction and manufacturing could stand to see a particular benefit from the development of onshore wind, the benefits could be spread across a range of sectors, as a result of supply chain effects and the consumer expenditure of employees whose jobs are supported by the sector.

Dr David Clubb, Director of RenewableUK Cymru, said: “The report demonstrates that onshore wind energy could provide substantial economic benefits for Wales and also help us to become a more sustainable nation. The opportunity will only arise if the industry is enabled to meet Welsh Government aspirations for onshore wind, which in turn requires a much higher consenting rate. Without a significant shift in the consenting rate, and in the overall approach of planning policy in Wales to this sector, we will continue to be held hostage by rising fossil fuel prices and we will fail to meet our renewable energy ambitions with a corresponding missed opportunity to generate livelihoods for more than 2,000 people in Wales.”

Minister for Environment & Sustainable Development, John Griffiths, said: “This report is a welcome addition to the body of evidence that demonstrates that a low carbon transition is not just an environmental imperative, but also a significant economic opportunity for Wales. The Welsh Government will be working with the industry and looking to them to demonstrate how, with our help, they ensure that job creation and GVA share are delivered against the expectations set out in this report.”

Case studies in the report illustrate how developers and Local Authorities have worked to develop a supply chain. For example, for the planned Pen y Cymoedd 256MW project which won planning approval in 2012, ‘Meet the Contractor’ events have been held with potential main contractors and local sub-contractors for potential suppliers to understand the developer’s requirements. Vattenfall, who are developing the project, also made use of local suppliers as a criterion within the procurement of main contractors, along with monthly monitoring of the use of local firms by these contractors.

Community Benefit Funds are another way to secure positive impacts for local communities. In the case of Pen y Cymoedd, the proposed Community Benefit Fund of £1.8million per annum has the potential to deliver significant socio-economic benefits locally. Examples of other ways that developers can help the community benefit are also included, such as at Ffynnon Oer where RWE npower renewables has sponsored improvements to the Afan Mountain Bike Trails, which are an important tourism asset in the Afan Valley.

The report recommends that Welsh Government works with developers and local planning authorities to identify barriers and propose solutions for development necessary grid and key road infrastructure. There is still scope for a more comprehensive map of the supply chain in Wales for onshore wind, and the report recommends that RenewableUK, Welsh Government and developers work together to undertake a mapping exercise to help identify potential opportunities and to share best practice.

Pathfinder Programme

A Welsh Government funded programme to support communities to take action on climate change.

Community Energy Wales

Bringing together communities acting on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Support For Sustainable Living

A scheme designed to bring about long-term changes in behaviour and lifestyle to help reduce Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions and help organisations and communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.