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Plaid Cymru accused of hypocrisy in windfarm and pylons row

16 May 2024 6 minute read
An example of the type of pylon proposed by Green GEN Cymru

Martin Shipton

Plaid Cymru has been accused of acting hypocritically by ditching its commitment to renewable energy and embracing “nimbyism” in one of its heartland areas.

A row has blown up over the investment of nearly £70m of Welsh local government pension fund money in a controversial project to build both wind farms and pylons across Carmarthenshire and Powys.

Campaigners claim the related schemes by Bute Energy and its sister company GreenGen Cymru would in its current form destroy unspoilt countryside across a 50-mile stretch of mid and west Wales.

But some members of the Wales Pension Partnership, which manages pension fund investment for council and other public sector workers across the nation, believe that Plaid Cymru-controlled Carmarthenshire County Council has acted in bad faith by initially supporting the plans and then changing its mind.

‘Bewildering’

A Welsh local government pension fund insider contacted NationCymru and said: “It’s bewildering to see Carmarthenshire County Council’s sudden shift in stance regarding their investment in green energy projects through the Dyfed Pension Fund. This is a complete farce. The council, along with other pension funds in Wales, initially signed up to this investment because it presented a good opportunity for sustainable growth and good returns on behalf of their pensioners.

“Now, under pressure from [former Plaid leader and local MS] Adam Price and influenced by local political manoeuvring ahead of the general election, this Plaid Cymru-led council is trying to pull out of their commitment.

“This is not only disgraceful but also financially detrimental to the pensioners in the Dyfed Pension Scheme. Should they withdraw from this investment prematurely, it’s local pension holders who will bear the financial brunt of such a hasty decision.

“Furthermore, this action is a clear failure in their fiduciary duty. The council is supposed to safeguard investments, not undermine them due to political pressure. To claim that they were unaware of the Bute and GreenGen plans regarding planning is surely nonsense. If this truly is the case, then they have failed in their duty to perform adequate due diligence.

“It’s total hypocrisy; on one hand, Plaid claims to support green investments and renewable energy initiatives. On the other, they reject a golden opportunity for a green investment when it’s right in front of them, siding with nimby [not in my back yard] sentiments rather than looking at the broader benefits for Wales and the planet.

“This behaviour shows they can’t be trusted to make consistent, long-term decisions on climate change. It’s evident that Carmarthenshire council and Plaid Cymru are not reliable partners in the fight against climate change if they flip-flop on such crucial investment opportunities. We need to be clear and consistent in our approach to renewables, not bending under short-sighted political pressures.”

But Alun Lenny, a senior Plaid Carmarthenshire councillor who sits on the committee that scrutinises investment decisions made by the Dyfed Pension Fund, insisted there was no inconsistency in Plaid Cymru’s or the council’s position.

Onshore wind development

He said: “The Bute Group has a clean energy investment strategy focussing on onshore wind development. Wales was seen as being appropriate for investment consistent with the Welsh Government’s Future Wales National Plan 2040 – which indicates a presumption in favour of large-scale wind energy in pre-assessed areas and which provides a favourable planning framework for additional sites.

“Bute Energy Development Holdings Limited is the holding company for a number of subsidiary companies, one for each of its proposed 16 onshore wind projects in Wales. Bute needed to raise capital to finance the formal planning applications. In April 2022 Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), a large financial investor with extensive experience in the renewable energy field, agreed to provide Bute with a development loan. After completion of consents it’s expected the projects will be sold with proceeds being used to repay the development loan.

“In 2022 the Wales Pension Partnership agreed to invest in green energy by taking a 35% participation in the existing Bute Development Loan – a sum which amounted to about £68m. This agreement was signed in December 2022.

“Subsequently, Bute made known that electricity from one of the proposed energy parks, Nant Mithil windfarm site in south Powys – just a stone’s throw from the English border – would be carried on steel pylons a distance of some 50 miles to a substation near Carmarthen. The Tywi-Usk proposal, as it’s called, only became known to us when landowners in the Tywi Valley received letters in January 2023 from GreenGen Cymru, a subsidiary of Bute Energy Development Holdings, formed to connect electricity generated by the Bute developments to the National Grid.

“The revelation caused uproar, with hundreds of people attending public meetings in a number of towns and villages. Carmarthenshire County Council is currently investing £17m, mainly Levelling Up Fund money, on a 16-mile traffic-free path for cyclist and pedestrian through the Tywi Valley, one of the most scenic areas in Wales, with several ancient castles, mansions and gardens. It would attract visitors from all over the UK and beyond with the potential to generate around £4.5m a year for the local economy.

“The council considers that a line of steel pylons down the valley would cause significant damage to the landscape and impact on scheduled monuments and listed buildings, thereby seriously conflicting with our investment as an authority. For this reason, also as owners of council farms in the proposed path of the pylons, and consistent with the public outcry, the council has declared that it supports residents’ and local businesses’ concerns regarding the proposal to erect pylons to link Nant Mithil Energy Park to the National Grid in Carmarthenshire, and believes that Bute Energy should work with landowners to place the cables underground.

“Since then, the Tywi-Teifi plan was announced to link a windfarm near Lampeter with the substation near Carmarthen, again via steel pylons crossing our county, and again causing public outcry.

“To underground the cables would remove objections overnight. This has been the practice with 132kv connections in Denmark where CIP has its HQ, since 2008.

