Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence


Written Evidence from RDC Developments Ltd

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  RDC Developments Limited (RDC) welcomes the opportunity to submit written evidence and contribute to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee's inquiry into energy in Wales. With such a prominent national and international debate on energy production, it is timely indeed that the Committee examines this issue. Our response to the enquiry specifically addresses the following points:

1b.   UK Government policy in relation to the current and future provision of energy in Wales

2.   The relationship between the UK Government and the National Assembly for Wales—including the division of powers—on energy policy

3d.   The current and future portfolio of energy provision in Wales (specifically relating to) wind farms

  1.2  RDC was established in 1996 with the objective of developing renewable energy projects and specifically wind energy projects throughout the UK. Our company expertise extends across the whole of the UK, but we remain a Welsh-based company. Based in Mold, North Wales, RDC has, with project management support from its sister company West Coast Energy, been successful with partners in securing over 400 MW of consented wind energy projects within the UK. This has been achieved by building innovative partnership arrangements and maintaining a commitment to a proactive and enabling approach to wind energy generation.

  1.3  In Wales, in partnership with GE Energy, RDC was responsible for securing consent in 2002 for the 58.5 MW Cefn Croes Wind Farm in Mid Wales. Cefn Croes remains the largest consented onshore wind farm in Wales (in terms of installed capacity) and was officially opened in June of this year by Andrew Davies AM, the Minister for Economic Development and Transport of the Welsh Assembly Government. This was also the first successful windfarm application under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1990.

  1.4  We were also able to secure the consenting of the Rhyl Flats Offshore Wind Farm later in 2002, one of the most innovative new energy schemes in Wales. With thirty turbines generating over 100MW, the Rhyl Flats consent was a bold and successful response to the drive of the UK and Welsh Assembly Government to harness wind power in a new way.

  1.5  RDC recognises that the outcome of this inquiry will be critical for the future composition and security of energy in Wales. Responding to this report is also a further opportunity for the Welsh Assembly Government to maintain and strengthen its commitment on renewable energy and its vision of becoming a global showcase for clean energy production and efficiency.

2.  THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE UK GOVERNMENT AND THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES

  2.1  The Welsh Assembly Government's ambitious targets of 4TWh per annum of renewable energy production by 2010 and 7TWh by 2020 should be achievable considering the wealth of the renewable energy resource available in Wales. However, we are all aware that the theoretical resource available to us will never be fully exploited due to technical, environmental and land use constraints. It is therefore vitally important that where the exploitation of this resource is deemed to be technically and environmental acceptable by developers, the assessment and consenting process is effective and efficient.

  2.2  The current discussions regarding the possible transfer of powers to the Welsh Assembly Government in relation to Section 36 and 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 is therefore noted with interest. RDC would in principle have no objection to this transfer but would urge decisive action by the UK Government and Welsh Assembly Government on this matter in order to minimise any delays to the attainment of renewable energy targets. RDC would welcome the opportunity to comment further on the details of such proposals in due course.

3.  DELIVERING ON RENEWABLES

  3.1  It is generally accepted that the achievement of the 2010 renewable energy target will rely heavily on the onshore wind sector. The publication of TAN 8 in July 2005 demonstrates the Welsh Assembly Governments commitment to this target by concluding that an additional 800MW of onshore wind energy generation should be sited in Wales.

  3.2  RDC consider that there are two main issues to note regarding the industries ability to deliver 800MW of additional generating capacity in Wales by 2010.

    (a)  Electrical infrastructure strengthening.

    (b)  Public perception of wind energy.

  3.3  Energy infrastructure strengthening is stated as a priority action in a recent consultation document, "Energy Wales: Route Map to a Clean, Low Carbon and More Competitive Energy Future for Wales". RDC agreed that this is a priority action in its response to the consultation document but considered that the wording of the associated Key Task "Encourage Mid and North Wales electricity grid strengthening" itself needed to be strengthened.

  3.4  Major strategic investments are required to provide the electrical grid infrastructure in Mid and North Wales as a precursor and facilitator for the connection of renewable energy projects. This process is already underway in Scotland, with significant expenditure approved by OFGEM to reinforce the transmission network and interconnector. A similar process should be undertaken in Wales without delay but there are major regulatory barriers which need to be overcome to enable Wales to meet the renewable energy targets it is very capable of achieving. This will involve the Assembly actively lobbying and potentially getting involved in the financial arrangements of such strategic investments.

  3.5  Numerous public attitude surveys have shown that the majority of people in the UK are in favour of wind energy. One such survey, commissioned by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) as part of their "Embrace the Revolution" campaign in Wales was announced at the official opening of the Cefn Croes wind farm in June 2005. This survey revealed that 75% of the people in Wales believe that wind farms are necessary to help the country meet its current and future energy needs. [22]Further, polling by BBC Wales' "Dragon's Eye" in November 2005 also pointed to a favourable reaction to land based wind production. However, wind farm applications continue to be met with objection, invariably causing delay.

  3.6  With the publication of TAN 8, and the Strategic Search Areas contained therein, there is a danger that the communities within or nearby the Strategic Search Areas will become hostile to the focusing of large-scale developments. This will be a challenge for the National Assembly, the Local Authorities concerned and the wind industry—but it is a challenge which must be met. RDC strongly believe in public consultation throughout the development process, but suggest a more overarching communications campaign, lead by the Welsh Assembly Government, may be appropriate to convey the "bigger picture" of climate change within Wales. I note the DEFRA initiative launched in November this year "Tomorrows Climate Today's Challenge" and the BWEA initiative "Embrace the Revolution" as two good examples of current communication campaigns that the Welsh Assembly Government could build upon.

  3.7  RDC are currently in the process of commissioning an independent survey to look specifically at the post construction local public perception of the Cefn Croes wind farm, the largest operating onshore wind farm in Wales. This research will build on the survey work undertaken at the time of Cefn Croes (3.5) and would be an innovative step forward as there is little Welsh-based evidence on public attitudes after the construction of wind farms.

  3.8  RDC would welcome the opportunity to present these research findings to the Committee in due course; and to respond in more detail to any of the points raised in this proposal.

Contacts:

  Gerry Jewson is Managing Director of RDC Developments Ltd and West Coat Energy Ltd . Between 1993 and 1996 Gerry was employed by Manweb Plc and was responsible for management of the company's renewable energy business. During his 11 years in the wind energy sector Gerry has overseen the successful development of over 400 MW of wind energy capacity within the UK. In 2002 Gerry was awarded "Developer of the Year" by the British Wind Energy Association.

December 2005






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