Regulator ‘minded to grant’ licence that could lead to 60 miles of pylons in mid Wales

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Protestors against Bute Energy’s pylon plan in Llandovery.

Martin Shipton

A controversial energy group’s ambition to build networks of wind farms and pylons across mid Wales has received a major boost with the regulator Ofgem announcing that it is minded to grant it an electricity distribution licence.

Green GEN Cymru, a subsidiary of Bute Energy, wants to feed electricity from its yet-to-be-approved-or-built wind farms into the UK-wide distribution grid. If granted a licence by Ofgem, it would also allow other electricity generators to use its distribution network.

Bute Energy and Green GEN Cymru have both faced opposition to their plans from residents who say erecting wind turbines and pylons would ruin the beauty of rural Wales and damage the tourism industry.

The Welsh Government favours onshore wind but would prefer projects to be driven by local community groups. It also prefers the burying of cables rather than the erection of pylons in sensitive landscapes.

Step forward

A Bute Energy source has told NationCymru that the group sees the Ofgem announcement as a major step forward for its plans. If the licence is granted following a consultation period that lasts until May 6, Green GEN will split off from Bute Energy and have a separate board of directors while retaining the same ownership.

Earlier this week protesters against the pylon plans descended on Llandovery, where Green GEN Cymru staged a consultation meeting about its proposed 60-mile route from Radnor to Carmarthen.

Dyfan Walters, co-chair of Llandovery Pylon Steering Group, wrote a blog post afterwards that said: “It’s been quite a day, which began this morning when members of the group travelled to the ATP Cable Plough demonstration [in support of a technique that allows cables to be “ploughed” into the ground at significantly less cost than conventional undergrounding].

“The journey was spent listening to an excellent interview on BBC Radio Cymru by Andrea Moore voicing the concerns of the community regarding the latest Green GEN / Bute proposals. The ATP demonstration was amazing with everybody in disbelief that pylons are still being considered with this technology available locally to get the cables underground quickly and efficiently.

“Then on to the consultation which was so well attended with over 600 people present throughout the afternoon to voice their concerns. This included the march from the school to the Castle Hotel where the next generation made their feelings known to Bute. The message was clear: these cables need to be underground, and we are not going to stand by and allow our community to be ruined.”

Infrastructure Bill

Meanwhile the Welsh Government’s Infrastructure (Wales) Bill, aimed at making it easier for developers to progress projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions, is due to be voted on by Senedd Members on April 16.

A background document about the Bill states: “The Wales Act 2017 devolved further legislative and executive responsibility for the consenting of energy generating projects, overhead electric lines as well as ports and harbours. As a consequence of the way these powers were devolved, Wales has been placed into consenting processes which are not fit for purpose.

“This has caused problems for developers, namely, there is no longer any certainty in terms of timing and policy, and the consenting process no longer provides authorisation for a range of other consents as part of a ‘one-stop shop’. This situation significantly frustrates the Welsh Government’s ambitions in relation to Net Zero and growing the green economy. This Bill establishes a unified consenting process for devolved major energy and infrastructure projects in Wales, which applies both on and offshore, up to the territorial sea water boundary.”

Streamline

Clive Goodridge, an anti-onshore wind activist who lives near Abergele, has been campaigning against the Bill. He said: “The Bill is the process the planning policies will have to follow. It’s not in itself a policy but a ‘process bill’ for all nationally significant projects including road, rail etc, not just energy.

“Basically, to use the Welsh Government’s terminology, it’s a ‘one stop shop’ to streamline / speed up the process / decisions for all nationally significant projects / developments /applications to give assurance to developers.

“As far back as its 2018 public consultation they were saying the DNS (Development of National Significance) system wanted reviewing/changing, and that hadn’t even been completed until 2019, so this new Bill may replace the DNS process – for the worse.

“If this Bill gets passed, then we’re all stuck with the current onshore renewables’ planning policies. To halt / slow up this bill would / might get a review of the onshore policies, but we need enough MSs from all parties to vote against it.”


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