Earlier this week we attended the Welsh Government’s Cross Party Group on Sustainable Energy event exploring “Wales’ Low Carbon Energy Infrastructure”, chaired by Llyr Gruffydd AM.
Presentations were made by Hywel Lloyd of the Institute for Welsh Affairs, who presented findings of the Re-energising Wales project, and Louise Wilson of Abundance Investment – an investment platform for environmentally and socially conscious projects. Both presentations promoted a positive “can-do” attitude towards the potential for Wales to create a successful low carbon economy, with the overall message being that the ingredients already exist – now is the time to make them come together.
The IWA’s Re-energising Wales was a three year project looking into the role that renewable energy should take in Wales’ future economy, resulting in 10 key points on where and how action should be taken to ensure that improvements in energy are matched with improvements in the economy.
The points cut broadly across energy within Wales, but all carried a familiar theme in that the benefits of any future investment needed to remain as local as possible. Of particular interest was the idea of Wales taking a forward role in the developing of marine renewables, a currently underutilised mode of renewable energy creation, yet one with potentially global export opportunities that would fit the dual healthy environment, healthy economy focus.
The proposals set out by the IWA might have sounded beyond the reach of the Welsh economy, however Louise Wilson of Abundance Investment takes a different view. Outlining that to achieve 100% self-sufficiency in renewable energy within Wales, there would need to be spending of £25 billion on renewable energy and £5 billion on energy efficiency. Too much maybe? Well £24 billion currently exists within ISA’s in Wales, and 4 of the top 5 concerns for Welsh people are environmentally related (including plastic, waste, air pollution and climate change).
The evidence suggests then that people care, but don’t know what to do, and so the answer for Louise and Abundance Investment is simple. The public need to be engaged and given a financial stake within Wales’ low-carbon economic future – which is why Abundance have a minimum investments threshold of just £5.
Louise’s argument that the money is there, the impetus is there, and the mechanism is there for the Welsh public to fund 100% renewable energy - provides a reminder that the tools to challenge these future problems exist within Wales already.
The question now is how we can effectively engage the Welsh public, with all their human and financial capital, to help achieve these goals.