Carwyn Jones, First Minister
The move to a low carbon economy presents major opportunities. Wales has significant natural resources in virtually every energy source and we also have the infrastructure, including ports and grid, to make the most of this opportunity. A careful balance needs to be developed between security of energy supply, community benefit and reduced emissions.
The Welsh Government wants to maximize the generation of electricity from low carbon sources including onshore and offshore renewables, clean fossil fuels and nuclear, while ensuring value for money. Fossil fuels, particularly gas, have an important role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy. We recognize the role of energy intensive industries in the Welsh economy and we must support our industries in moving to a low carbon economy. We will continue our focus on energy efficiency and energy savings, as demonstrated through our National Energy Efficiency and Savings Plan and the innovative Arbed Programme.
Wales is ‘open for business’ and we are working with the energy sector to help deliver long term prosperity and jobs for Wales. The energy and environment sector is an important contributor to GVA in Wales, had the largest increase in employees at 33% between 2005 and 2009 and the highest birth rate for new firms of the original six priority sectors in Wales in 2008. We will build on this strength, in partnership with industry, to ensure that Wales benefits directly from the transition to a low-carbon economy.
We will maximize the benefits of energy infrastructure developments for communities and the wider economy in Wales. Communities need to be fully engaged in development proposals. Vulnerable people need protection from fuel poverty. We will also carefully plan and consider the impacts of energy infrastructure, including their cumulative impact, on our natural environment. We are already securing broad community benefits where we have the powers to do so and we will work with energy developers to ensure that communities share the benefits of transition to a low carbon economy in Wales.
I am determined that Wales should offer a stable and supportive investment environment. I want to ensure that we have a clear and transparent planning and consenting process for energy infrastructure and we are already taking steps to simplify the consenting system in our areas of responsibility. For example, we will pursue this in bringing together the Environment Agency Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales and Forestry Commission Wales.
I will continue to press the UK Government when Wales is losing out as a result of wider UK energy policies - for example, in relation to the Renewables Obligation and the consenting process for large energy infrastructure. The Welsh Government needs the powers to enable us to do the job more efficiently and effectively. I am also forging closer links across different areas of government and the wider public-sector to ensure we deliver policy coherently.
I will be making a further statement on this issue early in 2012, setting out more detail on what the energy programme will deliver, how we will work with key stakeholders and what we expect from others in order to realize the opportunities available to us as a country.