November 3, 2011

Energy firms warn about ‘slow’ Welsh planning process

BBC News, 3 November 2011

Energy companies could shun Wales and invest elsewhere in Europe because of the complicated planning process, AMs have been warned.

Scottish Power said local planning authorities have been unable to progress wind farm applications in a reasonable timescale.

The industry also urged the Welsh government to clarify its renewable energy position, calling it “confused”.

The Welsh government has been asked to respond.

Building wind farms and upgrading the grid in Wales had proved “slow and unpredictable”, Scottish Power said.
‘Alternative markets’

Without a reasonable timescale for planning applications “investors could ultimately turn to alternative markets where there is greater certainty, either elsewhere in the UK, in Europe or beyond”.

Recent announcements by the Welsh government on renewable electricity policy have “left the industry confused”, it said, adding: “We ask that clarification be provided in this area.”

SSE, the parent company of Swalec, also said the Welsh government’s position on controversial proposals for mid Wales “has caused a large degree of concern”.

Investing in Wales was “more complicated” in some circumstances than in other parts of the UK, it said.

“Overall developers will be reluctant in the future to invest in a country if they are repeatedly caught in constitutional battles,” it said.

First Minister Carwyn Jones, who is responsible for energy policy in the Welsh government, has said the next 10 years must be “Wales’s energy decade”.

But meeting aspirations for more renewable energy required a “stable and predictable environment for investment”, SSE told the assembly’s environment committee on Thursday.

“This does not exist in the current situation,” the company said.

Companies also raised questions about the Welsh government’s desire to take control of planning policy for big energy projects. Consent for schemes of more than 50MW are not devolved.

Increasing the Welsh government’s responsibilities would require a substantial amount of additional expertise, SSE said.

It called for closer cooperation between the administrations in Wales and Westminster.

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