OVER 200 representatives of business, government, academia and a few community organisations crammed into a Cardiff conference to look ahead at energy in Wales on Monday (Dec 15). The overwhelming message was one of frustration at the widening gap between the amazing potential for renewable energy in Wales and its realisation. David Jones for Marine Energy Pembrokeshire flagged up the resource lying all around Wales that is currently untapped.
Our tides and waves could potentially power Britain and Pembrokeshire is among the best sources. Even a modest 30 MW installation could provide 2000 person years of employment and be operational in a few years. The meeting called often for vision and leadership quality from government. Lack of progress was also caused by a cobweb of regulations that choke progress in their dark embrace. Plaid Cymru assembly member Alan Ffred chairing the event, said that planning rules should insist on community benefit, as this would have cut through many of the complexities.
He said: “It is incomprehensible that community benefit was not included as a requirement, a tragic wasted opportunity.” The industry itself took a share of the blame for not getting communities on their side at the outset. “Wind is now toxic in Powys”, said the chair of Powys against Pylons. “I am not highly qualified like all the other speakers, I am just a fairly good dairy farmer, but I cannot get a wind turbine for my farm now, people are so hostile to them.” Examples of companies who had got their public relations right were also cited, such as Swansea Bay lagoon. They were the exceptions. This contrasted with public opinion.
Peter Davies, also from Pembrokeshire and chair of all things to do with sustainable futures at the Welsh Assembly reported on the million conversations exercise across Wales. He said: “People’s first concern with energy is cost, but climate is a high second when it comes to long term concerns. People like renewables and are against coal and fracking with mixed views on nuclear.” This feeling is shared in Pembrokeshire according to an online petition for the county to move to renewables.
A well known climate denier MP also spoke, and presented a barrage of unreferenced figures showing that climate change had stopped years ago, stating we have enough fossil fuels for hundreds of years, and the thing to do is to get on with fracking and coal mining in the UK as these produce cheaper energy. Gerwyn Williams for UK onshore Gas Group presented graphs showing vast sources of gas to frack. His company is seeking investment on the stock exchange without success.
Interestingly, both the climate denier and the gas chief were ignored by the rest of the meeting. Renewables were what everyone was interested in. Another huge barrier turned out to be the national grid. We heard that even a very modest 18kW community hydro cannot go ahead because there is no grid capacity. Mid Wales including Ceredigion and Powys are especially grid poor. All the capacity has been prebought up by giant solar farms which may or may not ever be built.
Maxine Frerk from Offgen who regulates the UK grid said this did not sound right and she would look into it. Plaid Councillor for Ceredigion, Alun Williams spoke to her afterwards and arranged to meet with her and Western Power, which is the grid operator blocking progress, to get to grips with the challenge. The conference was called because of the possibility to allow Wales to take control of power generation up to 350 megaWatts, which is up from the present 50MW.
This increase in powers is a result of the promises made to avert the Yes vote in the Scottish referendum. Conference speakers favoured this increase in powers, but with the right leadership. Welsh Labour Government Minister, Carl Sergeant spoke warmly about community renewables. He acknowledged we needed a Wales based planning inspectorate to cope with the increased powers. He refused to answer any questions with any detail, figures, dates or actions, much to the frustration of the waiting media.
The day had started with the coffee running out early. The prestigious attendees from governments and corporations queued in vain after their long journey for the expected cuppa. This, sadly, epitomised the lack of ability in Wales to rise to its potential. Alan Ffred, chair of the Environment Committee said: “Frustration is a word we are hearing a lot today.”
‘Check in, Catch up and Prepare’ All school’s in Wales prepare to enter next phase
ALL children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September”, the Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced today as she published details of the next phase for schools in Wales.
It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27 July.
In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.
In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.
There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.
Next week, the Welsh Government will publish guidance to support schools, as well as further and higher education institutions. This will include information on managing their facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.
The Government is also today publishing a paper from its COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education.
Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.
Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.
Kirsty Williams said:
“My announcement today gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase.
“We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.
“29 June means there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.
“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.
“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision.
“The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.
“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making.
“I am also convinced that it is only by returning to their own school that we will see increased attendance from our more vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
“Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”
Four further coronavirus cases confirmed in Hywel Dda area
THE LATEST figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) reveal four new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Hywel Dda Health Board Area.
As of today, June 2, Carmarthenshire identified three new cases, Pembrokeshire has one new case and none in Ceredigion, meaning the new totals stand at 732, 279 and 42.
Wales now has a total of 14,121, with 67 new cases and seven additional deaths recorded, bringing the death total to 1,354.
With Hywel Dda reporting 61 deaths to date.
Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Contact tracing continues in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy. Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come in contact with an individual with Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in order to prevent the risk of others spreading the infection in our communities.
“Anyone who has a positive Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) test will be contacted by a team of contact tracers, and asked for details of everyone they have had close contact with while they have had symptoms.
“Please keep a note of your activities so you can easily remember your whereabouts on a given day, along with who were in contact with. You do not need to have any concerns about providing names to the tracing team. This is for everyone’s benefit and we are grateful for your continued cooperation.
“If you are asked to self-isolate, you should also comply with this request to prevent further spread of the virus.
“Tracers are trained staff and personal information that you provide will handled in line with data protection regulations and will not be shared widely.
“Over the last few weeks, Public Health Wales has been setting up the methods and guidance for how contact tracing will operate. We will continue to work closely to support local health boards and local authorities in delivering contact tracing.
“Welsh Government’s revised lockdown arrangements also continue. People from two different households in the same local area can meet up outdoors, provided they continue to maintain social distancing and strict hand hygiene.
“The announcement adds that, as a general rule, people should not travel more than five miles from home. This will help to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading as people begin to travel more.
“Revised lockdown arrangements also apply to people in Wales who have been told to ‘shield’ from the virus. They are able to go outside and meet people from another household, provided they keep a two-metre distance.
“Future relaxation of lockdown measures will also be dependent on everyone following advice set out in the ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy, including self-isolating when required.
“Information about the symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) to look out for is available on the Public Health Wales website, or members of the public can use the NHS Wales symptom checker.
“Anyone experiencing Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms can now apply for a home testing kit using the new UK online portal. For further information and a link to the booking website, visit: www.gov.wales/coronavirus or www.llyw.cymru/coronafeirws. This will be supported by a national 119 phone service, through which people can also order a home test.
“We are encouraging everyone to download the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Symptom Study app, which has been supported by Welsh Government. The app allows users to log daily symptoms to help build a clearer picture of how the virus is affecting people. For more information, including how to download the app, visit covid.joinzoe.com.
“As part of wider support measures for families, Public Health Wales is offering all parents, parents-to-be, grandparents and care-givers free access to a series of online courses designed to help them understand the development and emotional milestones of their children, covering everything from pre-birth to late teens.
“To get access users just need to visit www.inourplace.co.uk and use the code ‘NWSOL’ if you live in North Wales, and ‘SWSOL’ if you live in Mid, West or South Wales.
“Public Health Wales is also continuing working to address the negative impact of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of people in Wales. Our latest campaign, ‘How are you doing?’ is now live and offering practical advice from phw.nhs.wales/howareyoudoing.
“Anyone with a suspected coronavirus illness should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse, or their symptoms do not get better after seven days.
“Only call 999 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, do not call 999 just because you are on hold to 111. We appreciate that 111 lines are busy, but you will get through after a wait.
“We also want to reinforce the message from NHS Wales that urgent and emergency care services for physical and mental health are still open and accessible.
“For parents, if your child is unwell and you are concerned you should seek help. If you have urgent dental pain you should still call your dentist. If you have a health complaint that is worrying you and won’t go away you should call your GP practice. If you or a family member are seriously ill or injured you should dial 999 or attend your nearest Emergency Department.”
Carers Week goes interactive
CARERS Week runs from Monday 8 June to Sunday 14 June. It is an annual campaign to recognise the contribution that unpaid Carers make to families and communities. Carers look after a friend or family member who cannot manage on their own because they have an illness, poor health, disability, mental health issue or an addiction.
This year so far has been particularly challenging since many people have had to carry on caring while seeing support services change dramatically or pause with no idea when things will go back to any kind of normal.
The Carers Unit and partners have been working hard to bring to carers across the county a big variety of ‘treats’ to let carers know that they are being thought of and to show them appreciation. An extra special Carers week e-bulletin that’s bursting with boredom busting ideas and sanity-saving tools & techniques has been prepared.
Coleg Ceredigion students, working with the Carers Unit, has been preparing online messages of thanks, a family-friendly carer quiz, a student pen-pal project and are encouraging Carers to join them on Sunday, 14 June to raise a cuppa for Carers at 3pm.
The Carers Unit and all of its partners invite Carers to join them at one or more of the over 30 free online sessions that have specifically designed with unpaid Carers in mind. No advance booking necessary.
To find out more information and how to join in with the Carers week celebrations, go to the Carers pages on the council website www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/social-care-wellbeing/support-for-carers/carers-week-2020 council social media pages or contact the Carers Unit on 01970 633564 / firstname.lastname@example.org
‘It takes a strong person to carry on caring – it takes a stronger, more resilient person to reach out to others.’