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Marine renewable opportunities set to surge

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marinePEMBROKESHIRE businesses are set to benefit from imminent developments in the renewable energy industry following two key announcements made by Marine Energy Pembrokeshire last week. The Crown Estate’s selection of Wave Hub – the organisation behind the world’s most advanced site for the testing and development of renewable energy – as the organisation to manage Pembrokeshire’s designated Demonstration Zone, and the signing of a collaboration agreement between Marine Energy Pembrokeshire and South West Marine Energy Park, is welcome news for local businesses and the area as a whole. The Port of Milford Haven’s strategy, supported by their significant investment, has positioned and equipped Pembroke Port to become a key delivery centre for this growing industry. Pembrokeshire’s powerful natural resource for wave and tide, existing grid connectivity and recently improved road links coupled with the Port’s deep water quay, industrial sheds and extensive lay-down space are already beginning to attract considerable interest. Local businesses that employ highly skilled engineering personnel who are accustomed to servicing the cluster of energy facilities on the Haven will play a critical role as delivery partners. Based on a recent study by Regeneris Consulting and the Welsh Economy Research Unit at Cardiff Business School, the development of marine energy in Wales has the potential, in the next 3-4 years, to support £72m of Gross Value Added (GVA) and create over 2,000 personyears of employment during the development and installation phase, and £2m GVA with 50 FTE jobs per annum during the operational and maintenance phase. Kevin Hobbs, Short Sea Director for the Port of Milford Haven with responsibility for Pembroke Port, commented: “We are committed to developing Pembroke Port into a centre of excellence for marine renewables and engineering. Existing infrastructure and on-site specialist supply chain companies experienced in engineering and fabrication and operation of work-boats and barges are combining to create an exciting opportunity for businesses in and around the Port. “Our commitment to the industry is already being realised by Tidal Energy Limited, the company behind the Delta Stream concept which aims to harness the power of tidal flow to generate power. They chose Pembroke Port as their operational base early in 2013 and are currently preparing their device for deployment in Ramsey Sound later this summer.” Managing Director for Tidal Energy Ltd, Martin Murphy, said: “We are pleased with how our project has progressed. Pembroke Port’s flexible approach and the excellent facilities there, as a base from which to store and assemble components, deploy, monitor and maintain wave and tidal energy projects such as ours, has made a significant difference to us in advancing this innovative project.” Kevin Hobbs added: “The Pembrokeshire economy has benefited from the busy oil and gas port at Milford Haven for decades, but in recent years shipping has declined and the Port is looking to diversify in order to continue to support the level of employment the area has become accustomed to. A master-planning process for Pembroke Port is under way that is looking at areas within the site that could be adapted for use as a potential manufacturing base for wave and tidal devices. “The major announcements by Marine Energy Pembrokeshire this week are exciting news and highlight what can be achieved through collaboration between business, communities, and local and national government. At Pembroke Port we look forward to continuing to collaborate and work in partnership with all agencies so that, together, we can maximise the long term economic benefits from Pembrokeshire’s existing natural resource and skilled personnel.”

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MP makes Budget case for support for self-employed and small businesses in Ceredigion

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BEN LAKE MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the government’s financial support package for businesses and self-employed workers in next week’s Budget as many struggle to stay afloat during continued lockdown restrictions. 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020. 

To help businesses and our local high streets over coming months, the Ceredigion MP has called on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022 and to extend the business rates relief package. 

Mr Lake also called on the Chancellor to retain the furlough scheme for the duration of pandemic restrictions, as recent figures show more than 178,000* in Wales are still receiving government help from the CJRS. He also urged the Chancellor to expand the existing eligibility criteria for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme in order to offer some help to the many individuals who have not received a penny in Government support thus far. 

Ben Lake MP said: “For many businesses and self-employed workers, the financial support government has offered over the last 12 months has been a lifeline. Now, as we are finally starting to see light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, we cannot remove this lifeline prematurely. Extending this help for a little longer, and expanding the criteria to help those that have been excluded thus far, would offer small businesses the support they require to ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic.” 

