Commission begins research into renewable energy infrastructure challenges

Picture of three onshore wind turbines on the top of a hill

Delivering renewable energy in a fair, just and collaborative way is the focus of research which the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) is announcing today.

NICW was established in 2018 as a non-statutory body to advise and make recommendations to Welsh Ministers on Wales’ economic and environmental infrastructure needs over the next five to eighty years. Earlier this year the Commission was refreshed with new members to drive forward a new and exciting agenda of research for the next three years.

Today marks another step forward in the work of the Commission as it announces the award of three research contracts which will assist it in making forward thinking suggestions to the Welsh Government next year on ways to improve Wales’ capacity to deliver renewable infrastructure developments efficiently, enable it to meet its renewable energy and zero carbon targets, involving communities effectively and ensuring that value is retained to benefit the country.

Mace Consult will be using energy scenario data to assess the tensions that may arise in the future due to renewable energy development proposals.

Arup will be reviewing how Wales can best capture the economic, social and environmental value arising from renewable energy developments to maximise the positive aspects from new schemes and ensure those benefits are retained.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy, the Centre for Alternative Technology and Dulas will be working together to look at how we can best engage with communities to ensure they feel valued in the process. They will be running pilot exercises in mid Wales to test an approach.

All three research projects will continue until next April, a report from NICW to the Welsh Government will be issued in the summer of 2023.

Aleena Khan, National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) Commissioner and Chair of the NICW Renewable Energy Project Advisory Group said:

“Today marks an important step in the work of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales as this is the first time, we issued contracts for research work and indicates a significant shift in the way the Commission works.”

Nick Tune, National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) Commissioner and lead Commissioner for the NICW Renewable Energy work said:

“I am looking forward to working with the successful contractors and seeing their work develop over the next few months. We will await with interest to hear the findings from these projects to develop positive recommendations for the Welsh Ministers”

Richard Dinsdale, Project Director for Mace Consult said:

“Mace are excited to be working on this commission that keeps the remarkable legislation that is the Wellbeing of Future Generations 2015 Act firmly in its sights and holds its seven goals of wellbeing in close focus. We will be bringing our extensive experience of the clean energy and decarbonisation sectors to the commission, alongside our socio- economic skills used to assess real outcomes for communities across Wales.”

Helen Westhead, Associate Director with Arup said:

“At Arup, sustainability is everything. We are delighted to be working with NICW to help unlock value from the transition to net zero across Wales.”

Neil Best of the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) said:

“The way we produce and use energy needs to change – it’s one of the main causes of the climate emergency. But if we’re to roll out renewable energy at the scale needed to reach net zero targets, we need everyone to buy into changes. We need more nuanced public engagement processes to achieve this, otherwise we’ll see an understandable backlash from communities.

“We’re excited to be working alongside the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) and Dulas to share this approach with communities in Ceredigion and Powys on behalf of NICW. It’s only by bringing people together to transform the energy system and tackle the climate emergency and, building their understanding that we’ll achieve commitment to change.

The challenge is big, but the changes are achievable. “

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) Zero Carbon Britain Innovation Lab Manager Dr Anna Bullen said:

“In order to tackle the climate emergency at the speed and scale required, we need transformational change across every sector, including a major shift in how we produce energy. To do this successfully we need to engage people and communities, giving them time and space to look at options for their neighbourhoods, explore potential approaches and benefits, and share concerns and hopes for the future.”

“At this critical time for action on climate, we are excited to be working with NICW, CSE, Dulas, and communities across Mid Wales to help inform the future of zero carbon energy planning in the region.”