A new report published this week by RenewableUK Cymru shows that wind power has the potential to generate 9GW of energy for Wales over the next decade, but only if an ambitious delivery plan with enabling actions is put in place now.
The Welsh Government has set a target for all electricity demand in Wales to be met from renewable sources by 2035. The lion’s share of this will come from onshore and offshore wind, with solar, tidal, hydro and other sources making an important contribution to the remainder.
To help bench-mark success and provide a snapshot of Wales’ performance compared to the rest of the UK, a special EnergyPulse report was compiled by RenewableUK’s data analysts to coincide with the opening of the two-day Future Energy Wales 2023 conference in Newport.
The data reveals that while there is a significant number of projects in the pipeline, more than three quarters of this capacity has not been built yet, and more than half is in the very early stages of development and yet to enter the planning system. This means Wales needs to more than quadruple it’s deployment in just over a decade – from the 2GW of operational capacity today, to the planned 9GW capacity by 2035.
The Welsh Government has control over planning and consenting for all onshore wind projects and offshore wind projects up to 350MW in Wales. The introduction of the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill in 2025 is intended to streamline and consolidate these processes.
Given the Welsh Government’s own targets, RenewableUK Cymru is calling for a clear roadmap towards success, with stage-gates to check in on progress and bold, collaborative actions between government and industry to tackle significant barriers over planning and grid constraints.
To date, delivery timescales for onshore wind projects in particular have been sluggish, and a lack of grid infrastructure is holding back the entire renewable energy sector in Wales.
Since the Welsh Government took over the consenting reins for energy developments of national significance (DNS regime) in 2016, only one onshore wind farm at Upper Ogmore (25.2MW) has been approved. This decision took almost two years.
Around 80 per cent of projects on the DNS register are renewable energy generation projects. Looking at the DNS data, there have been 22 applications under the regime in the past seven years. 41% of applications through the DNS have been refused.
Of the nine refusals, 44 per cent were refused by the Minister against Inspector recommendation – these were all energy generating projects.
Only six per cent of planning decisions were made within specified statutory timeframe of 10 months. No onshore wind projects above 50MW have been approved since 2016.
RenewableUK Cymru’s Director Jess Hooper said:
“Wind power is the backbone of Wales’ net zero ambitions, yet the evidence suggests not enough is being done to nurture the growth of that critical backbone. As a result, Wales risks falling short of its power generation need by 2035.
“For years the constraints of poor grid connectivity and an under-resourced, inconsistent planning system have hampered progress and deterred developers from pursuing the ambitious wind energy projects our country so desperately needs to succeed.
“A more positive policy environment towards development is now emerging in Wales, for example the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill will consolidate the planning process. However, we urgently need timely, consistent, clear decision-making and investment in our grid to kickstart the journey to net zero. Unless we address these issues, the Welsh wind potential risks stagnating as a pipedream rather than a pipeline.”