‘A better return for Welsh tax payers’ key to plans for publicly-owned renewable energy company
“A better return for Welsh tax payers” is at the heart of Welsh Government plans for a publicly-owned renewable energy company, says Mark Drakeford.
During a House of Commons meeting of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday (30 November), the First Minister said “investment” was coming to Wales, “and we should be more optimistic”.
He added that Norwegian energy company Statkraft (Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy), had already opened an office in Cardiff, and he expects a French energy company to follow suit next year.
Mark Drakeford said: “To quote an Irish Minister I was speaking with on a (recent) visit to Cork, ‘there is a wall of money waiting to be invested in this industry’ if we can get the conditions right, and can attract that investment to Wales.”
Chair Simon Crabb wanted to know: “Do you see Statkraft as a model for the Welsh energy company you want to create?”
Mark Drakeford said they would draw on some of the things they had learned from Stratkraft, but the Welsh model would be, “a great deal more modest” in its early days.
“Statkraft goes about it with the Norwegian public interest at the heart of what it does, rather than a generator of private profits,” and the First Minister elaborated on this, in his answer to a follow-up question.
He said: “The history of onshore wind development in Wales has been that the public purse pays for an enormous amount before it gets to the stage where energy is being generated. Public investment in (developers) getting planning permission don’t always get returns. Once planning etc. is in place a private developer takes profits into their own company, most often headquartered outside Wales, and outside the UK.”
Therefore, having “our own company” continued the First Minister, “we believe our tax payers gets a return for the investment the tax payer makes. We will review this at every stage and work alongside a private developer.”
Chair Simon Crabb MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, asked the First Minister about his “vision” as regards wind energy.
He replied: “The Welsh Government is entirely committed to the notion of renewable energy. It is one of the main contributions Wales can make to global needs and in securing economic prospects to some parts of Wales. It’s a huge opportunity from our perspective.”
The Crown Estate owns virtually all the seabed around the UK out to 12 nautical miles. It identifies location for wind farms and provides leases to energy companies. In turn, it generates vast profits for the Royal family.
During the House of Commons Select Affairs Committee on November 23, Welsh MP Beth Winter had said that concerns had been raised by energy companies about the Crown Estate’s role in offshore wind energy. The concerns revolved mostly about how to speed up the programme in order to meet targets, and was it possible to hold the Crown Estate to account.
On the question of the Crown Estate’s involvement this time around, Mark Drakeford was in diplomatic mode: “The more certainty and more detail the Crown Estate is able to provide, the more certainty investors will have. But investment is coming to Wales and we should be more optimistic.”
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