Last week we visited Carmarthen for the Welsh edition of our ‘Communities and the Smart Energy Revolution’ events with Western Power Distribution (WPD). While there are still challenges to overcome for communities in Wales wanting to play a part in our future energy system, it’s encouraging to see what can be done with supportive government policy for renewable energy projects and many new, local partnerships being formed.
There were several representatives of local authorities in attendance, such as Carmarthenshire County Council, who wanted to know what more they could do to support community energy after declaring a climate emergency last year.
While onshore wind energy is not effectively banned in Wales as it is in England, community energy organisations can still face an arduous task in getting projects through planning. We heard from Holly Cross of Cwm Arian Renewable Energy’s about their seven-year battle to finally get a community wind turbine up. Support in the planning stage is a key way that local authorities could help community energy organisations, and enable more renewable generation in their area to be locally owned, as they work to reduce their carbon emissions.
WPD are uniquely positioned to support those in the sector who may be less well-resourced, and they want to support local stakeholders to achieve their energy goals, something they are exploring as part of the Net Zero South Wales project. One way in which they’re specifically looking to support community energy is through the OpenLV rollout, giving communities access to local electricity substation data which could help them to plan new projects.
In Carmarthen, community energy representatives had some other suggestions for how network operators such as WPD could further support community and local energy to contribute to net zero, such as prioritizing low carbon sources of flexibility as part of their Flexible Power offering and working more proactively with community energy organisations who may need extra support with the connections process.
Wales has some unique policy levers which could be used to help communities, regions and the country achieve net zero, as discussed in the Institute of Welsh Affairs and Regen’s report on upscaling community and local energy. One such lever is the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (2015), which provides a framework for how new services and markets in the energy system could be developed with decarbonisation as a guiding principle.
In order to achieve net zero in Carmarthenshire, South Wales and the whole of the UK, local organisations need to be supported to contribute through new projects such as onshore wind. Partnerships across the energy sector and beyond need to be forged.
You can read more about the OpenLV rollout and register interest here, find out about WPD’s Flexible Power here and their innovation projects here, and see the presentations from the Carmarthen event on our website.