More wind farms, electric cars and green homes needed in South West Wales

A huge increase in wind and solar farms and the construction of a tidal lagoon are needed to wean South West Wales away from fossil fuels by 2035, a report has said.

Gas for heating and cooking in homes will be phased out, according to a new energy strategy for the region, and most of us who drive will need to have an electric car.

The rewiring of the energy system in Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Neath Port Talbot will require a £4.3 billion investment by 2035, said the draft strategy, which will be discussed by Swansea Council’s cabinet on January 20.

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It said the region needed to cut its emissions by 58% in the domestic heat and power sector, by 56% in commercial and industrial emissions – excluding very large industrial sites like Tata Steel in Port Talbot – and by a 51% reduction in road transport.

These figures are measured against a baseline year of 2005, and emissions have been decreasing since then due to greater energy efficiency and behavioural changes.

The Welsh Government wants the country to be “net zero” in terms of carbon emissions by 2050, and South West Wales would be just over halfway towards that goal by 2035 if the energy strategy came to fruition.

It would require a doubling of the current onshore wind farm and solar renewable capacity, a significant ramping up of offshore wind, and new marine energy generation including a Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

Some of this work is already in the pipeline, and new technologies could emerge which alter elements of the strategy.

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“What is clear is that all of the different pathways must achieve significant decarbonisation; should less action be achieved in any of the areas summarised above, other sectors will need to compensate with higher action to achieve the same results,” it said.

“The level of transformation described by the energy modelling actions is significant.”

The £4.3 billion transformation cost would, it said, be met by the private sector, households, and national and local Government – and also lead to around 16,000 additional jobs.

Ways of storing electricity at scale would be needed in part to overcome long-standing constraints on the region’s power grid.

Electric vehicles accounted for just under 19% of new car registrations in the UK last year, with 7% of those plug-in hybrids.

The figure for Wales was just below 10%, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Ld (SMMT).

The majority of registrations are made by businesses and fleets, it said, partly for tax incentive reasons.

The UK Government provides drivers up to £1,500 off a new electric vehicle, excluding hybrids, costing less than £32,000.

The grant was cut twice in 2021 and, according to finance website This is Money, would only apply to 17 electric cars on sale in the UK, down from 27 at the start of the year.

The SMMT said a second-hand electric car market was growing.

Charging infrastructure is still seen as a major obstacle to electric vehicle take-up. So-called range anxiety is another factor.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the proportion of electric cars being sold now was accelerating significantly.

“Ambition, though, is understandably higher, but the biggest obstacles to greater uptake are cost and inadequate charging infrastructure,” he said.

“Recent cuts to consumer incentives and home-charging grants should be reversed, and we need to boost the roll-out of public on-street charging with mandated targets, providing every driver, wherever they live, with the assurance they can charge where they want and when they want.”

The roll-out of electric vehicles is described in the report as “critical”.

It said South West Wales had half the average proportion of electric vehicles compared to the rest of the UK, while Wales had the lowest number of electric charging points per head of population in the UK.

It envisaged that 78% of vehicles driven in South West Wales are electric by 2035 – the proportion at the time the draft strategy was written was just 0.3%. Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030 under current UK Government plans.

The strategy also calls for a 10% reduction in private car mileage, and greater use of buses, trains and cycle networks.

The Welsh Government-backed report will need to be approved by the four constituent councils, and from there it will be taken forward by a new regional committee.

The report described a tidal energy lagoon in Swansea Bay, which is currently being taken forward by Bridgend-based firm DST Innovations, as “an important strategic project”.

Battery manufacturing in a plant like this is a key component of the Blue Eden concept for Swansea

The proposed lagoon forms part of the Blue Eden scheme, details of which were unveiled last October. Blue Eden also includes battery manufacturing and storage at Swansea docks, a solar farm, data centre, houses, flats, and an oceanic and climate change research centre.

It is expected to take 12 years to deliver in full, create 2,500 permanent jobs, and would require planning permission among other consents.

Meanwhile, a project to decarbonise thousands of homes in South West Wales was approved by the Welsh and UK Governments last summer, as was a marine energy scheme in Pembrokeshire.

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