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Julie James, Minister for Climate Change

First published:
13 September 2021
Last updated:

As a Senedd we have set highly ambitious targets for decarbonisation, establishing Wales as a global leader both in the new technologies that will power the future, and in global responsibility.

However, our ambitions for Wales’ transport and heat to be powered by renewables is held back by the existing electricity and gas networks. Our Net Zero ambitions require us to re-think the infrastructure we need in order to deliver rapid and effective change.

The current approach to energy network planning is based on individual development bids: anyone who needs to connect approaches the grid operator and pays the full cost of that connection up front. This encourages short term thinking and does not necessarily deliver strategic plans for the grid network or the best value for citizens. We can see the impacts of this developer-led approach across the south east of England, where multiple wind farms are driving multiple grid lines. The current approach also does not take sufficient account of the increasing integration of the gas and electricity networks and the potential role for innovations such as hydrogen to play a part in energy.

We have already committed to an approach, through the National Plan, to look long term at the Wales we want, and the infrastructure that best meets the needs of citizens now and for future generations. Identifying Wales’ future energy network needs, and getting plans in place to build them this decade, is absolutely required if we are to achieve the change the Committee on Climate Change advises is necessary by 2030 - and to ensure Wales’ citizens are not left behind because of historically poor infrastructure.

I am delighted to announce that all the energy network operators in Wales, and the regulator Ofgem, have agreed to work with us to develop a long term plan for energy networks in Wales. We will look out to 2050 to understand what networks we need to support a net zero energy system and best serve the communities and places they support. The work will help to inform Future Wales, Wales’ National Plan.

We will take the strategic lead on the project, ensuring its thinking fits with our policies and priorities. The network owners will provide resource to the process and use its outputs to inform their network plans. Ofgem will provide independent and impartial advice to support the development of options.

The focus will be to achieve a joint view of the likely future energy needs in Wales to 2050 and the steps to evolve networks to support them. The first stage will be to assemble all the evidence. This will build on existing modelling, including the National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios, the grid companies’ distributed energy scenarios, the Net Zero 2050 South Wales work and our own evidence on the future potential from offshore and onshore generation. We will fund an independent organisation to facilitate the work in order to be clear that the interests of Wales, and not those of any one organisation, are at the heart of this work. We aim to be the first country to have a joint approach to developing gas and electricity networks.

Developing and delivering infrastructure plans is a long term process. However, the climate emergency means we must move as quickly as possible. We need to get this right, as it will be a once in a century change to our infrastructure. We will of course need to involve all sectors in this work, and I am committed to doing this as the work develops.