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Climate

Record year for Welsh heat pumps and solar panels

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RECORD numbers of solar panels and heat pumps were installed in Welsh homes and businesses last year.

2023 saw more than double the amount of certified renewable installations in Wales than the previous year, bringing the total number of Welsh homes and businesses with renewable energy to over 100,000. 2023 was also the first year that installations rose above 20,000 in a single year, according to the MCS database of certified installations.

Solar panels made up the majority of the new renewable energy, with 14,730 MCS-certified installations across Wales. This represents a twelve-year high and is the highest level since Feed-In Tarriff grants were cut in 2011.

But the largest increase was in the heat pump sector, with a 147% increase in certified installations between 2022 and 2023. Experts at the MCS Foundation, which compiled the figures, said that Government grants introduced in 2022 have helped drive the rise in uptake. Households can now get £7,500 off the cost of a heat pump under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, with applications for the grants rising rapidly.

Grants available for homeowners via the Welsh Government’s Nest scheme have also helped with the rollout of renewables. The Nest scheme is coming to an end, and is due to be replaced by a new scheme with a greater focus on low carbon technologies for the home.

Nearly one-in-ten households in Wales now have MCS-certified renewable installations, the highest proportion anywhere in the UK.

David Cowdrey, Director of External Affairs at the MCS Foundation, said: “The rapid rise of renewables in Wales is good news for people’s energy bills and for the climate.

“However, while the upward trend is encouraging, we need to be installing many more heat pumps, much faster, to meet climate change targets. Government policies like mandating heat pumps in all new-build homes and reducing the price of electricity so that heat pumps are guaranteed to be cheaper to run than a gas boiler will help to increase uptake.”

Nick Salini, Director of heat pump installer Thermal Earth, said “It is positive to see the increased uptake of renewables in Wales. Heat pumps are the future of home heating systems and viable in every type of building with correct design and installation.

“While this growth is welcome, we need significantly higher growth to get anywhere near the long term targets set by UK Government and reduce our national dependency on fossil fuels. In addition to installation financial support such as the BUS, we need lower electricity costs for heat pumps to further increase the running cost savings and more positive messaging of the advantages heat pumps offer homeowners to transition to away from traditional fossil fuel systems.”

Climate

Solar power partnership lighting up community energy fortnight

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THE PARTNERSHIP between Pembrokeshire County Council and a community energy charity has recently helped two sites reduce costs and carbon emissions with solar panels.

During community energy fortnight, running until July 14th, the Green Pembrokeshire team is highlighting the second phase of work with Egni Co-op, a community energy organisation that installs rooftop Solar PV systems.

Egni cover the cost of installation and then sell the generated electricity to the building owner at a discount, with all profits generated used to fund further projects and environmental educational programmes.

In early 2023 Egni was awarded the contract to install systems on around 20 schools and leisure centres across the County and will manage and maintain the systems for 20 years.

It’s estimated that the solar panels will prevent the emission of approximately 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and should save the schools and leisure centres £180,000 per year in energy costs.

This second phase has seen Fishguard Leisure Centre add a 170kW system to its existing 50kW provision and the energy will be sold to the building at a reduced rate. With the combined systems generating around 187,000 kWh a year, nearly 40 tonnes of CO2 will be offset.

During the first part of the month more than half the Centre’s electrical energy has been provided by the solar panels and daytime dependence on the grid is almost zero during the summer.

Also boosting its solar panel system is Tavernspite School where a 27kW system has been installed with discounted electricity reducing dependence on the electrical grid and offsetting approximately five tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

The school is one of many also benefiting from Egni’s education programme, alongside Sustainable Schools Pembrokeshire.

Egni Workshops challenge pupils to make the connection between energy and climate change, and school to reduce their energy through campaigning for behaviour change.

Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change Cllr Paul Miller said: “These two sites are the latest to benefit from this innovative scheme that is helping the Council and its buildings make carbon savings, as well as saving money, without capital costs.”

Jenny Carlisle, Egni Development Manager, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Council and young people in Pembrokeshire schools. It’s a great example of co-operation. We all need to work together to tackle climate change and keep money in the Welsh economy.”

