Western Mail Country & Farming Column
May 23rd 2017

We are fortunate in Wales to have a thousand miles of coastline and 5 million acres of land - the perfect conditions for the development of renewable energy. I think itís time we become a world leader in renewable energy. Ynni Cymru is a way of achieving that: a Welsh energy company, which could deliver serious improvements to Walesís energy industry.

A number of actions would fall into the remit of Ynni Cymru, including: reducing the cost per unit of energy to homes and businesses in Wales, reducing the consumption of energy in homes and businesses and helping consumers to make informed decisions based on smart metering technology.

My colleague, Simon Thomas AM, this week proposed the establishment of Ynni Cymru. A not for profit company, it would be tasked with developing a national network of municipally-owned regional or local energy companies to match generation and demand for electricity at the district level. We believe that this would enable us to produce all the energy we consume in Wales from renewables by 2035.

We produce more electricity than we consume so we export electricity. Yet today Wales produces less renewable energy than any other part of the UK. Energy poverty is worse in Wales than in any other part of the UK, which causes major health and financial issues for many people during the winter months. This can and must change.

Other countries in Europe have been an inspiration. Figures from 2015 show that Walesís renewable electricity generation as a percentage of its overall electricity generation was only 20%. Compare this with Sweden, which produces a considerable 53.9% of its electricity from renewables.

There are success stories in Wales. We can boast innovative community energy schemes such as Ynni Ogwen or Awel Aman Tawe. We know the potential of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoons. We could match and exceed the figures of Denmark and Germany.

There is another reason why this proposal is so important. The UKís decision to leave the European Union will mean that we will need to produce much more energy in Wales. The UK relies on energy produced by other EU countries, for example sourcing 5% of energy from France and 2.5% from the Netherlands. With the UK government determined to take us out of the Single Market and the Customs Union, it is unlikely that the electricity interconnection the UK has with other EU countries will be able to continue as it is.

I have long been involved in environmental campaigns. In the European Parliament I called for more and faster action on climate change and for stronger renewable energy targets. This was not only because renewable energy is necessary to mitigate the affects of climate change on our planet but also because it can help Wales reduce energy prices, which are currently among the highest in Europe.

There has never been a better time for Wales to develop its own energy network. Ynni Cymru shows us the way to do that.

Ends.

Photo: Jill Evans