Many businesses who are still not open due to lockdown measures are also now expected to start repaying their Bounce Back Loans. This is despite their situation largely remaining unchanged since they took out the loan, or in some unfortunate instances, worsened as they have not yet been able to trade.  

UKHospitality has estimated that the hospitality sector lost around £72 billion in sales in 2020 and faces, frankly, a debt mountain, including £4.2 billion in state-backed loans.  

Mr Lake said:  “It is important that businesses that took out bounce back loans and CBILS are required to pay only when they are in a position to do so – once they have ‘bounced back’ from the pandemic. Affording such a level of flexibility, and thus preventing avoidable business failures, would protect jobs, the taxpayer’s investment in the recovery, and the integrity of our financial system.

“We remain in the early stages of a vaccine-led recovery, and it is likely that we will have some form of restrictions for many months to come. Having done so much to protect the economy and the workforce, we must not withdraw support prematurely, as to do so would risk throwing away the investment taxpayers have made in the last year, and potentially our economic recovery.” 

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£3.8m to upgrade local gas network

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WALES & WEST UTILITIES says it is continuing its work to upgrade the gas pipes supplying homes and businesses across west Wales and has announced a £3.8 million investment programme for 2021.

The work, which will see 19km of gas pipe upgraded, not only keeps the gas flowing safely today, it also prepares the gas network to transport green gases like hydrogen and biomethane. Converting the existing safe and reliable gas network to run on green gas will help communities across Wales and south west England play their part in a green future and getting the UK to Net Zero.

Rob Long, Wales & West Utilities Chief Operating Officer, said: “While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across west Wales. Whether it’s heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

“Our investment in local communities is essential to keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses today, and to make sure the gas network is ready to transport hydrogen and biomethane, so we can all play our part in a green future.

“And it will make sure that we continue to support communities through Coronavirus, keeping the gas flowing so local people are safe and warm.”

Wales & West Utilities look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to heat the homes and power businesses of 7.5m people across Wales and south west England. They operate the gas emergency service, connect new homes and businesses, and upgrade the gas network so it’s safe today and fit for a green future.

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Wales is moving in the right direction to ease coronavirus restrictions

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THE NUMBER of coronavirus patients being treated in Welsh hospitals is at the lowest for three months, Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething has revealed at a briefing today (Feb 8).

The R number is below one, it was confirmed – the most recent estimate from SAGE is that R is between 0.7 and 0.9 in Wales.

He also confirmed that the latest figures show the testing positivity rate has fallen in Wales below 10%, which means Wales could soon be moving is from alert level 4 to alert level 3.

Mr Gething said: “There are some encouraging signs that the number of people needing hospital treatment for coronavirus is starting to fall.

“The number of people with confirmed Covid in our hospitals is at the lowest since 8 November and we have also seen a reduction in the number of people with coronavirus needing intensive care.

“Overall, we are seeing cases of coronavirus fall. Monday’s figures show there are around 115 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in Wales.

“But this varies widely across Wales.

In Wrexham, rates are above 220 cases per 100,000 people, although this is falling. In Ceredigion, the rate has risen over the last seven days to 56 cases per 100,000 people. “The positivity rate – this is the percentage of tests, which return a positive result every day – is also falling. It now stands at just below 10%.

“This is still high, but it’s a lot lower than the very high rates we were seeing before Christmas, when we had overall rates of more than 650 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of more than 25%.”

BAM communities hesitant to get vaccines

Concerns have been growing in recent weeks about an apparent hesitancy from some people in black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities to have the Covid-19 vaccine. Which is why Mr Gething also told the briefing that work was being done to counter some of the misinformation about the vaccine, which is common among some groups and communities.

He said that Welsh Government was closely monitoring vaccine uptake to make sure there are no barriers to take-up.

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