Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from Andrew Davies AM, Minister for Economic Development, Welsh Assembly Government.

  Thank you for your letter of 19 March inviting the Welsh Assembly Government to submit a memorandum covering issues of interest to the Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry into Renewable energy.

  This is undoubtedly a topical issue given the interest generated in the PIU's Report "Energy 2050". We all recognise the threat to the world that global warming poses and the possible economic, environmental and social consequences. Reducing the emission of greenhouse gases therefore has a strong economic, humanitarian and moral imperative and must be a mainstay in future energy policy.

  From the energy perspective the Welsh Assembly Government's aim is to secure the strongest economic development policies to underpin growth and prosperity in Wales. And in this to recognise the importance of clean energy development both as an economic driver and in taking forward the Assembly's statutory commitment to sustainable development. This was endorsed in our economic development strategy, "A Winning Wales" which recognises the potential for Wales to lead in growth sectors including clean and renewable energy and low carbon technologies.

  Energy is a reserved function and although direct energy powers available to the Assembly are limited to energy efficiency, our influence can be considerable. There is a pressing need for the Welsh Assembly Government to help shape the future direction of energy policy in Wales. We have made a start on this work through a strategic assessment of renewable energy potential in Wales and the Assembly's Economic Development Committee (EDC) is reviewing energy in Wales with a 2020 timeframe. This review is looking at the long term scenarios for (non-transport) energy production and use in Wales and will inform the Assembly Government's development of a strategic framework most appropriate to achieving the optimum use and generation of energy in Wales by 2020. Information on the work of the EDC review including a draft renewables report and potential targets can be accessed on the internet[60]. The Welsh Assembly Government will not reach a consensus on a definitive strategic framework on energy in Wales, until after the EDC has completed its review and reported.

  However, the planning functions are devolved, and updated national planning policy guidance on renewables is due to be issued in Planning Policy Wales (PPW) later in March 2002. This states that renewable energy schemes, including windfarms, should be facilitated where they are environmentally and socially acceptable. More detailed planning guidance needed to support the policy outlined in PPW will be forthcoming in the revised version of Technical Advice Note 8 Renewable Energy.

  A Technical Advisory Group (TAG) has been set up to progress the review of TAN 8 in an inclusive way, and consists of a range of those with an interest in planning policy for renewable energy. There are encouraging signs that the industry and other stakeholders see the potential of an analytical tool, being developed as part of a Countryside Council for Wales research project, designed to help local authorities identify the key impacts of proposals. It is hoped that the tool will be refined and further developed so that it can underpin future planning policy at both local and national levels.

  In addition, the Welsh Assembly Government has recently published its proposals for improving certainty and confidence in the planning system in its consultation paper "Planning: Delivering for Wales". The objectives of this paper, particularly improving the quality and speed of outcomes, are key to finding our way towards an integrated solution to renewable energy.

  In your letter you have asked for information on the planning process itself. As you will know, planning applications for renewable energy developments of 50MW are determined by Local Planning Authorities. There is a right of appeal to the Assembly against the decision made, or the conditions attached to it. Furthermore, the Assembly may be requested to call-in an application for its own determination. Although not every application is called in, several have been called in recently. This allows an open debate of the issues and does not necessarily lead to refusal. We are speeding up procedures and there are currently five applications currently called in—(NB—all under 50 MW).

    —  Mynydd Colgau, Montogomeryshire.

    —  Cum Llwyd, Montgomeryshire.

    —  Nant Carfan, Montgomeryshire (this is also a recovered appeal).

    —  Tir Mostyn/Foel Goch, Denbigh Moors.

    —  Cefn Gelligaer, Merthyr.

  In the circumstances I have outlined, it would therefore be impossible to provide you with definitive answers to your questions at this stage. I hope however, that I have set out the context of the Assembly's role in relation to energy policy and that this together with the link to the EDC's review of energy will address many of the issues in which you are interested. If it would be helpful, by officials with responsibility for energy policy will be happy to assist if you wish to explore some of these issues further.

April 2002

60 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 22 July 2002