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Climate

Marine Energy Boosts Welsh economy by £30m, Pembrokeshire leads

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IN the 2023/24 financial year, Wales’ marine renewable energy sector delivered a substantial £29.9 million to the Welsh economy, as revealed in the latest State of the Sector Report by Marine Energy Wales. This brings the total cumulative spending and investment in the sector to an impressive £292.9 million.

Despite a notable reduction from the previous year’s £103.4 million, this year’s figure remains the second highest annual spend recorded to date. The decline is attributed to the conclusion of European grant funding and the completion of significant infrastructure projects, such as the Morlais development on Anglesey, which inflated last year’s expenditures.

Jeremy Miles, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language, expressed optimism about the sector’s future: “Wales is well placed to be at the forefront of marine energy technologies. Maximising this opportunity is an important step towards our path to net zero, attracting investment and creating highly skilled and well-paid jobs, particularly in coastal communities.”

The report highlights the considerable contribution of the tidal stream sector, which has injected £116.1 million into the Welsh economy since 2019, largely due to the Morlais infrastructure and the efforts of tidal kite developer Minesto.

Anglesey and Pembrokeshire are at the forefront of this growth, with Anglesey leading with £103.8 million in investments to date, closely followed by Pembrokeshire at £97 million. Swansea is also emerging as a key player, with £39.2 million invested in marine energy development.

The sector currently sustains 429 full-time jobs across Wales, with Pembrokeshire employing the highest number of people in the sector at 260 FTEs. This is due to the county’s established supply chain, which includes fabricators, engineers, and environmental consultants. Both Swansea and Anglesey also contribute significantly to employment in this sector.

Tam Bardell, Chair of Marine Energy Wales, underscored the importance of maintaining momentum: “We have just over a decade to meet the Welsh Government’s target of 100% renewable energy by 2035. While generating around 59% from renewable sources, we still have a long way to go. This report is not just a reflection of our achievements but a call to action.”

The future of the sector looks promising, particularly for tidal stream and floating offshore wind (FLOW), with a projected £486 million spend over the next five years in Wales. Continued support from governmental policies and increased private sector investment are essential for overcoming current barriers and ensuring Wales’ progression as a global leader in marine renewable energy generation.

As the sector grows, improving gender balance and diversifying roles remain positive steps forward, ensuring the industry’s sustainable development and its pivotal role in Wales’ economic and environmental future.

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Climate

Lifting of onshore wind ban will bring cheaper bills for consumers

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RESPONDING to this week’s announcement by the Chancellor Rachel Reeves that the Government will reform the National Planning Policy Framework before the end of this month to end the de facto ban on onshore wind in England, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail said: “Lifting the onshore wind ban in England was long overdue and we’re delighted that Labour has made this one of its first priorities in office. This shows that the new Government is determined to act fast to tackle some of the longstanding barriers which have held the UK back on developing vital new clean energy infrastructure.

“Public support for onshore wind remains sky-high throughout the UK at 78% according to the latest official polling, as billpayers know that new wind farms provide electricity at very low cost, as well as strengthening our energy security and tackling climate change. Polling also shows that most people want to see the planning system reformed, as they’re frustrated that an onshore wind farm proposal which is overwhelmingly popular in a local area can be stopped by just a handful of opponents.

“The onshore wind industry is committed to ensuring that communities are properly consulted about any proposals, including the wide range of economic benefits they will bring to local people. This process can take several years, including measures which help ensure that wildlife is protected, so it will be some time before brand new projects go ahead in England.

“Modern turbines are substantially more efficient and powerful than the turbines built in previous decades, so doubling the UK’s onshore wind capacity by 2030 won’t mean doubling the number of turbines in the UK. We can generate more power from fewer new turbines, and we can replace older turbines with far more powerful ones, making the most of our superb natural wind resources. Our research shows that delivering 30 gigawatts of onshore wind by the end of the decade would boost the economy by £45 billion and create 27,000 jobs”.

More details on the Government’s onshore wind announcement are available here.

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