My constituency of Ynys Môn is at the vanguard of Britain’s future energy creation. As the country’s energy needs continue to grow, the island of Anglesey is in a unique position to offer the rest of the UK a real, sustainable energy mix.
This includes nuclear new build, upcoming technologies such as tidal power and biomass and other sustainable energy sources such as wind. I have coined the phrase Anglesey Energy Island to focus attention and create a centre of excellence for energy development.
Of all these technologies, it is wind generation, and specifically onshore wind, that is most contentious. There is a growing lobby, on Anglesey and beyond, who are opposed to the escalation of ad hoc commercial onshore wind turbines close to communities.
I have sympathy with those living in these communities who see little in the way of benefits from these projects. However, that is not to say that I do not support all onshore developments. Micro-onshore developments can provide isolated farms and rural businesses with renewable energy sources and should be welcomed as we move toward a decarbonised economy.
But when it comes to commercial wind, due to the sheer scale and size of the new wind turbines, I believe it is best that they are placed offshore where they are less intrusive and harness a greater wind resource. They create more electricity and substations can be placed many miles from urban and rural communities.
We are already seeing large scale offshore wind projects off the coast of North Wales in the form of Gwynt y Môr and the Celtic array. The Celtic array is a round 3 Irish Sea project and a joint venture between Centrica and DONG Energy that will have the capacity to provide 2.2 GW and will service an estimated 1.7 million homes. Located 19km off the north-east coast of Anglesey it is an excellent example of large scale wind generation that can benefit all without impacting on the lives of the unfortunate few.
Offshore wind development does not only generate clean energy it also generates jobs. At a time when, sadly, unemployment is rising in areas like Anglesey, the development of wind turbines offers the prospect of employment on the island both directly related to the turbines and for service industries downstream. This, in turn, creates a knock-on effect down the supply chain benefiting the local community on Anglesey, North Wales and beyond.
To ensure we do not miss this opportunity to generate these jobs we need to make sure the administrations in Cardiff and London take a holistic approach to the offshore wind energy supply chain on Anglesey.
The island’s potential has been recognised by the Labour run Welsh Government which has anointed Anglesey as an energy enterprise zone but the Coalition Government in Westminster need to do more. This is most acutely evident on the issue of ports. To service the wind turbines off our coast, we need our ports to be world class.
As a reserved matter, the Coalition Government has ignored calls for more money to be spent on Welsh ports. Instead they have allocated resources to English ports and given Welsh ports just £3 million, a drop in the ocean considering what is needed, at part of the Barnett consequential. Ports such as Holyhead need central funding to allow them and in turn our future energy-mix to be successful.
To summarise, Britain’s energy needs require a sustainable, secure mix. This includes nuclear and renewables such as offshore wind. Anglesey and the waters off our coast are leading the agenda on offshore wind generation. This will create not only clean energy but jobs. However, to ensure we do not lose this opportunity the Government in London need to do more to help the North Wales energy project as the UK’s renewable agenda moves forward.
Albert Owen is Labour MP for Ynys Mon and a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Commitee