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Natural Resources of Wales - Energy - Simon P. Hobson

With the Yes Cymru campaign petitioning for Welsh natural resources to be controlled by the people of Wales gathering momentum, and having covered water sovereignty in a previous piece, it seemed the time to take in hand and discuss the most important reason for Wales to have a mandate to govern its natural resources – energy security.

Author: Simon P Hobson

10th September 2022

Asides from the fresh water, mineral and herbivorous abundance, Wales is blessed with a climate and topography which gives it ample opportunity to become a net energy exporter.  Already, according to the Welsh government, the country is a net exporter of electricity.  And, while electricity consumption represents only about 16% of Wales estimated 92.8 TWh[1] total energy use, with the remaining attributed to transport, heating, agriculture and industry, an increasing percentage of that energy now originates from renewable sources.  The ambition for Wales to become a world leader in energy generation has yet to be realised.  But geography and geology, position the nation to play a leading global role in energy generation.  Particularly energy derived from Wales’ marine environment.  This habitat alone has the generating capacity of at least 6 GW[2] – chiefly from wave and tidal stream.

Indeed, given that Wales’ landscape is not suited to large scale hydroelectricity projects and that, despite the potential for coal bed methane (CBM) and some prospective shale horizons as credible sources of natural gas[3], the Senedd has sought to ban all future hydrocarbon exploitation.  The country then, is necessarily turning to wind and sea related power generation.  With the 32,000 square kms[4] which make up the Welsh territorial seas, being greater than its landmass[5], there is arguably more reason than many European nations for Wales to look towards its offshore wind, wave and tidal stream power.

Already, tidal and wave projects around the coast; from Anglesey, to Pembrokeshire, Swansea Bay’s tidal lagoon[6], to the ambitious North Wales Lagoon[7], proposed for the coastal area between Prestatyn and Llandudno, carbon free energy is making its way into the Welsh economy.  But for wave and tidal stream to become a long-term addition, or even the complete solution, there needs to be a sure path to cost reduction for installation.  The good news is that as more marine based energy projects are taken up so the costs are reduced.  This progress is showing results in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for offshore wind of £80 per MWh[8] and tidal reducing to a similar rate every 2 GW installed[9].  The LCOE of these marine projects is now capable of competing on price with combined cycle natural gas originating energy sources[10].  Further evidence of the viability of these marine based energy projects is reflected in the value being added to the Crown Estate.  The Crown Estate is the entity which holds legal tenure over the Welsh seabed and much of the shoreline.  Between 2020 and 2021, the Crown Estate saw those holdings value surge from £96.8 million to £603 million[11].  A value change to this Welsh natural resource which saw all the financial benefit go to the British Monarch and none to the people of Wales.    

  The landscape, or more particularly, the seascape of Wales will direct its energy policy.  This makes it imperative that Wales controls its natural resources.  Self-determination of the country’s energy is arguably the most significant and consequential of these resources.  As all can see with the current situation throughout Europe; without electricity, heat and power independence from an overpowering neighbour, there is little chance of any other form of liberation - economic or political.

 

About the Author – Simon P Hobson.

Having spent much of his childhood on his Welsh grandparent’s dairy farm, Simon developed a love of both Wales and a fascination for nature and earth sciences.  He gained an honours degree in Mining Engineering from Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall and has since lived and worked in many countries across the world.   

 

[1] Regen, Energy Use in Wales (2nd Edition), Welsh Government (2022).

[2] Kidd. Joseph, Marine Energy Plan for Wales – Unlocking the Energy in our Seas, Marine Energy Task & Finish Group – page 6 (2016)

[3] Senedd Research, Drilling down: the Welsh Government proposes policy to ban petroleum extraction, Ymchwil y Senedd / Senedd Research (2018).

[4] Ymchwil y Senedd/Senedd Research, A marine plan for Wales, Senedd Business (2016).

[5] 20,758 sq. kms - Institute of Welsh Affairs, Geography, Wales Factfile (2022).

[6] Business News Wales, Wave and tidal energy projects are putting Wales at the helm of global innovation, Green Industries Wales, 02.09.2022.

[7] Evans. Richard., The £7bn tidal lagoon that ‘could create 22,000 jobs and power every home in Wales’, Wales Online (2022).

[8] IEA, Levelised cost of electricity in the European Union, 2040, IEA (2019).

[9] Smart. Gavin. & Noonan. Miriam., Tidal Stream and Wave Energy Cost Reduction and Industrial Benefits, Catapult Offshore Renewable Energy (2018).

[10] IEA, Levelised cost of electricity in the European Union, 2040, IEA (2019).

[11] Jones. Ben., Could devolving the Crown Estate bring benefits to Wales?, The National (2022).

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