Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence

Written Evidence from WWF Cymru

  WWF believes that any consideration of energy should include the major impacts that many production and consumption methods have on the environment. Energy production and use is a major contributor to climate change, mainly through carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion. It is therefore a major component of Wales's ecological footprint, an indicator of sustainable development adopted by the Welsh Assembly Government. The direct use of energy and the energy used in the production of goods and services is a major component of the footprint.

  Therefore, we believe that consideration of the portfolio of energy in Wales should encompass the goal of reducing the impact of energy production and consumption on climate change and ecological footprint.

  WWF supports the findings of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) which suggests that the UK will need to reduce its CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. If such dramatic reductions are to be achieved, action must be taken now in the energy sector to improve energy efficiency and move to lower or zero carbon electricity generation technologies.

  WWF believes that the UK has an excellent potential for achieving emission reductions through energy efficiency and a move to renewable energy sources. It is crucial that both the demand and the supply side are addressed by energy policy in an integrated fashion. All energy sources have some environmental impact. It is thus necessary to both opt for the best environmental option and to minimise the demand for energy.

  Much can be achieved through energy efficiency. UK households waste £6.5 million a year by being energy inefficient, yet the technologies exist to drastically reduce domestic energy consumption, both through more efficient buildings and through more efficient appliances

  Renewable energy sources are either emission free or carbon "neutral". In WWF's view, the most benign renewable energy sources include onshore wind, offshore wind, biomass (including energy crops, forestry and agriculture residues, wood waste), solar (photovoltaics and thermal), small scale hydro, wave and some tidal technologies, landfill and sewage gas (based on anaerobic digestion). WWF does not consider energy from the incineration of municipal waste as a renewable resource, as most of the waste is made up of non-renewable materials.

  Note our support for tidal technologies is highly conditional on location and the impact they have on natural ecosystems. We do not support recent proposals for a tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary, since it would remove the ebb and flow of the tidal estuary and impair the natural flow of the river. Many internationally important species and habitats depend on these natural rhythms, and the estuary has international designations to protect them. Destroying irreplaceable wildlife sites for the sake of energy generation is not a sustainable option, and would contravene the Welsh Assembly Government's duty to promote sustainable development. However we strongly recommend that more suitable technologies are deployed to capture the energy of the Severn Estuary, such as stand-alone tidal generators, tidal fences and tidal lagoons.

  In the short to medium term, fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in the UK's energy mix. WWF supports the development of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) which dramatically increases the combined efficiency of electricity and heat production. CHP, in power stations, industry and the domestic sector, can thus make an important contribution to emission reductions.

  WWF sees gas as an important interim fuel but does not support the development of so-called "clean coal" technologies. These technologies offer little benefit for CO2 reductions. WWF is also concerned about proposals for carbon removal and disposal from power plants due to the high risks, costs and uncertainties involved.

  WWF believes that nuclear energy cannot be viewed as a sustainable technology due to the high risks to the environment and human health associated with its operation and associated waste disposal. In WWF's view, it is possible to cover the electricity gap created by the closure of the UK's nuclear capacity by energy efficiency, renewables and CHP.

  In support of our position, please find attached two relevant documents.

  1.  An abstract from "reducing Wales' Ecological footprint" (WWF and Stockholm Environment Institute. March 2005).

  This report clearly shows the impact on the footprint of sourcing energy from renewables and improving energy efficiency in Wales. It is therefore, imperative when looking at trends in energy demand in Wales, due consideration should be given to the need to reduce energy consumption in Wales and the role of government and Assembly in demand management to achieve this.

  2.  The second report is "Turning the Tide. Power from the sea and the protection of nature" by Iwan Ball of Cardiff University. This looks in detail at the potential of marine renewables.

  The major point to note is that WWF believe the Committee should recognise the potential marine renewable energy resource base available in Wales and how this can contribute to future energy security and diversity needs within the principles of sustainable development.

10 April 2006

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