Welsh minister blasts Boris Johnson over ‘indefensible’ energy strategy
A Welsh minister has slammed Boris Johnson over his “indefensible” energy strategy, published yesterday, saying that it took the UK in the wrong direction after “years of regressive energy policy”.
As part of the strategy unveiled yesterday, the UK Government announced a new licensing round for North Sea oil and new gas projects are planned for the autumn to cover the “nearer term” need to expand the energy supply.
But Julie James, MS Minister for Climate Change said that she was shocked that the UK Government had “committed to expanding the extraction of fossil fuels”.
“No government being honest about their commitment to net zero could look at options to explore new fossil fuel extraction,” she said.
“We will continue to oppose the extraction of fossils fuels in Wales, we will continue to oppose fracking and we will be supporting the transition away from the use of fossil fuels as soon as is practicably possible.
“Instead of perpetuating our reliance on fossil fuels, the strategy should have been setting the conditions for the expansion of renewables and flexibility on the scale needed to meet net zero.
“Here the strategy is again lacking. The UK Government has not taken the opportunity to expand onshore wind generation. With its significant cost advantage compared to most other forms of energy generation, the UK Government has ignored the needs of consumers in the exploration of one of the cheapest sources of green energy and instead focused on the needs of backbench Conservative MPs.
“Here in Wales we will continue to support new investment in on-shore wind by working with communities to maximise the economic and social value of investment, including ways to use new generation to directly reduce the costs of domestic energy bills.”
The Climate Change minister added that it was “deeply disappointing” that the UK Government’s strategy did not recognise the potential from using tidal resources to generate predictable renewable energy.
“The case for the deployment of tidal range technology has already been made, most recently in the 2017 Hendry review,” she said. “However, the UK Government has failed to set out a clear strategy for supporting this technology that has the potential to generate a significant proportion of our baseload needs when generation from wind and solar is low.”
Julie James did however say that the Welsh Government saw eye to eye on offshore wind and the need for new nuclear power stations.
“We have enormous potential off the Welsh coast and we want to see an approach that supports new generation while also respecting our marine environment,” she said.
“The UK Government needs to recognise our devolved responsibilities through the environmental licensing and permitting regimes and work with us to ensure we balance the needs of both the climate and nature emergency.
“We also see great potential for the economy and our communities from new investment. We want ports in Wales and Welsh industry to be at the heart of a new industrial revolution and ensure we maximise the local benefit from investment off our coast.
“I will be pressing the UK Government to develop an offshore wind industrial strategy to maximise the potential opportunities for the economy and our communities in Wales from the investment planned including the opportunities to generate hydrogen alongside off-shore wind.”
She added: “We also want to work constructively on the economic potential of new nuclear in Wales. Yesterday’s announcement provides some clarity on the future direction for nuclear energy policy and the new funding is welcome to help bring investment proposals forward.
“We hope that this will provide much needed impetus for potential projects at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd. However, after failed attempts in the past to bring investment to north Wales, the UK Government must rebuild trust with our communities and industry.
“We successfully established a partnership approach to consider the case for new investment at Wylfa and Cwmni Egino, the development company established by the Welsh Government to develop the Trawsfynydd site, is already well placed to progress small scale nuclear generation.
“We call on the UK Government to work with us in collaboration with local partners and our established structures to take forward nuclear energy proposals in North Wales.”
Mr Johnson said onshore wind farms are controversial because of their visual impact, saying new sites “will have a very high bar to clear” and would have to reward local residents with cheaper energy.
Speaking at under-construction nuclear power station Hinkley Point C yesterday, Mr Johnson said the energy strategy will deliver on offshore wind and revive the nuclear industry.
“This (energy strategy) is about tackling the mistakes of the past and making sure that we are set well for the future and we are never again subject to the vagaries of the global oil and gas prices and we can’t be subject to blackmail, as it were, from people such as Vladimir Putin, we have energy security here in the UK.”
He said people were being helped with the cost of living through other Government policies, including a £6 billion energy efficiency fund, and support for heat pumps.
But Labour leader Keir Stramer told broadcasters that “because of political squabbling it leaves out of account really important initiatives like keeping homes warm, insulating homes, which I’ve seen for myself can make a huge difference and reduce bills by up to £400, that’s the sort of real action we were looking for today”.
He said Labour was calling for “turbo-charging” renewables, including onshore wind, fast-forwarding nuclear, developing hydrogen and insulating homes to help people reduce bills.
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