“It’s valid that questions are asked on an issue which affects the Wales Pension Partnership investment, such as did the company address or has the company failed to address crucial issues like the comparative costs and impacts of undergrounding by cable ploughing, compared with conventional overhead lines via pylons. Has it already committed to a predetermined position without fully considering the evidence?”

Resolution

The county council has passed a resolution proposed by Cllr Lenny that the Dyfed Pension Fund Committee should explore the financial implications of selling its investment in the Bute Energy / GreenGen Cymru scheme.

Cllr Lenny rejected the allegation of hypocrisy and told NationCymru: “We are being entirely responsible in wanting GreenGen to put the cable underground and in examining what impact selling the investment would have on the pension fund.”


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hdavies15
hdavies15
1 day ago

How on earth did Mr Lenny think these Bute carpetbaggers intended to transmit the power generated by their assorted “investments” ? Politicians have been caught napping, again, by this scam electing to bask in the warm glow of their own virtuous decisions instead of examining in detail such large scale steps of change ? More evidence that politics is incompetent, or rotten, to a very low local level.

A.Redman
A.Redman
1 day ago
Reply to  hdavies15

The very public outcry by those likely to be most affected by overhead pylons has been aired at several well attended meetings. Is it quite likely those who support the pylons will be the least affected? For once the Local Council has listened to those concerns.

Alun Lenny
Alun Lenny
1 day ago
Reply to  hdavies15

You’re entitled to your opinion of course, but as you’ve named me, could you please provide evidence for the ‘rotten’ accusation?

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 day ago
Reply to  Alun Lenny

The politics is rotten as instanced in this case. Any real depth of prior investigation would have revealed that a major upgrade of transmission infrastructure would be required if Bute and others seriously intended to convey the generated power to market. Did anyone ask formal questions at an early stage as to what were the most likely transmission requirements? What might have been alternatives considered ? or did the matter get ignored ? or glossed over ? Plenty for your colleagues to review and “learn lessons”, and it goes well beyond Sir Gar so other councils should reflect on how… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 day ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Due Diligence: the patron saint of a good result and a good night’s sleep…

Our politicians of any scale are always the last to grasp the funny yellow mettle…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 day ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Historically we should have kept a better eye on the Scots re. mineral extraction and its latest manifestation ‘Bute’ energy…not just rain water, the very air in motion across Cymru makes money for others…

Rob
Rob
1 day ago

Nimbyism is an uncomfortable concept which only serves to unfairly (in most cases)label people as selfish just because they care deeply about their local environment. Don’t or shouldn’t we all do that? The depth of local feelings seems clear to me (e.g. as an outsider occasionally driving through the area and noticing the signs put up in protest). Surely burying the cables also makes sense economically in the long term (long-term maintenance of pylons such as painting, protection from storm damage/repairs, no bird strikes etc). I would also hope that the future of green energy in Wales is in off… Read more »

Alun Lenny
Alun Lenny
1 day ago

I’ve little time for anonymous ‘insiders’ who try to score political points, but are too cowardly timid to say who they are. I’ve explained the change in stance in detail in my remarks. What the Dyfed Pension Board is asking in no way endangers pensioners’ benefits. Not does it conflict with Plaid’s commitment to green energy by asking if consideration could be given to undergrounding the cables.

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 day ago

Says a Labiur insider. The party in Goverment who believe they are mitigating climate change by teari g up the soil of rural Wales and ruining it. Their zero carbon plan is a total farce as is their 1million Welsh speakers. All they are doing is facilitating the carbon con-artists who are perpetuating and profiteering from these myths. No wind farms or pylons are planned for England. If they want Welsh communities to prosper. Let them insist on the Crown Estate being put in Welsh hands and investment made in community energy projects and actually making a difference to energy… Read more »

Sarah Eyles
Sarah Eyles
1 day ago

Well done Alun Lenny. At last, someone is listening. This must not be another Cofiwch Dryweryn Teifi & Towy, and the tragedy is this is now the Senedd supporting this destruction. The very people put in place to ensure it never happened again.

Non Davies
Non Davies
1 day ago

No Turbines = No Pylons. Cofiwch Dryweryn? It appears that recollections fade when the financial incentives are high enough and the regard for the known adverse impacts on those individuals and communities most affected is correspondingly low enough. External developers scarring landscapes and communities across Wales by placing 250m high turbines (untested and unprecedented in size and scale onshore) within 700metres of homes in large swathes across Wales, energy and money flowing from Wales and all to benefit multinational venture capitalists at the cost of Cymru and its people who will be rendered destitute in their own cynefin or heartlands.… Read more »

MrE
MrE
12 hours ago

I don’t believe the planning of pylons is a council decision in any case.
Don’t forget Councillors work for local residents, not for the council as a commercial enterprise. They absolutely should be trying to represent the views of local residents (however well they do that).
Unfortunately the councillors in Carmarthenshire let the council officers run rings around them and show very little control or consistency.

Jenny
Jenny
16 minutes ago

As I understand it the reason Green Gen doesn’t want to put the cables underground, either in a traditional way or cable ploughed is because they won’t then be able to sell the planning permission that they would need for overhead lines as an asset. In other words, less profit for Oliver Millican and his co Directors Lawson Steele and Stuart George. So, “Making Welsh Weather Work for Wales”…?.. I don’t think so. As for the due diligence done (or maybe not done?) by the Wales Pension Partnership, I started asking FOI questions about this last October and have yet… Read more »

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