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Businesswoman launches devastating attack on pylon plan company

10 Mar 2024 8 minute read
Pylon image: Bute Energy

Martin Shipton

A businesswoman has written a devastating critique of a company that wants to build a network of pylons across mid Wales.

Sarah Eyles, who owns a smallholding near Pencader, Carmarthenshire, runs a computer services company that she founded more than 20 years ago.

Recently she attended two consultation events hosted by Green GEN Cymru at the villages of Llanllwni and Alltwalis.

The firm, which wants to build a new electricity grid, is owned by Bute Energy, which has linked plans to build a network of wind farms.

Ms Eyles claims that after talking to Green GEN representatives at the events, she found some answers given to her to be misleading or untrue.

Property prices

She wrote: “I was told in the Llanllwni consultation that ‘there is no evidence that property prices will be affected by a pylon located near your house.’ This is untrue and there is plenty of evidence in reports from, for example, the London School of Economics and Ofgem, both confirming a substantial drop in house prices for properties located near pylons.

“I was told in the Llanllwni consultation that ‘tourism will not be affected by pylons’. This is untrue. A Welsh Government report suggests that tourism is impacted where high quality landscapes have wind farms and their associated infrastructure (eg pylons) located on them.

“In addition, Llanllwni / Llanllwni Mountain is a Dark Sky Discovery Site, an officially recognised place where anyone can stargaze. This attracts many visitors each year. The aviation warning lights on pylons will devastate this aspect of tourism, and also ruin these dark skies for local enjoyment.

“Green GEN claims that cables cannot be laid underground, and in the consultation showed a picture of old-style cable laying. They should have shown instead a spider plough, which is the current technology used all over the world. Spider ploughing is cheaper, quicker and causes much less disruption than the old-style cable burying process which was on display.

“When I emailed Green GEN asking why they could not put the cables underground, they replied: ‘We are considering the use of pylons for this project as they feature in many areas in Wales where landscape, agriculture and tourism are thriving parts of the local economy. Underground cables require more land and create more ground disturbance during construction, which has the potential to produce more significant ecological and archaeological impacts.’ This is misleading and not factual.

“In addition, pylons will greatly impact our views and appreciation of the landscape. And I can’t think of anything worse than having a huge pylon on my smallholding. It is also the Welsh Minister of Climate Change’s position that cabling should be laid underground, of which there was no mention from Green GEN.

“When I asked why the company had changed its name in 2022 from Bute Energy Networks Limited to Green Generation Energy Networks Cymru Limited, they said that this was because the company that deals with the pylon infrastructure cannot be the same as the one that builds the wind farms (Bute Energy). This makes no sense, as the directors and all aspects of the company remain the same, and only the name has been changed.

“Green GEN’s answer, therefore, stating the requirement (presumably by law?) that the pylon building and wind farm building need to be undertaken by two separate companies is not met. The claimed ‘independence’ of Green GEN is questionable as they intend to serve Bute Energy, which is the parent company.

“At the consultation when I raised the issue of pylons being a health risk, I was told by a Green GEN consultant that this is ‘pure conspiracy theory’.

“However, the World Health Organisation website states that higher than usual exposure to (Extremely Low Frequency) are ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’, and there is also a similar statement in the SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) report and on the National Grid website. I was shocked at the way that the Green GEN representative dismissed my concerns in such a rude and insensitive manner.

“Green GEN act as if they have a licence to operate and distribute electricity, which they do not have. Green GEN has not yet been licensed as an Independent Distribution Network Operator (IDNO) by the UK energy regulator Ofgem.

“Green GEN stated that locals will benefit from the upgraded supply. This is not true, as it will cost well over £100,000 for a business to obtain 3-phase power from a pylon. It is much cheaper to obtain 3-phase from an 11kv pole, for example.

“Green GEN stated in the consultation that once they get planning consent for the project that ‘no change can be made to the specification of the pylons’. This is blatantly untrue, as after any planning permission is granted it is usually always possible to apply for and obtain an amendment to the terms of the planning.

“Green GEN told me that they will be building the pylons. However, the company does not have a track record in managing or delivering projects of this nature. In addition, Green GEN’s accounts indicate that they own no machinery that could be used for building pylons, and there are no earnings in their companies from such work (or from any work for that matter). It appears more likely that the company was set up for the explicit task of obtaining planning consent for this project and then selling the planning to the highest bidder. The answer they gave me, therefore, is misleading and most probably untrue.

“Green GEN claim that Wales needs the green power for green energy targets. The welsh government’s target for 70% of Wales’ electricity consumption to be from renewable sources by 2030 already reached 59% in 2022. The truth is that the electricity generated by the new wind farms and transported by pylons are destined to be sold to England and therefore will not count towards these Welsh targets. We are in effect being ‘ordered’ to despoil Wales by making it into an industrial wasteland in order for it to become the electricity generator for the UK.

“This is not a Welsh development, as is claimed, as the directors of Green GEN are Scottish and English and the funding is mostly coming from Denmark.

“When I asked Green GEN how long it had taken them to put together all the documentation to-date they said ’18 months’. I wish to add to this complaint, therefore, the shortness of the consultation period, the lack of notice, and the fact that it was undertaken during lambing season, the busiest time of the year for local farmers. This is sharp practice, especially given that Green GEN have been working on this proposal for at least 18 months, and could have given more notice and held the consultation at a more convenient time for stakeholders. It seems that Green GEN want to rush through what they consider simply a ‘tick box’ exercise.

“A ‘consultation’ is defined as ‘the act of exchanging information and opinions about something in order to reach a better understanding of it or to make a decision’. This was not a two-way exchange, but Green GEN using PR spin to stultify our concerns (which I suspect is why they didn’t want me to record the conversations), and many of their answers were misleading or untrue.

