Let them eat crumbs: Marvel as another windfarm exports energy and profits from Wales
Barely a week goes by without news of another wind or solar farm applying for or receiving planning permission in Wales. It’s a hot topic right now – like the black gold rush of old, there’s money in them there hills.
The most recent to grab my eye, and not because it’s on my doorstep, the NIMBY that I am, makes bold and pious claims about its ability to create enough energy for the entire population of the county it is set to destroy the views of.
EDP Renewables (EDP Renováveis) is a renewable energy company registered in Oviedo, Spain and is headquartered in Madrid.
Electricity for 67,000 homes
They claim the development, on the edge of y Bannau Brycheiniog, near Parc Bryn Bach in Tredegar could create enough electricity for 67,000 homes – which roughly equates to the entire population of Blaenau Gwent.
And it is that part that pricked up the ears of many a social media commenter last week. The population of the entire county’s energy sorted, yay! Turn up your heating, boys bach. Leave that light on upstairs and call us Blackpool.
While the scheme, which proposes from eight to twelve wind turbines, is mostly on land in Blaenau Gwent, part of the site crosses into Caerphilly County. Two economically deprived counties – Blaenau Gwent being the most deprived in Wales.
So this energy that could heat and power every single one of these homes – where is it going? Back into the ‘national grid’ of course! And its profits? Shareholders in Spain.
Sorry, a few crumbs will be handed over to Blaenau Gwent County Council to buy their permission, and there is also mention of some pretty vague, yet-to-be-confirmed community funding.
The proposal is in the early stages of development, and if EDP are eventually successful, the report explains that Blaenau Gwent council could make £100,000 a year. And on the face of it, that might sound pretty decent, but is anyone really fooled by this sleight of hand?
All good – potholes, essential services and pensions will certainly benefit from the £100K. And someone needs to get on with the work if we won’t. But why, time and time again, are we sitting back and watching and congratulating outside shareholders while they take what is ours? And where is our own foresight and investment?
Rape of the Fair Country
For centuries, Wales’ resources have been extracted at the expense of the local populace. Our coal, our water, and now our renewable energy. A modern update on Alexander Cordell’s 1959 novel, Rape of the Fair Country.
In the report, Regeneration and Community Services Director at Blaenau Gwent County Council, Ellie Fry said that the Aneurin Leisure Trust, which runs the park facilities, is “in agreement” with the proposal and would be seeking to benefit from the community fund.
Ms Fry said: “Once planning is forthcoming, the finer details of the financial benefit to the council will be negotiated and terms agreed.
“In terms of a rental for an easement, the council could realistically be receiving an annual sum in excess of £100,000 per annum.
“In addition to any monetary value for the access rights, the community will benefit from the wider benefit fund which on current projections will give a total value of around £250,000 per year.”
What would Greta do
That’s superb – that’s a nice amount of money indeed. Blaenau Gwent certainly needs it – or should I say that the council does. But how much overall is actually being made? That bit we’re not told.
And we just sit back, powerless. We can call it out all we like, but we need action and we desperately need the profits of our own resources to be invested back into our own communities.
Before I’d even hit go on this article, another news item landed on our desk, about another windfarm in Blaenau Gwent.
This time, one set for Llanhilleth, of national significance, with heights reaching that of the famous ‘Gherkin’ in London.
In evidence of the hive mind, and notable concern among residents and councillors alike, Pontypool Fawr independent councillor Mark Jones has said he is concerned with others in the pipeline – which combined would outnumber the total number of onshore turbines approved across all of England in recent years.
He said: “There’s the eight they want here, there’s another 12 at Twmbarlwm – that’s 20 in that little area when only 20 turbines have been allowed in England in the last 10 years. It seems like this gold rush to get down to net zero has come to Wales all of a sudden and that is a concern.”
He also said he couldn’t understand why the wind farm has been proposed for the area and asked: “It says in the report they don’t build these turbines in areas of outstanding natural beauty. How you cannot say that is not an area of outstanding natural beauty where they want to put them? I really don’t know?”
We live in a global market now, and I’m not for one minute suggesting that we stop innovation or the rush to use renewables and protect our planet. You’ll find no bigger tree hugger, environmentalist, vegan, car-free Greta Thunberg fan club member than me.
But we have no power, no say, and we are to delight in fallen crumbs when we all know that Wales exports more energy than it uses, at our expense, and that these altruistic shareholders aren’t giving us anything close to what they earn.
From small hydroelectric pipes taking the power from our rivers, or the 1.14 billion litres of water pumped from Elan, Vyrnwy and Tryweryn to England each day, to small and large-scale offshore and onshore windfarms and everything in between, Wales is missing out while foreign fat cats and shareholders are laughing at the trough.
In a piece published in April last year, Gwern Gwynfil called out what he terms this continuous, sanctioned and encouraged ‘wealth piracy’.
He said: “This is a story repeated endlessly across Wales, at a cost to us as individuals and as a nation. Be it housing, solar, water or wind, somewhere in a neighbourhood near you, somebody else is reaping the benefits.
“A story constantly reinvented as Wales becomes a source of the wealth of the time, whether that is coal or water or nature.
“When we sell our water, our energy, our skills and our services to the world, let us make sure that the wealth and income generated funds Wales.
“Let us make sure that an ever-increasing cycle of positive growth and improvement will increase our skills, improve our quality of life and that our wellbeing will climb to new heights.”
And if we tolerate this…
How different could Wales’ most economically deprived communities be if only these profits were ours – for our schools, our healthcare system, you name it.
It’s about time everyone, particularly our leaders, embraced their inner NIMBY and stopped tolerating this. Wales deserves better.
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