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Influencing renewable energy investments in Wales

Using a regional economic modelling framework to influence renewable energy investments.

Taff Ely Wind Farm in Wales

As part of its transition to clean energy, the Welsh Government has been seeking renewable investments that would simultaneously benefit the Welsh economy.

Energy generation is a key driver of the Welsh economy but sustained economic benefits to Wales were not being realised.

A team from the Welsh Economy Research Unit (WERU) at Cardiff University undertook a wide-ranging programme of economic modelling and supply chain review of proposed energy investments, including analysis of the economic benefits offered by renewable sources such as wind and marine energy.

The work encouraged: Welsh Government investment of £87M in renewable energy; a Welsh Government decision against licensing fracking; £100M of investment in marine energy projects; and opened up new forest resources for wind farms.

Assessing the scale and timing of economic impacts

A key contribution of the research was the inclusion of power generation in the Unit’s Input-Output model of the Welsh economy.

This extended model provided evidence on how different electricity generation technologies could support economic activity in Wales.

In a series of commissioned research projects, the model was applied in detail to specific energy technologies, namely fracking, marine and wind energy.

The research provided an analysis of the economic potential of renewable energy investments as well as detailing how such investments could bring maximum economic benefit to key stakeholders in Wales.

Local ownership of supply chains

Historically, financial benefits from electricity generation investments in Wales have typically returned to capital investors outside Wales, bypassing areas of local economic need.

The economic modelling undertaken by the research team recommended a shift towards local ownership of energy projects, in order to retain the economic benefits within Wales.

This focus on local ownership has since been embedded into Welsh Government policy and became a core pillar of its economic resilience policy during post-Brexit planning.

In the Energy Generation in Wales report, the government committed to an ambitious target of at least 1 Gigawatt of renewable energy being locally owned by 2030.

Impacting Welsh Government policy and investment

Findings from the research fed directly into Welsh Government policy decisions and investment in renewable energy.

Evidence that fracking offered poor local employment returns for Wales played a key role in shaping debate during the Welsh Government’s consultation on fracking, influencing both public and political opinion.

As a result, the Welsh Government implemented a policy not to support applications for hydraulic fracking in Wales.

The research also encouraged the Welsh Government to shift its focus towards providing financial support for local renewables schemes, stimulating investment of £87M in renewable energy projects.

Facilitating marine and wind developments

In a series of reports for the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales, the economic modelling was applied to marine and wind energy technology.

Evidence of the high potential of supply chain development of marine energy in Wales was used to evidence the economic potential of the sector in Wales and promote development opportunities. Consequently, there has been £96M of investment in Wales by 16 marine energy developers.

Research into the potential of wind was used to make the case to open two new Welsh sites to tender for wind development, with local ownership featuring as a key element of the tender process.

An economic and energy legacy

Cardiff University modelling of the local benefits of different electricity generation technologies highlighted how local ownership could be transformative in realising local economic benefits.

This evidence encouraged the Welsh Government to set ambitious targets for local ownership of energy infrastructure; invest tens of millions in renewable energy; and use Cardiff University research evidence to support a decision against licensing fracking.

Marine Energy Wales and Natural Resources Wales have prioritised local ownership, leading to £100M of investment in marine energy projects and two new large-scale wind energy sites being made available for development prioritising local ownership.

Meet the team

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