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Opinion

Putin’s chokehold on our energy supplies shows why Wales needs to do more and faster to get to net-zero

02 Apr 2022 5 minutes Read
Vladimir Putin picture by Kremlin.ru (CC BY 4.0). Right, Milford Haven Refinery from St. Anne’s Head. Picture by David Merrett (CC BY 2.0).

Llŷr Gruffydd, MS, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee

We have all been shocked and saddened by the terrible scenes of pain and suffering witnessed in Ukraine. While there remains considerable uncertainty about how the war will play out in the weeks and months ahead, we know that it has already had a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine, and we all stand with them in solidarity during their hour of need.

Closer to home, we’re also starting to get a sense of the wider impacts of the war – particularly Russia’s hold over oil and gas supplies, and what this means for energy security here. We’re lucky in Wales not to be as dependent on Russian supplies as some other countries. But frankly, Russia’s chokehold on energy has plagued the whole of Europe for decades, whilst governments have been too apathetic to confront the issue.

Some are now saying we must invest more in fossil fuels as a means of securing domestic energy supplies. Fracking and expansion of oil and gas production in the North Sea have both been suggested by the usual suspects. But surely when you’re in a hole, you stop digging. We need to be freeing ourselves from the damaging shackles of oil and gas rather than building our energy future on yesterday’s answers.

Fuelling volatility

Rewind to the early days of covid and we all remember how oil prices collapsed to record lows. Producers were paying buyers to take oil off their hands with oil futures prices in negative territory.

Yet just two years later families in Wales are now facing the most severe hike in energy prices in recent memory. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said UK households face the biggest drop in living standards since records began in the 1950s.

Despite the twin economic and security crises, we also have to remember the biggest threat of all – the global threat of climate change. António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations warned recently that global climate targets may become unreachable if countries respond to the war in Ukraine by increasing their use of fossil fuels. We cannot let this happen.

All of this demonstrates how fossil fuel doesn’t just fuel homes and businesses, it also fuels economic instability, geopolitical oppression and climate catastrophe.

Three compelling reasons to make a decisive change in energy direction, and we need to do two things as a matter of urgency.

How we can help

First, we need to ramp up renewable energy developments.

We need to make the most of our natural resources on land and off shore. Wales has over 2,000km of coastline, which provides huge marine energy opportunities, with generating capacity significant enough to help Wales reach its decarbonisation targets.

Our ambition should be for all of our electricity to be generated from renewables and for Wales to be a net exporter of electricity.

Second, we need to ensure that Welsh households have support to get through the current energy-price crisis.

We need to see as much financial help as possible from the UK and Welsh Governments for the most vulnerable. We haven’t seen near enough support yet and the Chancellor’s recent mini-budget certainly didn’t do enough to help those most in need.

We also need to consider how we can all reduce our energy consumption.

Wales’ housing stock is among the oldest in Europe and is responsible for 10% of Welsh carbon emissions. Our inefficient, draughty homes mean that they require more energy to heat and keep warm. And that makes them particularly expensive at the moment.

I’d like to see urgent progress on the decarbonisation of Welsh housing, starting with the most vulnerable. We need to see large-scale programmes to deliver home insulation and a scaling up of advice and information services so that people have the tools to make the decisions that can reduce their consumption and costs. All of this must be in place by next winter when the weather turns colder and people start to feel the effects of another rise in the energy price cap.

We can also try to use more public transport. The less use we make of our cars the less dependent we all become on oil. Putin’s war is bankrolled by the $1bn a day he makes from selling oil and gas to Europe.

So if you want to help Ukraine – take the train!

Future

The best response to the energy crisis and Putin’s threat to our energy security is obvious. Clean, renewable energy is the solution, not more fossil fuels. Modernising our homes so that we consume less energy is what is needed. This will help us face these immediate challenges and keep us on a path to net-zero.

We have already started on this journey. Now is not the time to take a step backwards. We need to do more and do it faster.


