Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence

Written Evidence from Wales TUC Cymru

  The Wales TUC welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Welsh Affairs Committee "Inquiry into energy in Wales". The Wales TUC represents over 50 trade unions who in turn represent around half a million members across Wales.


  1.1  The Wales TUC has placed a very high priority on the future of energy in Wales during 2004 and 2005. We have organised two high profile energy conferences in north and south Wales where public and private sector representatives heard from industry leaders, workers and energy experts.


  2.1  The supply of energy in Wales is a crucial issue to the Wales TUC. The future development of Wales, economically, environmentally and socially, will be to a large extent dependent on how we plan energy policy during the next five years.

  2.2  Of particular concern are Welsh employers having access to a stable supply of electricity at a price that enables them to be competitive and any supply being environmentally sensitive.

  2.3  A secure and competitive energy supply is of particular importance to the Welsh economy, given the importance of manufacturing in our energy mix.

  2.4  As most electricity in Wales is supplied via the National Grid, the electricity needs of Wales must be considered in the context of the supply and demand pattern in the UK as a whole.

  2.5  We must also do more to improve our energy efficiency, which would help reduce our demand for energy.


  3.1  In Wales, diverse and secure ranges of electricity generators produce electricity.
Generation SectorTerawatt Hours (TWh) Percentage
Nuclear (Wylfa)7.291 24.32 *
Pumped Storage2.064 6.88
Other thermal0.2760.92

Source:  Our Environment, Our Future, Your Views (WAG 2005)

At full capacity, Wylfa can produce 8.6 TWh or 27.5% of Welsh generation.

  3.2  The forecasts for electricity demand and supply in the UK until 2020, as quoted in the DTI/ Ofgem JESS report, indicate that a much higher proportion of the UK's electricity requirements will be produced from gas fired power stations (65%) than is presently the case. This is due to the planned retirement of the older generation of nuclear power stations and the expected reduction in coal-fired capacity.

  3.3  Approximately 41% of electricity generated in Wales comes from gas-fired stations. When Wylfa nuclear power station closes in 2010, and assuming the proposed gas-fired power stations at Milford Haven and Uskmouth come on stream in that time, that percentage will rise to approximately 50%. On present trends this dependence will continue to increase.

  3.4  The closure of Wylfa will remove 8.6 TWh of capacity from Wales (28% of present Welsh generation) and will make North Wales a net importer of electricity. South Wales is presently a net importer of electricity and bears the highest electricity costs in the UK because of the high transmission costs.

  3.5  Given that the industry estimate is 80-90% of gas used in the UK will be imported as North Sea reserves are progressively depleted, consideration has to be given to the source of the gas and whether that supply is stable. If the UK depends upon gas for 65% of its electricity supply then it is clear that disruption to the supply of gas would have dire consequences to the economy and society of the UK and Wales.


  4.1  The Wales TUC believes that there needs to be a clear framework for energy policy in the UK within which the UK Government and the National Assembly for Wales can operate.

  4.2  The Wales TUC believes that pre-legislative scrutiny by the relevant National Assembly Committees for any future energy bills should be considered.


  5.1  The Wales TUC supports the development of a long-term energy policy framework. We cannot simply depend on imported gas. The Government should consider incentives for investment to ensure early development of new generating capacity in all lower-carbon technologies, including renewables and clean coal.

  5.2  Fossil fuels: We support the increased use of carbon abatement technologies that can secure clean coal energy production in Wales and the spin-offs this will bring to our indigenous coal industry. We believe that if the UK wants to make a significant contribution towards cutting greenhouse gases we need to build more clean coal plants in the UK and then export the technology to the major coal users, such as China and India. We support the use of gas, the Pembrokeshire LNG development and oil as an integral part of a balanced energy policy.

  5.3  Nuclear energy: With Wylfa power station in Anglesey, currently supplying over 25% of Welsh electricity, scheduled to retire in 2010, that gap will need to be met by new sources just to stand still. There are significant issues that need to be addressed if the establishment of new nuclear generating capacity is to be considered but we believe that if the economy and society of Wales is to prosper, the possible use of nuclear power has to be fully explored. Underpinning all these requirements is the need for positive action to maintain and renew the nuclear skills base. There are pressing needs to rebuild the extensive knowledge and expertise that has been lost from the nuclear industry in recent years as well as to replace existing skilled staff due to retire in the next few years, even if only to deal with decommissioning and management of existing radioactive waste.

  5.4  Wind power: Both on and off shore, wind power needs to be part of any energy mix and Wales is geographically well suited for the construction and operation of wind derived power. Of all the renewables sources, wind technology is also likely to produce the most jobs in the immediate future if the manufacture of wind turbines is carried out in Wales.

  5.5  Tidal and wave energy: Similarly, Wales is amongst the best tidal energy sources in the world, and it is highly predictable. The significant potential of tidal lagoon technology should be explored further. Wave energy is driven by wind, and is a significant potential source of energy. We believe that an urgent re-evaluation of the potential for a barrage across the River Severn needs to be made, with its potential to generate 17-19 TWh per year of clean, carbon free electricity. We are aware of the environmental concerns that arise from building barrages and these would need to be assessed.

  5.6  Carbon capture and storage: Wales TUC supports the increased use of carbon capture and storage. Instead of being vented into the atmosphere from power stations, carbon emissions could be liquefied and pumped back out to the North Sea's emptying oil and gas reservoirs via a disused gas pipeline.

December 2005

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