More heat pumps in homes and community energy projects are part of the Welsh government’s target to meet 100% of its electricity needs from renewables in 12 years time.
The latest estimates show renewables cover 56% of our energy consumption but Climate Change Minister Julie James called the new target “ambitious but credible”, even with energy demand set to soar with the move towards electric cars and away from gas boilers.
It is considerable scaling up of ambition, as the previous target was to reach 70% by 2030.
The consultation includes plans to increase the capacity of renewable energy but also to reduce the demand for it.
But there is no room for complacency, according to the leading think tank the Institute for Welsh Affairs (IWA).
Auriol Miller from the IWA said “there’s nothing automatic” about hitting these targets, and the government must focus on “finding new and alternative sources of energy”, as well as reducing consumption through retrofitting homes.
Speaking in the Senedd, the minister announced a consultation on the new targets, which “propose a pathway for us to meet the equivalent of 100% of our annual electricity consumption for renewable electricity by 2035, and to continue to keep pace with consumption thereafter”.
The plans include a target for at least 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of energy capacity to come from smaller-scale community-owned projects.
And, subject to strengthened support from the UK government and reductions in cost, the minister wants 5.5GW of energy to be provided by heat pumps in the same time-frame.
The latest estimates, published in 2020, show Wales already meets 56% of it electricity needs from renewable sources like wind, sun and water, but to reach 100% in just over a decade many barriers will need to be overcome.
Energy infrastructure, like the grid and connecting the energy generated by windfarms in the sea to that grid, are some of the huge challenges.
As part of the announcement, the minister said the Welsh government will provide £1m of funding to explore the potential of offshore wind in the Celtic Sea.
The money will be match-funded by Associated British Ports (ABP) which says it will be used to “kick-start the development of a major green energy hub at Port Talbot”.
Andrew Harston from ABP said the £2m “is key to the construction of transformational infrastructure, which will enable the manufacturing, integration and assembly of floating offshore wind components at Port Talbot”.
Julie James conceded that the Welsh government’s investment of £1m was a drop in the ocean, considering the level of funding needed to deliver floating wind offshore in south west Wales.
But she said the investment signals to the industry Welsh ministers’ commitment, and added “this is not the end of our support”.
Meanwhile, the UK government has acknowledged that a “step-change is needed” to boost grid capacity in Wales.
A group of MPs has published a report looking at the problems with the grid here and, in a response published on Tuesday, the UK government said it will continue to work on “strategic planning, regulatory approval, planning consents and streamlining connections across Great Britain, including Wales”.