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Diolch yn fawr, Mr Bailey. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I congratulate Caroline Flint on securing this debate on a topic that is particularly important to Wales and my constituents.
Renewable energy has established itself as a significant contributor to the UK’s energy mix with considerable potential for further expansion. There is incontrovertible evidence that renewables are bringing down the wholesale costs of electricity, which is particularly significant for rural regions. An YnNi Llyn report revealed that in three rural wards in Pen Llyn, 43% of households were in fuel poverty and a further 33% were at risk; as an interesting aside, 69% of them were in transport poverty. There is a high level of dependency on unsustainable fuels, so it is deeply regrettable that the UK Government are effectively halting the previous progress on the deployment of low-carbon energy and reverting to a policy of promoting fossil fuel generation.
It seems as though the UK Government are alone and swimming against the tide of worldwide scientific and political consensus that climate change is one of the most threatening prospects for mankind. The Government are also negligent in respect of the economic value of renewables, particularly in Wales. As a Plaid Cymru MP, I have always campaigned, and will continue to campaign, for responsibility over Welsh energy to be fully transferred to the Welsh Government. For as long as the UK Government refuse to do so, they should at least do what is in the interests of Wales on the Welsh Government’s behalf.
Constituencies across Wales, including mine, are already witnessing the damaging economic and social effects of the reversal of policy support for renewable energy. Community energy schemes are no longer emerging, and supply chain businesses in the sector—often very important to the local economy—are already contracting and struggling to survive.
The renewable energy business, Dulas, employs many people living in my constituency. It has seen an 80% drop in demand for its planning and environmental impact assessment services, due to onshore wind and solar park sites being pulled. And for what reason? An audit of the Government’s policies on solar, the green deal and zero-carbon homes and offices shows that they will all lead not only to an increase in CO2 emissions, but to higher bills, according to a BBC report. Would the Minister honestly be able to look my constituents in the eye and tell them that the UK Government have the social, economic and environmental concerns of Wales uppermost in their mind?
Let us compare the situation in Wales with that in Scotland. In Wales, 10.1% of the electricity generated is from renewable sources; in Scotland, where energy is a matter for the Scottish Government, that percentage is 32%. Indeed, despite the fact that Wales is home to the second-highest tidal range in the world and 1,200 km of coastline, and is one of the most attractive locations in Europe for wind energy, it produces proportionately less renewable electricity than any other country in the UK. Yet Wales remains an exporting nation. She is an energy-rich nation. We produce almost twice as much electricity as we use, and the rest is exported to the rest of the UK. We want more to be generated from renewables, but our Government’s hands are tied.
I urge the Minister to work with her colleague, the Secretary of State for Wales, to ensure that energy is fully transferred to the Welsh Government in the Wales Bill: that would reflect the situation in the UK’s other countries, allow Wales to flourish as a resource-rich nation and resolve the confusion about onshore wind in the draft Wales Bill.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister to give her assurance that the UK Government will ensure that up-to-date information is provided in the form of a comparison between the renewable energy roadmap, Government forecasts and the 2009 EU renewables directive. It is essential that Members and constituents are fully informed on whether the UK is likely to achieve its targets.