Monday 20 February 2012

Portrait painting

Carwyn Jones’ demand for the devolution of more power over renewable energy projects is nothing new.  It’s a repetition of what Labour said in their Assembly election manifesto. It’s not a demand that I’d oppose, but it’s a very limited and unambitious demand.
In the first place, the demand seems to be limited to the issue of granting – or more probably, refusing - consent for the construction of generating capacity.  I wouldn’t suggest that all developments need to be permitted, but there is a mismatch in powers under Labour’s proposal.  Having the power to refuse certain developments with no responsibility for ensuring that we have adequate power is a recipe for following a populist agenda, and then blaming others for the lack of electricity.
Meaningful devolution in this field has to include responsibility for energy policy as well as development control.  Only a government tasked with both keeping the lights on and managing land use can take a balanced decision on the issue.
And that brings me to the second problem with Carwyn’s demand – it only covers renewable energy developments.  On non-renewable ones, it seems, he’s quite happy to let the UK Government take the decisions.  That exception – and it’s a huge exception – looks to have more to do with the needs of his party than with developing a sensible energy policy for Wales.
Taking responsibility for permitting or refusing Wylfa B would cause enormous problems for three of the four parties in the Assembly, all of whose elected representatives are seriously divided on the issue.  (Only the Tories seem reasonably united on the issue, as supporters of nuclear power).  Far easier to leave that decision elsewhere and continue to portray themselves as believers in a green and renewable future.  However, a portrait is all it is.


Boncath said...

Ruth Sutherland Daily Mail SatSat Feb 18th City Finance page103
makes in an aside that "The great mistake of the past three decades has been to believe that the U K could survive on financial services alone"
My timescale suggests a longer period of time than thatbut the procees was certainly in motion in the early 1970's with the clothing industry toys and electronics

The point is who is really in control of our finacial and remaining industrial operations

Nuclear power is dominated by
E D France I suspect that our only real involvement is to determine VAT levels as a tax generating exercise and if that is the bottom line both Labour and the ConDems could not give a toss about any related matters

You mean there's more??? said...

We have been here with coal, and gold and lead and copper.

We have water, when the rest of the UK is short.

We have wind that can be used as it is in Brittany to meet our energy needs.

We have the capability to be a net exporter of energy big style.

But we cannot any longer be the place where the big companied put in the hardware, pay little for having done so then make the profit in London so it looks liek they are subsidising us.

Our land our resources to be used for our benefit.

Plaid Panteg said...

You beat me to the point re: keeping the lights on. It strikes me as what Carwyn is demanding is a blank canvass to use politically - turning down projects that prove unpopular electorally for the WG, but also maintaining a 'green' spin.

What I find curious is the 100mw figure. I am not technically minded in these matters, but isn't that just an arbitrary figure? Unless there is some technical reason why the Welsh Government is able to rule on a 99mw project but not a 101mw project?

My concern for us nationalists is that I believe that sometimes environmentalism has trumped nationalism. If you could wave a magic wand and make Wales a wholly renewable country tomorrow - then who does that benefit in the current system?

My concern is that if we do meet our potential for renewable energy, won't that make it even less likely we will be free to have that money as an indepedent nation?

All of these projects currently are to the benefit of the UK Government and private companies with lifetime long leases. Independence politically might be hamstrung if we are energy independent, particularly if our energy production is so central to our new economy.

I don't propose not starting these projects, but there is a definite downside for the national project which sometimes frustrate me as a nationalist.

John Dixon said...


Firstly, I agree that 100Mw is an entirely arbitrary number; there is no obvious reason why the line should be drawn there rather than at 50Mw or anywhere else. The issues of principle are who takes the decisions and on what basis.

I don't agree with the bit about nationalism trumping nationalism though, not least because it perpetuates the impression that there's some sort of a conflict between the two. If nationalism means taking responsibility for our own future, it also means taking responsibility for our impact on the wider world; the two are complementary, not opposed.

I understand the point about 'us' not benefiting and the profit flowing elsewhere, of course. It's not simply a nationalist point though; I'm not sure that ensuring the profit goes toe Welsh capitalists rather than foreign capitalists really solves the question. The issue, surely, is how we collectively benefit from the exploitation of natural resources, and that issue isn't necessarily boundary-constrained - it's more to do with economic power and control.

Plaid Panteg said...


My point is merely that renewables may end up as a stick to beat us with when debating in the future about taking control of our own destiny.

As an independent nation, I would be 100% behind having renewables first attitude, the problem I have is that I don't see how being England's provider of renewable energy helps the national project?

Because the benefits will be accrued as 'UK' benefits and tied to long term contracts, it will be harder to convince people we actually have control of these assets to proclaim they are ours to exploit if we become independent.

I accept it's not either or, but I sometimes wonder when we are on the wrong side electorally on things like windfarms when they are projects that go against not allowing others to exploit resources that should benefit Wales.