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Non DAVIES
Non DAVIES
1 month ago

There is a very fine line (but a significant difference) between being a ‘net exporter’ and being exploited. Do your own research, ask your own questions and do your own sums – how is Wales and its people benefiting? There have been no large scale onshore wind developments in England (with its adverse impacts) since 2016 legislation demanded local support. There is absolutely no need as Welsh Government is aiding and abetting multi national venture capitalists to meet England’s needs at the detriment of scarring Wales’ landscapes and communities. Wind energy can never achieve net zero as it is reliant… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Non DAVIES

Non, Through your close proximity to a local development you have been motivated to do the end to end analysis of this ghastly “technology”. To call it technology is a misuse of the term as it is prone to failure or under performance. Also few if any critiques include the quantifiable and unquantified costs of ripping up countryside, often featuring useful carbon sinks, and laying hectares of foundation concrete, access routes and service channels. To cap all this we then proceed to lob these grasping corporate opportunists a juicy bonus which is extracted from consumers via the green levy. Best… Read more »

Non DAVIES
Non DAVIES
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

250 Metre Onshore Wind Turbines – Paradise Lost or Paradise Regained?   I had a strange and surreal ‘Mabinogion’ or ‘Under Milk Wood’ type dream last night, I was talking to an industrial wind energy company representative from another country. Rather he was condescending whereas I was rendered gobsmacked (the correct technical term to describe this state eludes me). He took undue delight in telling me that the Welsh Government designation of pre-assessed status for wind energy generation afforded to my home (Future Wales Plan 2040) gave his company ‘presumed consent’ to build a huge industrial wind site, unprecedented in size… Read more »

Non DAVIES
Non DAVIES
1 month ago
Reply to  Wyn D Miller

diolch – note my caveat ‘since 2016’ ( I think that’s what you’re referring to, apologies if not) and I don’t expect sanctioning of 250 metre high turbines within 700m of homes in England any time soon – as is happening under the Future Wales Plan 2040, bypassing local democracy with one minister ultimately determining whether adverse impacts are ‘acceptable’ or not.

Wyn D Miller
Wyn D Miller
1 month ago
Reply to  Non DAVIES

Yes there has

.
Open the link and look at the dates

Have a gander at which nations have the most onshore wind farms as well.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Wyn D Miller

Most windfarms per capita?

Non DAVIES
Non DAVIES
1 month ago
Reply to  Wyn D Miller

I can only see Frodsham in 2017? Scotland and Wales (increasingly and directly via the impact of the Future Wales Plan 2040 by passing local democracy) are set to become (if not already) the main generating sources for the UK – with no corresponding increases of DNS in England. One external developer alone has 20 proposed sites across Wales. How does Wales and its population benefit by increasing the profit margins of venture capitalists whilst more and more of its population becomes trapped in fuel poverty?

Elvey MacDonald
Elvey MacDonald
1 month ago

Ysgrif ardderchog ac amserol. Da iawn Llyr, gobeithio y gweithredir dy syniadau ar fyrder.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

The is the adverse effect dependency has, in this case Europe, which needs are served by hostile larger neighbour Russia. We in Wales has so much untapped potential with its natural resources to hand to supply us with clean energy but the inability to unlock them because we ourselves are dependent on Whitehall to release central funds to facilitate any investment in infrastructure. And the irony is. Europe now themselves knows what Wales has endured over the centuries when a larger country threatens to withhold vital lifelines with strings attached. Russia has stated that unfriendly countries due to their support… Read more »

Non DAVIES
Non DAVIES
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

we need a party in Wales with the political confidence to call this out for what it is, a money grab. No regard for grid network, no regard for the unintended consequences, just for profit for developers and shareholders.

