Welsh renewables review puts spotlight on marine energy

The outcome of the Welsh government’s Deep Dive into Renewable Energy review into scaling up renewable energy deployment has been released, with a large number of recommendations particularly relevant to the marine energy sector.

The report, issued on 8 December and prepared by Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters, sought to identify barriers to significantly scaling up renewable energy deployment in Wales and identify steps to overcome them.

The report says that the aim is to create a national energy plan by 2024, mapping out future energy supply and demand for all parts of Wales, identifying gaps, and matching local renewable energy generation with energy demand. 

When it comes to grid connection, the Welsh Government plans to set up a joint working group to look at options for supporting new, flexible connections for renewables and energy storage solutions. 

In addition, the government will step up engagement with Ofgem to set out the investment needs, with a focus on retaining value within Wales. This will include the creation of a Wales Energy System Architect that will oversee smart, whole system planning, as well as Celtic Sea offshore network design and onshore reinforcements. 

The report further outlines the importance of ensuring that the marine planning system is fit for purpose through an end-to-end review of marine licencing and consenting to improve the process.

This will include an urgent review of Natural Resources Wales’ Offshore Renewable Energy Programme’s resourcing needs and options for consenting and advisory processes to keep pace with the sector growth, identifying evidence gaps and mechanisms to fill them, identifying marine strategic resource areas, streamlining the process for developing Celtic Sea renewable energy projects, and pursing the devolution of The Crown Estate. 

When it comes to finance, an expert group will be set up to explore ways of drawing down additional investment as well as prioritising local and community ownership. Creating an alliance with devolved governments to ensure UK Government’s CfD process evolves appropriately in order to encourage supply chain development and to achieve a coherent and balanced development pathway for early commercial and emerging technologies. 

The report emphasizes working with UK Government to bring new investment to ports in Wales, and working with local ports to identify opportunities for specialisation and collaboration, thereby making Welsh ports investment-ready. The plan is to develop a net-zero skills action plan, supporting industry collaboration to maximise supply chain opportunities.

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In line with this, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford delivered a keynote speech at a European conference a few days ago, outlining this year’s developments in producing a net zero action plan for Wales, the role marine energy can play and how the Government aims to unlock the potential of the industry. 

In his speech the First Minister reinforced Welsh Government’s commitment to maximise marine energy through Welsh waters while delivering benefits to the wider people of Wales, emphasizing “the importance of harnessing natural resources to drive a clean energy future” and that “wave and tidal can play a critical role in supporting a zero-carbon economy and the creation of quality jobs.”

Also detailed in his speech was the purpose of the Marine Energy Programme, a taskforce established by Welsh Government with three major strands that set out to investigate the creation of a tidal lagoon challenge, the establishment of an emerging marine technology revenue support mechanism that sits alongside the UK Government’s CfD, and the challenges and opportunities to further develop port infrastructure. 

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