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Energy: Welsh Government

Volume 837: debated on Wednesday 24 April 2024


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for stronger consultation and co-operation with the Welsh Government on energy policy to manage overlapping responsibilities in that area.

My Lords, the UK Government are committed to strong, effective co-operation with the Welsh Government on energy issues, supporting our shared energy security and net-zero objectives. We engage Welsh Ministers on a range of issues, and our support for the energy transition in Wales includes Great British Nuclear’s recent purchase of the Wylfa site, the ongoing HyNet project in north Wales and supporting the development of offshore wind in the Celtic Sea.

My Lords, the port of Milford Haven brings in 20% of the UK’s energy. It is part of our critical UK infrastructure; there are huge opportunities here. The Welsh Government made £1 million available to support that emerging sector, yet the UK Government have just rejected the port’s bid for a share of £160 million to help develop the technology. Can the Minister please explain why the Government have left the port’s hopes on offshore wind high and dry, and what conversations the Government had with the Welsh Government before making this decision?

We have regular discussions with the Welsh Government. The noble Baroness neglected to say that Port Talbot was one of the two ports in the UK that was taken forward, with one in Scotland as well. She is being slightly unfair in that assertion.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the UK burns about 50,000 tonnes of coal for the heritage steam sector, but due to the closure by the Welsh Government of the Ffos-y-Fran colliery, that coal now has to be imported from Colombia and South Africa, and increases emissions rather than reduces them? Will my noble friend the Minister have a chat with the appropriate Welsh Ministers about that?

The noble Earl makes an interesting point, and I am of course aware of the requirements of the heritage steam sector. We would be happy to take it up with the Welsh Government.

Does the Minister accept that over recent years, there has been immense frustration in Wales as projects involving tidal lagoons, floating offshore wind—as highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, a moment ago—and inland hydro pump storage schemes have failed to progress, partly because of the split of responsibility between Westminster and Senedd Cymru? If the Government cannot get their act together, will they please devolve full responsibility to the Welsh Government, with the cash resources needed to drive forward these much-needed projects?

I am sorry that the noble Lord takes that attitude, because all projects across the UK are evaluated on the same basis. Of course, it is not possible to take forward every project, but the assertion that projects in Wales are somehow discriminated against is just not true. I could give him many alternative examples of projects in Wales—from nuclear, to hydrogen storage, to hydrogen allocation rounds, and CCUS projects—that are going forward.

My Lords, does the Minister agree with the Institute of Welsh Affairs that Wales should retain, and local communities gain, greater income from the renewable energy developments that they host?

I am not familiar with those particular circumstances; I would be happy to chat to the noble Earl about it.

My Lords, is this not an opportunity for further investment in west Wales, which by comparison with east Wales, which is closer to the English border, has suffered considerably in economic investment in recent years?

There are opportunities with the energy transition for investment in all communities throughout the UK, including, of course, in Wales. There are considerable investments in north Wales, and I mentioned some of those in south Wales as well. It is perfectly possible that onshore wind projects are being taken forward in west Wales, but I am not familiar with that particular area.

My Lords, further to the question from his noble friend Lord Attlee, is the Minister aware that his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, and Huw Merriman, the Rail Minister, have written a joint letter to the First Minister of Wales asking him whether the Welsh Government would reconsider the closure of the Ffos-y-Fran pit in south Wales? This pit would provide coal for the heritage sector for many years to come. Would he chase that up and see whether we can get a positive answer to it?

I thank the noble Lord for that information. I was not aware of that, but now that he has mentioned it, I will of course chase it up.