a report from conference 17 Oct 2011 at WISE , Center Alternative Technology, Machynlleth
Renewables fight back
has seen protests against wind turbines and their giant pylons and grid connection stations, especially in Powys. Outraged residents have travelled to
and persuaded local authorities to stop nearly all large renewable energy developments. Finally the renewable industry - wind, solar, anaerobic digestion and tidal, and its environmental supporters have said, this is insane, and are fighting back.
On 17th Oct. the WISE building was packed. The all day event ended with a resolution to form a new organisation, or rather to start the process. A
Renewables Wales would follow
’s example where renewables have been embraced. The urgency is two-fold: the enormous money that the industry can bring to
to shore up a failing economy and dwindling public money, and the urgency of keeping the lights on as other forms of energy crumble or run out.
has exceptional renewable energy due to its west coast wind and sun exposure, forestry, hills and rainfall.
‘There is a yawning gap between government announcements and delivery’ cried the key-not speaker, Peter Davies who heads up climate and sustainability for
. ‘There is a reality gap. Wales is known thoughout Europe for its commitment to sustainable development, but it is just not delivering’ ‘The Southwest of England is a much better place for renewable energy, and Scotland is outstanding’ Speakers heard from old businesses and family firms who are leaving or doing all their business outside of Wales. Ann Jones of Jones Bros., civil engineers for renewables, said 'We employ 300 indigenous Welsh people and we do 95% of our work outside
’ Statistics like these really shocked and awed the audience.
The audience was worth millions of pounds. Investors were well represented, as were renewables businesses and politicians and heads of social organisations. There were about two traditional environmental hippy types among the 100 – 200 suited delegates. But by the end of the meeting the difference had melted, the suits from rival organisations and businesses had become empassioned visionaries, intent on collaborating instead of competing, intent on making sure their host communities shared the benefits for the long term.
The meeting had heard some deeply sobering tales of lost possibilities. It isnt just wind power that is jailed and handcuffed by the planners. A tidal turbine, although widely populer has taken 6 years and 2 million pounds to achieve planning permission for just a one year trial. Solar electricity panels may soon be banned from fields over large areas of
. Professor Morgan from
said ‘the planners are not just indifferent to the Welsh economy, they seem to be actively hostile to it’.
The conference idea started life as a passionate informal discussion in Welsh at the National Eisteddfod festival last summer. It was organised by a cross party alliance of politicians, chaired by
’ first Green Plaid Cymru MP, Cynog Dafis.
Maybe the fight is won. Maybe the protests of the residents worked. Businesses have learned that they cannot walk in and take, they must come in and share. But to achieve this we need real leadership, as was repeatedly said at the conference.
The Welsh government is working on a legal measure to address the problem. What shape it will take, and the source of the real leadership is as yet unknown.