Freya
Freya
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

The trouble is, the crisis is now, folk can’t afford to heat their houses today and come October when the cap rises again, yet more people can’t afford to heat their homes. PV and tidal isn’t sufficient today, we need cheap gas to power currently operating power stations. I know they are not green but they are there, they don’t need building and are already up and running. Long term solutions to a short term problem mean they won’t work NOW and bills are landing on doormats today. Any conversation that starts with the sentence first we need to build…..… Read more »

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

Put PV & Solar water panels on as many roofs as possible. Fit every house with a 10kWh domestic battery and network them. Retrofit all the old harbours to turn turbines on the tide. Keep going with offshore wind & wave. Many old reservoirs could be fitted with turbines to be used as reserve capacity. Legislate on new housing standards – consider Passivhaus or similar. I’ve been looking at construction design – concrete & brick has a high CO2 cost in manufacturing. It is in fact possible to build stone cavity walls. Can we use locally sourced stone? One advantage… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Any thing that requires a depth of thought beyond the superficial is too much for these people hence their rush to hand over large tracts of Wales to multinationals that see the green revolution as a big money making opportunity. Renewables have a huge part to play but all we are doing now is making another mess, the modern equivalent of spoil tips and s**g heaps.

Last edited 1 month ago by hdavies15
Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Such an opportunity to build up Welsh enterprises and our Green Industry in general. This is where we need the State to be a little bit entrepreneurial and provide the momentum to get things moving. We have an abundunce of energy and natural materials with which to literally rebuild Wales. Silly to outsource the work and hence the profits. Should be working hand in hand with our Uni’s to build Welsh IP and support Welsh businesses.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Socialists don’t like business. We need a business friendly Party which is patriotic.

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

I’m a Social Democrat

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Where are these batteries coming from?

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

Same places all the cars are getting them from. Any lithium deposits in Wales?

Dafydd ap Robart
Dafydd ap Robart
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

“Due to its solubility as an ion, it is present in ocean water and is commonly obtained from brines. Lithium metal is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.”
(Wikipedia)

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

Stoke on Trent (Give Energy) – 7kWh for £4,500.

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

You need to add to your excellent list external wall insulation. A very large proportion of Welsh houses have solid walls or early cavity walls. External wall insulation (if applied corectly!) would take a gang of three workers about a day to do, and probably less if a whole street were being done. Not expensive to do, generates lots of skilled but not highly skilled jobs and seriously reduces energy consumption from the day of completion. The Welsh Government and many Welsh counties have experience of doing this and know what is needed and what can go wrong. What they… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

How did I immediately know that you hail from the south Mr Gruffydd…you suggested we take the train.

Before ‘we’ do anything Mr Gruffydd the idea of ‘Due Diligence’ must be explained to every government and council department in Wales…

Wales has become a paradise for scammers or fraudsters if you like…

The actions and nature of Orthios on Ynys Mon need to be investigated at once before all their ‘assets’ vanish in a cloud of smoke!

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Do Plaid have any posters and car stickers for sale, according to your shop the answer is no, if so why not !

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Mr Gruffydd if you read this get your legal department to act now on the matter of Orthios and I mean NOW !

Mark
Mark
1 month ago

energy/fuel security and food security have been ignored by all political parties for years, they would rather make a profit and even now after brexit, the english government are doing deals with New Zealand, Australia and America rather than enable UK farmers to pick up the short fall in produce, money from north sea oil has been spaffed up the wall for decades and squandered by mainly the tories to buy votes, compare UK with Norway to see the difference. And now everybody is wringing their hands because they’ve only just noticed exactly how much control Russia has over Europe’s… Read more »

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

How about our own little oil well being stolen by next door in traditional pirate fashion?

Freya
Freya
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

Actually the UK is not in a bad position energy wise on power generation, its the global wholesale gas price that’s hurting us because we rely on gas powered stations to pick up the slack when the renewables are off on still days, nights etc. I am not a fan of onshore wind, it is crazy economics and the green tax and incentives to build them are skewing the market and holding back true green energy because they swallow all the investment funds. Our aging nuclear stations are soon end of life and unless new technologies are introduced at scale… Read more »

Gaynor Jones
Gaynor Jones
1 month ago

Problem is these wind turbines are scams for foreign companies, or tax breaks , a few landowners , like Lord Beaufort, whoever he is, and the local village hall will get a windfall now and then. They do not provide Abercwmsgwt with locally produced electricity at a low price do they? or manufacturing in Llanelli with cheaper energy to maximise profits, creating productivity and boosting local economy

Martyn
Martyn
1 month ago

Russia is NOT a Threat to Wales1 Neoliberal Tory England MOST DEFINITELY is!

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