Tuesday, 14 July 2015

How sincere are they?

Yesterday’s announcement by Plaid that it would seek to produce 100% of Wales’ electricity needs from renewable sources within 20 years sets a clear and achievable target which I’d entirely support.  Coupled with proposals for reducing demand, it sets the scene for an approach to energy in Wales which will help to decarbonise our economy as well as creating jobs in a more sustainable economy.  There is nothing in the announcement by Llŷr Gruffydd with which I would disagree, and if the party is serious about it, it would draw a very clear line between Plaid and the other parties currently represented in the Assembly on the issue of energy.
There is inevitably, however, a question about the extent to which the policy is credible.  Is it one supported by the party as a whole, or only by its energy spokesperson and friends?  If we vote for Plaid Cymru candidates, are we voting for this policy, or are we voting for whatever the individual candidates say, which may well be very different from the stated policy?
There are two large holes in the party’s credibility on this issue, and there was nothing in yesterday’s statement which gave me any confidence that the party intends to plug those holes.
The first and most obvious is Wylfa B.  How can anyone who is planning to generate 100% of Wales’ electricity requirement from entirely renewable resources support the building of a new nuclear reactor in Wales, particularly if such a reactor is likely to meet Wales’ electricity needs anyway?  It makes absolutely no sense at all.
And the second is that making use of renewables includes more use of wind energy, yet Plaid politicians are often prominent in opposing wind energy schemes wherever they’re proposed.  Supporting something ‘in principle’ and then opposing it in practice doesn’t make for credibility.  And I’m not even sure that many of them support it in principle.  I’ve certainly heard some of Plaid’s elected members repeating the lies and half truths of anti-wind campaigners.
It frequently sounds as if the party is in favour of wind turbines only where no-one wants to build them and against nuclear power schemes only where no-one wants to build them – the latter being a point I made in the party’s 2010 conference.  Simply announcing a new policy does nothing to bridge that yawning credibility gap.
I’d be delighted to be able to vote for the policy announced yesterday – and in some parts of Wales, voting for the Plaid candidate might amount to the same thing.  But in wide swathes of Wales, voting for the Plaid candidate would be, effectively, a vote against the policy the party announced yesterday.  For sure, all parties have problems at times with individuals who disagree with the party line on a particular issue.  But in this case, the problem is much more fundamental and widespread than that, to the extent that claiming that ‘the party’ has a policy is rendered meaningless.

12 comments:

Robin Burn said...

The Plaid announcement yesterday refers to renewable source produced electricity, Plaid supporting local cooperative initiatives of its generation , which you do not disagree with.
The proposed Wylfa B, a nuclear electricity source, is connected to the United Kingdom national grid, which by definition delivers the electricity to the whole of the United Kingdom, more electricity consumed in the rest of the UK outside of Wales. You overlook the hydro electric scheme in Dinorwic again supplying the National Grid directly, uniquely renewable using water as its motive power.
Biomass electricity generating units fit the renewable source criteria as does the Welsh Water proposals for micro generation of electricity at their water treatment plants using waste produced methane gas.
The Plaid statement referred to the support of local cooperatives to generate the electricity benefitting local populations, the above mentioned renewable generating schemes being publically owned.

John Dixon said...

I'm not sure that I understand the points you are making here. You seem to be saying that since the Plaid statement only applied to renewable sources, and only to electricity produced for Wales' use, then support for nuclear power stations connected to the National Grid which supply electricity 'for export' is not inconsistent. If that's what you mean, then I'm afraid it's just another bit of verbal evasion to justify the unjustifiable - on a par with the argument about not supporting 'new' nuclear stations but that Wylfa B is somehow not 'new'.

I'm not sure why you think I have 'overlooked' either hydro-electric, biomass (although I'm dubious about the 'green' credentials of the latter as it happens) or micro-generation. I did not say that wind was the only renewable source; merely that any 100% renewables approach requires the acceptance of new wind turbines. You might argue otherwise, but I don't believe that you'll achieve 100% renewables without more wind than we are currently using.

Karen said...

Interestingly enough, no-one in Plaid ever wants to talk about the 'cleaning up' costs associated with New Wylfa after its productive life.

Yes, the new power station development is a UK project but proposed, initiated and supported by the Welsh government supposedly on behalf of the people of Ynys Mon. The subsidised benefits during construction and operation will be paid by the UK as a whole and Ynys Mon and Wales will reap the benefits.

But who pays for the subsequent 'clean-up' operation after useful life?

Anonymous said...

The Plaid Cymru energy policy aspiration yesterday made no sense at all. Renewable energy is a good thing, but wind does not blow all the time nor sun shine 24 hours a day. In order to have a large renewable sector you need back up from other generators normally gas, especially during winter anticyclones. I cannot see the environmental lobby agreeing to much of the hydro power even tidal barrages which will be economically poor investments ( unfortunately), and they reject nuclear. I find the recurrent hypocrisy of the Wood 'leadership', in that Plaid rants about the loss of the coal industry under Thatcher yet wants renewables with the fervency of the most rabid greens. This I suppose is a case of smoke and mirrors before May 2016, but that is all politicians do these days - campaign for the next election.

