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.