Utility Week

Utility Week 23 06 17

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28 | 23RD - 29TH JUNE 2017 | UTILITY WEEK Event Conference Utility Week Wales Energy Conference 16 May 2017, Cardiff Rays of sunshine in Wales With the potential to be the engine room of renewables in the UK, Utility Week's Wales Energy Conference heard that there was much to be optimistic about. Utility Week was there. I f there was one word that summed up the mood at Utility Week's Wales Energy Conference, it was "opportunity". Other parts of the energy sector might be grappling with the political threat of price caps, zero subsidies and question marks over policy support, but in Wales the mood – if not exactly buoyant – is hopeful, driven by the potential for expansion and growth. The event started with an overview from the Welsh government's deputy director, energy and water, Prys Davies, who talked about how the pattern of electric- ity generation in Wales is changing rapidly, with more renewable sources coming on to the grid. With around 4,500 businesses now working in Wales' low carbon economy, it was clear the Welsh government sees significant opportunities ahead, particularly around skills and job creation. But with opportunities come challenges and as Davies pointed out, a large number of homes in Wales are still off the gas grid, and many are living in fuel poverty. He also said there was still "some way to go" with the decar- bonisation of heat in Wales. He was followed by the chief executive of Wales & West Utilities, Graham Edwards, who said a "multi-vector approach" was needed. He said there were a lot of energy resources in Wales but the challenge was to "join them up into a coherent strategy", and beyond this to "ensure customers benefit from this in one of the most fuel poor parts of the UK". David Wright, director, electricity transmission owner at National Grid, was positive about the country's poten- tial, pointing out that Wales accounted for about 6 per cent of total British demand while generating about 15 per cent of its electricity. He added that Wales is "also punching above its weight with solar", producing around 13 per cent of the UK's solar output. Without question, the biggest renewable scheme on the horizon is the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. Although the project has yet to get the financial assistance it needs from Whitehall, Tidal Lagoon Power's director of engi- neering and construction, Mike Unsworth, gave a spir- ited defence of the benefits that tidal power could bring. As Unsworth pointed out, Wales is ideally placed to capitalise on this new technology, because it has the sec- ond highest tidal range in the world. He said that by building the full complement of lagoons – first Swansea Bay and then tidal lagoons at five other locations off the UK coast – the UK could get 25GW of baseload generation, 24 hours a day. Like others speaking at the conference, he highlighted the economic benefits of the project and stressed how his company was keen to create a UK supply chain to prevent "value going overseas". Among the talk of renewable energy, there was also an opportunity to hear from Horizon Nuclear Power's operations director, Greg Evans, about the proposed Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station in Anglesey. There were a few raised eyebrows when Evans declared that Anglesey was his favourite place in the world, but his proclamation that nuclear power comple- ments renewables, by combining low carbon technology and baseload generation, expressed the consensus view. The growing role of renewable gas in the Welsh energy mix occupied much of the aernoon's proceed- ings. As Wales & West Utilities' green gas development manager, Ian Marshall, so eloquently put it, "green gas really meets all aspects of the energy trilemma", provid- ing a long-term and reliable supply and helping the util- ity firm meet its decarbonisation targets. With such a myriad of different projects on the go, it is clear that Wales' energy sector is taking the challenges ahead seriously. There are still question marks about the future of some of the projects involved, notably Swansea Bay, but with solid support from the Welsh government a lot can be accomplished. The "Welsh energy dragon" is more than capable of facing the future. If built, the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon promises to provide the UK with renewable baseload generation, but it needs government subsidies to support it

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