Pension power backing for new battery energy storage plant
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
A new battery energy storage plant at the site of a decommissioned power station will be funded by Welsh pensioners.
The plan for the facility at the former Uskmouth B Power Station at the Gwent Wetlands on the edge of Newport, was approved by the city council’s planning committee this January.
The batteries will store excess power during times of “excess supply” and then put that electricity back into the grid when demand is higher.
The Greater Gwent Pension Fund, which manages the retirement savings of more than 65,000 members from Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire Newport and Torfaen councils as well as 52 other active employers in the Gwent region, has revealed it is investing in the project.
It said it it an example of its new strategy intended to invest in productive assets within the UK.
It has also agreed a new impact policy which seeks opportunities to invest in UK-based carbon net zero and other projects promoting long-term social and economic benefits.
Torfaen councillor Nathan Yeowell, who is the chair of the Greater Gwent fund which manages assets of more than £4 billion, said: “This policy will support greater growth in the UK economy and, where possible, we will look to make these investments into Welsh projects. At a time of slow economic growth, we want to invest in medium-to-long term economic, environmental, and social priorities.”
The fund was recently criticised by Newport-based Palestinian solidarity campaigners, who picketed Torfaen’s most recent pension committee meeting, over investments in Israeli defence firm Elbit Systems.
Torfaen Borough Council, which administers the fund, said that as of December 2023, the pension fund had £59,000 invested in Elbit Systems via a pooled investment fund, which it said is not a direct investment in the company.
Cllr Yeowell had also said the Wales Pension Partnership, which the Gwent fund is a member of and which handles all eight local government funds across Wales, is aware that human rights abuse can represent a reputational risk to assets but its “preference is to engage with companies as opposed to divestment”.
It has appointed a firm to act on voting and engagement activity and act on “human rights due diligence for conflict-affected and high-risk areas’, including within the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Cllr Yeowell has highlighted the fund’s impact policy is supporting projects within Gwent.
He said: “We have already made several significant fund commitments including innovative renewable energy projects in Newport and Blaenau Gwent, with others across North Wales in the pipeline.
“The investment at the Uskmouth site, in particular, will contribute to national energy security goals and carbon reduction, while creating skilled local jobs and growth in the local economy.”
The investment in Uskmouth is through a £50 million commitment to Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners’ QRIF fund which is backing the battery storage project and it is also investing in Rassau Synchronous Condenser, in Blaenau Gwent, a project to support stability of the National Grid and which has already employed 300 people on site.
Cllr Yeowell said: “We will continue to manage the fund in the best interests of our Greater Gwent pension scheme members and our priority is always to make a decent return for our members so that they can live securely and comfortably in retirement.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.