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Climate

West Wales health board to cut its energy bill by £100,000 per year

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HYWEL DDA Health board has launched an innovative, yet simple ‘Switch it off’ campaign to help drastically reduce both its energy usage and costs.

The campaign consists of ‘switching off’ all non-essential equipment when not in use; from computer monitors and laptops to medical equipment, lights, and radiators. This is one of the several initiatives being delivered as part of Hywel Dda’s Decarbonisation Delivery Plan. All of which are aimed at helping to reduce energy costs and CO2 emissions for non-essential equipment by around 20%, which could save around £100,000 per year.

From March 2022 to April 2023, the health board reported spending almost £14 million on energy, producing more than 20 million kg in CO2 emissions. It was evident action needed to be taken to meet its targets to reduce emissions to just 34% by 2030 as set out in the NHS Wales Decarbonisation Strategic Delivery Plan.

Sarah Thorne, Senior One Health Practitioner at Hywel Dda, who has been leading on the implementation of the campaign said: “The ‘Switch-it-off’ campaign is something we expect everyone across the health board and hospital to get involved in. If we all work together, we will see those changes immediately.

“While analysing our energy usage, we discovered that leaving just one TV or PC monitor on standby, instead of switching it off, can waste almost £25 of electricity per year. We have over 6000 screens across the hospital and offices within the health board so if everyone switched off their screen when they weren’t using it, it could help to save a huge amount of money, while also reducing CO2 emissions. It is simple actions like this that will have a massive impact.”

As well as launching the ‘Switch it off’ campaign, the health board has benefitted from Estates Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) funding and Salix funding to support the delivery of a range of decarbonisation projects such as roof mounted Photovoltaics (PV), heat pumps, and solar canopies. It has also made a start in switching its lightbulbs to LED energy saving ones and is planning to install light sensors in communal areas such as toilets and kitchens. Earlier this year, the health board also received funding to install its own solar farm which provides sustainable electricity to power some services, reducing carbon emissions and promoting biodiversity in the area.

Julie James, Minister for Climate Change said: “The ‘Switch it off’ campaign from Hywel Dda is a great example of how organisations can inspire and empower their staff to work together to reduce both carbon emissions, energy usage, costs, and our impact on the environment.

“If everyone could do their bit by ‘switching off’ unnecessarily appliances, it would make a huge difference to the amount of energy we use, which will in turn help us to create a cleaner, greener Wales.”

The Welsh Government has committed to taking action on climate change. Since 2019, the Welsh Government has helped people access greener energy choices. Investing £120million in energy efficiency improvements to social housing through the Optimised Retrofit programme, helping around 148,000 people to live in homes that are cheaper and more efficient to run. The Nest scheme has supported tens of thousands of people to improve the energy efficiency of their home, while in turn reducing energy bills and improving health and wellbeing.

The Welsh Government has also backed flagships schemes such as Ripple Energy’s Wind turbine cooperative, Morriston Hospital’s solar farm and Pobl’s Penderi shared energy initiative, which has seen a community generate and share its own renewable energy. Pilots like these pave the way for similar projects in the future, enabling more people to save money on their energy.

For more advice on how you can reduce your energy use visit climateaction.gov.wales

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Climate

No current plans for clean air zones in Pembrokeshire

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Council has no current plans to introduce clean air zones or road user charging, councillors heard.

In a submitted question heard at the May meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, member of the public Sharon Purcell asked: “In relation to the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, what advice has the council received regarding planned clean air zones or road user charging with a view to introducing schemes to address these issues in the future?”

She also asked a second traffic-related question: “Are there any plans for Local Traffic Neighbourhoods to be introduced and if so, where?”

Answering both questions, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services Cllr Rhys Sinnett said there were no plans across Wales currently, under any guidance received for the first question.

He also said there were no plans for any Local Traffic Neighbourhoods in Pembrokeshire.

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Climate

90 percent of Rhosygilwen turbine power would be sent to national grid

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A SCHEME for a £1m “20-storey-high” wind turbine to keep a listed Pembrokeshire mansion viable has been backed at a meeting of full council despite members hearing 90 percent of the power generated would be sent to the national grid.

Mr and Mrs Glen Peters of Western Solar Ltd sought permission for a single turbine on land near the Grade II-listed Rhosygilwen Mansion, which includes an arts and functions building known as Neuaddydderwen.

Mr Peters has previously said the application for a turbine would ensure the long-term viability of Rhosygilwen, acquired some 30 years previously as a fire-damaged house that was about to be pulled down.

He has said that, despite 200-year-old Rhosygilwen using power from its solar farm, the first of its kind in Wales, it has been hit with “huge increases in importing energy from the grid” during the winter months.

Planners have repeatedly been recommended to refuse the scheme by officers, but backed it at both their March and April committee meetings.

The March backing meant the application returned to the April meeting for ratification after a ‘cooling off’ period; the application having been deferred at the January meeting pending a site visit.

It was initially recommended for refusal in January for several reasons, including potential harm to the setting of the Grade-II-listed house and grounds, and fears of threats to the safe operation of West Wales Airport at Aberporth in neighbouring Ceredigion, some 9.5 kilometres away.

The last concern was later withdrawn.

Officers have said the scheme “would not protect or enhance the setting [of Rhosygilwen] but rather would result in significant harm to this interest of acknowledged importance”.

They have also warned any backing of the scheme against policy recommendations could set a precedent for similar developments.

As the scheme was from the development plan, the final decision had to be made by full council, meeting on May 9, where it was recommended the committee support for the scheme was not endorsed.

