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.”
A brand new Welsh language ukulele orchestra
CAN you play the ukulele and would like to join a ukulele orchestra? Or would you like to learn a new skill and to socialise in a Welsh-speaking environment? Why not join Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl?
On Monday, October 15, Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Learn Welsh will launch Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl which is a brand new, Welsh language ukulele orchestra in Aberystwyth for free, for those aged 16+.
Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl will practice weekly between 6pm and 7:30pm every Monday night during the school term and practices will take place at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. There is no need for any experience or ability on the ukulele and there will be instruments available to borrow so that you can have a taste before buying your own ukulele.
Welsh will be the main language of Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl but there is a warm welcome to everyone whatever your level of proficiency in Welsh. Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl is supported by Learn Welsh as a great activity for learners to practice their Welsh outside the classroom in a fun and new way.
Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl’s conductor will be Steffan Rees who has held a number of Iwcs a Hwyl workshops over the last year as Cered’s Community Development Officer. Steffan is also a musician who composes and performs as “Bwca” and he has been playing the ukulele for years.
Steffan said, “I have really wanted to start a Welsh ukulele orchestra in Ceredigion for a while having seen the successes and popularity of those in Cardiff and South East Wales. The ukulele is an instrument that excites people of all ages and with some patience and perseverance, it is an easy enough instrument to master. I’m looking forward to developing a repertoire with the orchestra and play a few gigs; the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron in 2020 perhaps!”
Numbers for the first term of the orchestra are limited so contact the Arts Centre Box Office on 01970 632 232 to book your place in Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl.
Hanes Llambed meeting held
THE FIRST meeting of Hanes Llambed of the 2018/19 year was held in Lampeter’s Trinity Saint David’s Old Hall this week.
There was a good attendance as Cwrtnewydd resident Simon Evans gave the first of what will eventually be two talks about his home parish of Llanwenog.
Mr Evans spoke of how the parish was defined by the Afon Cledlyn and its tributaries, describing the region’s history from the Stone Age to the present day. The talk spoke of the several hill forts of the area, as well as Llanwenog church, founded around 500 AD, before it was built in its current form in the 14th century.
The Battle of Llanwenog in 981 AD between the Welsh and invading Danes was detailed, before the speaker went on to describe the Puritan struggle and the Civil War.
The talk then went on to the establishment of private academies by nonconformist ministers from 1750 onwards, and the founding of Unitarian chapels in the early 19th century.
The terrible agricultural situation of the 1840s was described, followed by the bad harvests, which led directly to the Rebecca Riots and emigration to the USA and elsewhere in Britain.
The next meeting of Hanes Llambed will take place in October when the subject will be the Cardiganshire War Tribunals of the First World War.
Former AM charged with child porn offences
SIMON THOMAS, the former Plaid Cymru AM for Mid & West Wales has been charged with three offences of making indecent images of children.
Mr Thomas, aged 54, was charged with the offences earlier today (Sept 18) at Aberystwyth Police Station.
He has been bailed to appear at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, October 3.
At the time of his arrest, Mr Thomas was his Party’s spokesperson on Rural Affairs and Energy policy and had recently taken up a role which would have seen him perform a significant role in Plaid Cymru’s future campaigns.
His arrest in July was a shock both to his political allies and those in other parties in the Assembly.
Following his arrest, Mr Thomas resigned immediately as an Assembly Member and from Plaid Cymru. He was replaced as regional AM by Helen Mary Jones.
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