John Dixon said...

Karen,

"no-one in Plaid ever wants to talk about the 'cleaning up' costs associated with New Wylfa". That's true, although in fairness, it should be noted that neither does anyone else. The assumption being made by the UK Government (which Plaid and others are implicitly accepting) is that the operators of the site will set money aside from the profitable period of operation - perhaps 40 years - to pay for the clean-up costs over the following century or so. In my view, that's utterly dishonest, and it's something that will never happen. I have no doubt at all that the clean-up costs will eventually fall back on the taxpayer. And that is part of the reason why choosing to build a new reactor isn't just a little matter of energy policy which has no impact on the question of Wales' constitutional future. Taking a decision which commits Wales effectively to many, many millions of pounds in costs at some unspecified future date, for no return, is a liability which an economy the size of Wales can ill afford.

Anon,

I agree with you on "wind does not blow all the time nor sun shine 24 hours a day", but not on "In order to have a large renewable sector you need back up from other generators normally gas". Whilst that is one way of coping with the variability of some renewable sources, it isn't the only way. A large renewable sector does require a rethink about the way we manage electricity supplies - that includes thinking about managing consumption as well as supply, the use of interconnectors, and more electricity storage, as well as ensuring that we use a variety of renewable sources rather than just one or two. I believe that a renewables future is both possible and desirable, but creating it needs more than just building a few - or even a lot - more wind turbines.

Karen said...

'Taking a decision which commits Wales effectively to many, many millions of pounds in costs at some unspecified future date, for no return, is a liability which an economy the size of Wales can ill afford.'

Quite so. And it was Plaid Cymru in the form of Rhun ap Iorwerth who fought so desperately for New Wylfa, duplicitously suggesting that it was what the people of Anglesey wanted. It wasn't. Jobs were wanted.

Now we've absolutely no chance of affording Welsh independence for at least three more generations.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not you think Rhun ap Iorwerth has been duplicitous, is it really true to say that he fought desperately for a new Wylfa?

Karen said...

Anon 22:54, Yes it is. He will doubtless still be happy to confirm such much to the chagrin of other Plaid members.

Anonymous said...

Karen - exactly who or what was he fighting against? I'm pretty sure he had little or no influence over the decision.

John Dixon said...

Karen and Anon,

I try not to censor comments on this blog, but a debate about what Rhun did or did not do is really off topic here. I've allowed the comments to date, but will not let this one run any further, sorry. My own view, as I've posted previously, is that Plaid's problem on this issue is institutional, and not about individuals. If the party is serious about wanting to be a party of government (and it claims that it is), then voters need to know what the policies of that government would be; and if the party is serious about displaying its green credentials (which, again, it says it is), then it needs to have a coherent energy policy. At present, it's failing on both counts - and that's a much bigger problem than an individual AM in an individual constituency.

G Horton-Jones said...

Ok Lets accept that we in Wales generate all our domestic requirements from renewables however defined. As the comments are pointing out albeit indirectly there are economic gains to be had from export income generation as well as huge long term costs associated with this activity
The economic costs of coal extraction will be with us in Wales for generations to come. One should also recognise that there are millions of pounds worth of copper cable underground simply abandoned as uneconomic to recover victims of technological change

Who will finance the removal of redundant turbines' barrages etc

hiwsnpt said...

As always John I value your comments. I think Wylfa is inconsistent with any party that values Wales full stop. It creates a dependency on the UK in relation to national grid and clean up and the risks to such a small nation are horrendous. Some on here have spoken about alternative energy not being dependable. It is not true. The large scale barrage schemes in Cardiff/ Swansea for instance would produce enough clean energy for every household in Wales. If Wales really wants independence then control of energy is key. With such a small population we need to surround our coast with such schemes, build another Dinorwic and encourage small Welsh made hydro such as the knee being made by Hydrolite in swansea in as many sites as possible. Having an energy surplus would allow us to attract business by offering cheap energy and sell energy to England ( a significant cost to business) thus creating a boom. To do this we need capacity in the grid and control of energy so that surplus and profit favours our population not big business. Wales could easily be self sufficient without nuclear and self sufficient means incredibly wealthy. Instead we are being tied down by a nuclear lobby ensuring dependency as a nation and risks we cannot afford to take. The clean up of Trawsfynydd will never happen and is being hidden behind a proposed new plant ( cheaper to build a small new plant than clean up) the people of Walescwere promised Trawsfynydd back as a clean recreational site- it will never happen. We need to grow up and make our own decisions. If course nothing will change while there is no opposition or public awareness and an outcry. It's is Plaid and other political parties to ensure this happens not support it like the political lemmings we have become hiding behind vagaries and contradictions.