“Green GEN appear to have sent in their bulldozers prematurely, in the shape of their representatives at the consultation. I was not made to feel like a stakeholder in the process, but as a potential obstacle to the multi-million pounds of profits that the company hope to make for their shareholders by manipulating this so called ‘clean green’ opportunity. “ “Green GEN’s interest, clearly, is in the exploitation of the beautiful Teifi Valley and our communities, in order to provide them with mega profits, leaving us with unsellable houses, decimated tourism, dreadful views and spoilt countryside. I feel that Green GEN view us stakeholders simply as ‘collateral damage’.

Opportunity

A spokesperson for Green GEN Cymru responded: “The consultation presents a valuable opportunity for communities to seek clarity on any concerns and queries they may have regarding our plans and operations. Information about the project is available on the project website including detailed reports on how the project has been developed as well as a wide range of FAQs.

“Since initiating our consultation process, we’ve held six events at locations along the planned route and encourage members of the public to provide feedback on our plans.

“We are genuinely attentive to each viewpoint shared, and these contributions are instrumental in refining our work. All consultation responses will be read by the project team and the team will consider how changes can be made to the project to reflect the feedback received.

“All questions will be responded to in a consultation feedback report which will be published at the next round of consultation.”


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Frank
Frank
1 month ago

I wonder what the response would be if Bute Energy wanted to do the same thing in England.

PeterC
PeterC
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

Pretty much the same unless it was in Surrey or Hampshire. I agree with every point raised in the report

CHERYL ANNE WRAY
CHERYL ANNE WRAY
30 days ago
Reply to  PeterC

This is virtually the same situation that is happening in Lincolnshire.

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago

Lincolnshire and East Anglia are even harder to fight as NGET are a statutory undertaker

Gareth
Gareth
30 days ago
Reply to  Frank

I post a link to an article from “Politico” , which states that opposition by MP’s and local groups is being organised already in England, upon hearing the the National Grid want to upgrade the pylon system in the whole of Britain. They are going to oppose this vigorously.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&opi=89978449&url=https://www.politico.eu/article/the-politics-of-pylons-the-u-k-s-next-big-net-zero-battle/&ved=2ahUKEwjx3ZXywumEAxXsbEEAHcioB6YQFnoECDEQAQ&usg=AOvVaw3nPfGniOXJUmyRiqnXlXRG

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago
Reply to  Gareth

The East Anglian campaign have 12 Tory MPs on their side and their barrister has a powerful case. All companies are currently ignoring Treasury guidance

Erisian
Erisian
30 days ago

First they came for our Copper and Tin….

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago

A company with one type of licence (generation, transmission, distribution or supply) cannot have another type of licence, but separate companies with different types of licence can be owned by the same parent company. It’s in the Electricity Act 1989. EDF both generate and supply via subsidiaries and National Grid both transmit and distribute, for example. There is no need for the names to be radically different so the reason given by Green Gen was just pure fiction

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago

The Welsh Government has set targets on an “equivalence” basis. This means that as long as the requisite generation has happened in a year either on Welsh land or sea, then the target is achieved. There is nothing in the WG target that requires the energy to be consumed in Wales, and given the way the grid operates that would be impossible to know. Wales does not have a transmission grid, there are two sections of the integrated GB grid in Wales. Once electricity gets to the transmission grid the electricity could be consumed anywhere in GB or even exported… Read more »

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago

Planning Policy Wales is very clear that cables should be underground

However, the Welsh Government have no evidence that this policy has ever resulted in a cable being put underground!

Ap Kenneth
30 days ago

Obviously Bute want the lines above ground as it is far cheaper, but the business woman underplays the difficulty of putting cables underground for long distances. The depth of burial and heat dissipation are major technical challenges and may well includes physical trenches and cooling systems.
There are no easy answers to energy which this ladies business depends upon.

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

These are only 132 kV

Ap Kenneth
30 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Dean

True, but the cable will be some 50 miles (?) in length and the thermal dissapation will vary. You will at the least need bigger cables, insulated and the installation cost will be, what 4 to 6 times as great as an overhead line. Maintenance over its lifetime should be less but as Bute probably want to sell any rights they gain, that probably is not a priority for them. I would question why the cable route goes SW and not east towards Hereford, Worcester and the Midlands and would guess that they really want to link in yet further… Read more »

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

I suspect the issue is that Green Gen will only be able to charge their (Bute) customers the standard DNO costs so it may take longer to recover their investment

Will Jones
Will Jones
30 days ago

Plaid Cymru have just appointed a Lord who is a lobbyist for Bute Energy!

Jeff
Jeff
30 days ago

How far underground must a 275 and 400kv cable be if they are at these voltages? There are safe distances when they are on pylons. Then sub stations.

We need green but it seems we are still letting copmpanies benefit from selling it back to us. Lets see the buisness model and expected returns.

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

These are 132 kV

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
30 days ago

The DNO’s, both NGED and SPEN, have Ofgem approved investment plans for all distribution investments required to satisfy consumers increased demands. None of the Green Gen lines are included as they are not needed by consumers, they are only needed to satisfy the wind farms export requirements

The onshore wind farms aren’t needed as Wales can easily generate twice the energy needed to reach net zero just from offshore wind

Neither pylons or wind farms are needed, or wanted

CapM
CapM
30 days ago

If this article is an accurate reflection of what and how Sarah Eyles presented her critique then I’m left with the impression that Cymru being ripped off by the companies concerned is secondary in importance in the critique compared to the effect pylons have on property prices and the views from small holdings.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
30 days ago

If bute energy/green gen get the go ahead for the destruction of our environment with wind farms and pylons then I can see Mabion Glyndŵr making a return to restore the natural beauty of Cymru!

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