Catching the wind, riding the wave and moving with the tides


By Rhis Sinnett, our candidate in Preseli Pembrokeshire.

It is generally recognised that Wales missed out on a golden opportunity to become a world leader in the development of the land based wind turbine field due in no small part to the frustration of the Welsh government not having the powers to take advantage of the chance to nurture high quality research and development and labour intensive green employment projects.

The lack of control over the levers to truly drive that agenda and maximise the inherent advantages of our environment and people still smarts and that is why it is absolutely vital that we don't miss the opportunities afforded by the burgeoning and fast moving marine renewable energy sector.

The recent launch of the Marine Renewable Energy Strategic Framework following a lengthy and detailed piece of work clearly identifies that the coastlines of Pembrokeshire and Ynys Mon in particular afford spectacular opportunities for wave and tidal energy development. Indeed there are already a number of projects in varying stages of development in these areas that are seeking to test the viability of such new technologies.

However, crucial to maximising competitive advantage in this field and fostering the climate of innovation that already exists is the role of national government, OUR national government in the process of providing consents for new developments. Currently, this is a complete mess, with powers over consenting for projects sitting with different bodies depending upon the size of the generating output. Up to a pathetic 1MW in size, Wales has the power to approve but between 1MW and 100MW this responsibility sits with the Marine Management Organisation (a UK government quango). Consents for projects generating over 100MW are still dealt with at UK level by either the near moribund Infrastructure Planning Commission or its soon to be successor unit in the Planning Inspectorate.

We urgently need to have these powers over consenting devolved fully to the Welsh Government in order that strategic decisions about the energy requirements and environmental needs of Wales can be made quickly and effectively in our own backyard. Already Wales is at a disadvantage to Scotland which is forging ahead as it is able to set its own policy and strategic direction due to the strength of its devolution settlement.

Alongside this, in order to maximise the outcomes that can flow from supporting this sector, we also need to have full control over ports policy devolved from Westminster. We have already seen ports in Wales miss out on a supposed UK development fund by the coalition government bending the rules to exclude us and we simply cannot afford to have such a key driver for our economic future in the control of parties who care little for Milford Haven, Holyhead, Swansea or other such major facilities around our coast.

Only with control in these policy areas will Wales be able to secure the potential of this exciting and innovative field which is estimated could generate up to £50 billion in the next 10 to 15 years. So not only does this make environmental sense, it also makes economic sense from the perspective of securing sustainable jobs for the next generation.