The scheme had been twice backed by the planning committee partly on the grounds of its contribution of green power to help tackle the ongoing climate emergency.

Speaking at the May 9 full council meeting, Councillor Tessa Hodgson questioned how much power from the proposal would be fed back into the grid and how much would go to power Rhosygilwen.

She was told that 90 percent from the “medium scale turbine” would be fed back into the grid, generating a tariff for the applicant, 10 percent powering the mansion and associated buildings.

Councillor Mike Stoddart described the amount of power produced by turbines as “miniscule,” saying it would require some 2,000 to equal the power output of Pembroke power station.

“It’s not going to make any material difference to the amount of carbon dioxide we output,” he told fellow councillors.

A move to approve the scheme, made by planning committee chairman Cllr Jacob Williams, was supported by 37 votes to 18, with two abstentions.

Objector Paul Robertson-Marriott has previously said the “20-storey” turbine would have “a detrimental impact” on surrounding properties and the proposal would “ride roughshod over the status of the listed building for economic benefit.”

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Fears raised in Senedd over coal tip reclamation projects

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PROPOSALS to reclaim disused tips risk opening the floodgates to coal extraction under the guise of remediation, the Senedd heard.

Delyth Jewell led a Plaid Cymru debate on coal tip and opencast mine remediation, warning a new industry is emerging with reclamation coming at the price of coal extraction.

Ms Jewell, who represents South Wales East, raised concerns about Energy Recovery Investments Limited’s (ERI) proposals for reclamation of Bedwas tip.

Plaid Cymru’s deputy leader said: “Before the land is restored to its former glory, it seems it must be ravaged and plundered again.”

She said some make good on promises but others do not, “claiming at the end of projects that not enough money remains for restoring – it’s all gone on draining every drop of profit.”

Hefin David urged fellow members to keep an open mind to ERI’s plans to remediate coal tips in Bedwas in his Caerphilly constituency.

Dr David said: “We need to keep an open mind about any opportunity or avenue we have to remediate, but at the same time we must ask sceptical questions.”

He stressed: “This isn’t Ffos y Fran, this isn’t ‘leave it as a disaster zone and exploit the land.

“This is a company that is saying, ‘Yes, we’ll take the coal as a by-product and we’ll make a profit, but we are there to remediate the land.’”

Dr David added his voice to a chorus of calls for the UK Government to urgently provide additional funding for proper long-term remediation of disused tips.

Plaid Cymru’s Peredur Owen Griffiths raised concerns about the “troubling” proposals for a coal-extraction project in his South Wales East region.

Mr Owen Griffiths said ERI is planning to extract coal from the Bedwas colliery site over seven years, with a possible extension.

He told the chamber: “The potential implications of the project are far-reaching and alarming, with many questions yet to be answered satisfactorily to alleviate the concerns of residents.”

Warning it could set a dangerous precedent, with more than 300 at-risk coal tips in south Wales, he said the project risks allowing coal extraction under the guise of remediation.

Mr Owen Griffiths said: “It’s imperative that we ask many searching questions to guard against attempts to revive the coal-mining industry through the back door.”

Rhianon Passmore said people in her Islwyn constituency have deep concerns about ERI’s plans for the former coal tips at Mynydd y Grug in Bedwas.

Ms Passmore raised constituents’ concerns about 18 to 20 lorries a day travelling down a haul road that passes through the Sirhowy valley country park.

Pointing out that a planning application has yet to be submitted, she said: “While we want to see coal tips removed and remediated, it cannot and should not be at any cost.”

The Labour MS said the Welsh Government has committed £47m but the UK Government has yet to contribute funding for long-term remediation of disused coal tips.

She called for the UK Government to step up to the plate and take responsibility.

Sioned Williams said there are more than 900 disused tips in her South Wales West region, warning that the landscape has been scarred with environmental hazards left behind.

The Plaid Cymru MS raised the example of Godre’r Graig in the Swansea valley.

She said: “Due to an assessment of the risk of the quarry spoil tip to the village school, children have had to be educated in Portakabins miles away from the village since 2019.

“The school has now been demolished, causing absolute heartbreak in the community.”

Heledd Fychan, who represents South Wales Central, called for new legislation to reflect the realities of today, pointing out that the Mines and Quarries Act dates back to 1969.

The Plaid Cymru MS said: “It is absolutely appalling, in my view, that the UK Government has not played its part in helping to fund the work.”

Joel James, for the Conservatives, rejected Plaid Cymru’s “alternative reality” that paints Wales as a victim of exploitation during the industrial revolution.

“The truth is that our national resources were used to help to enrich us,” he said.

Mr James argued the UK Government should not be expected to pick up the bill for remediation while the Welsh Government brings forward proposed legislation on disused tips.

The South Wales Central MS said the Welsh Government has resources at its disposal, criticising the estimated £18m-a-year cost for 36 more politicians in Cardiff Bay.

Mr James said Wales should engage with ERI on remediation works.

Julie James – who could not comment on the Bedwas proposals – said her father was a miner who died of cancer, almost certainly because of his mining history.

She said: “That will be the case in many families across Wales. To say that that isn’t exploitation beggars belief, quite frankly.”

Wales’ local government and planning secretary urged the UK Government to recognise its moral responsibility to help fund remediation because coal tips long predate devolution.

Ms James said a forthcoming coal tips, mines and quarries bill will reform outdated laws around tip safety and give greater security to people living in its shadow.

MSs voted down Plaid Cymru’s motion, 12-45, with Conservative amendments also falling. The motion as amended by the Welsh Government was agreed, 41-16.

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