Cablegate: Wales Aspires to Be a Champion On Climate Change,


DE RUEHLO #2240/01 2730714
R 300714Z SEP 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU/NF) Summary. Wales is an active player on climate change and has produced its own strategy calling for a three percent cut in carbon emissions as an annual target beginning in 2011. Welsh Assembly Government officials are coordinating with HMG's overall low carbon strategy. This cooperation extends to evaluating the best option for harnessing renewable energy at the Severn Estuary in Wales. Wales sees itself as "self-sufficient" in renewable energy and is not necessarily interested in producing energy/electricity for the rest of the UK. The Welsh Assembly Government and HMG disagree on nuclear as a "clean energy" resource. End Summary.

WALES OVERALL CLIMATE CHANGE GOALS ----------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Welsh Assembly Government has established a three percent annual cut in carbon emissions starting in 2011 as an overall objective of its Climate Change Strategy. A draft of this strategy is currently out for public comment, with a deadline for response by October 2, 2009. Claire Bennett, the Head of the Climate Change Division, told Emboffs on September 17 the Climate Change Strategy is expected to be finalized by early 2010. Bennett added the Welsh Assembly Government coordinates closely with the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to integrate goals for Wales with the UK's overall low carbon strategy. There is also collaboration with the Climate Change Commission for Wales to bring to together leaders and representatives from business, academia, agriculture, and other sectors to provide input on how the community can achieve these climate change goals.

SEVERN TIDAL BARRAGE --------------------

3. (SBU/NF) The Severn Estuary in Wales holds the potential to generate 9-10 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy, or five percent of the UK's total electricity consumption. Welsh Assembly Government Minister of Environment Jane Davidson (Labour Party) told Emboffs there is no "preferred option" on how to best to harness this energy, but she would like to see a solution that maximizes energy for per unit cost. "There is no magic bullet," she added, but noted her department is working closely with HMG's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), HMG's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Southwest Regional Development Agency to evaluate various options. Davidson also expressed concern the Severn project could become a political issue in the national elections next year. Adam Price, an MP from the Welsh Nationalist Party that is currently the junior partner in the Labour-led Welsh coalition government, told Emboffs his party supports the Severn project.

4. (SBU) Dr. Ron Loveland of the Welsh Assembly Government's Sustainable Energy Division told Emboffs that building a 10 mile barrage (or dam) across the Severn between Cardiff and Westen to generate electricity from tidal flows is considered the quickest solution and one that would last 120-150 years. This option has the highest upfront investment costs - 20 billion GBP ($32 billion). This type of investment, said Loveland, requires a public-private partnership.

5. (SBU) There are objections from environmental groups that a "barrage" (or dam) will harm the environment and wildlife. Media reports say the barrage could destroy 77 square miles of some of the most valuable habitat for wetland birds in Europe. Loveland told Emboffs there are habitat considerations based on EU mandated legislation that must also be evaluated. To mitigate these concerns, the Welsh Assembly Government and HMG are examining other options, such as a tidal fence or tidal reef. Parliament's House of Commons is holding hearings on the Severn Estuary in October and the HMG is expected to reach a decision by 2010 regarding the best one or two options to pursue.

OFFSHORE WIND -------------

6. (SBU) Wales is also well positioned to become a leader in producing electricity from offshore wind projects and has included this goal in its overall Climate Change Strategy. In December 2008, DECC approved RWE NPower Renewables to build and operate the 750 megawatt (MW) Gwynt y Mor Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Wales. If planning and other approvals are successful, construction could begin in 2011. RWE Innology, its parent company, is also in the final stages of completing an offshore wind farm at Rhyl Flats off the coast of northern Wales. This wind farm is expected to become operational by the end of 2009 and will supply enough electricity for 61,00 homes. Scottish Power Renewables also announced construction on September 23, 2009 of a 120 MW wind farm project in South Ayrshire, which will take two years to build.

"NO NEED FOR NUCLEAR" --------------------

7. (SBU/NF) The Welsh Assembly Government and HMG are far apart on their views on nuclear as a source of "clean" energy. The Welsh Assembly Government's official position is that there is "no need for nuclear," because Wales is self-sufficient using renewable energy. Minister of Environment Jane Davidson told Emboffs the Welsh Assembly Government is very concerned about nuclear waste, but she acknowledges that HMG has made nuclear new build a key strategy for its greenhouse gas emission reductions. German-owned utilities RWE and E.ON currently have plans to build a new nuclear plant in Wylfa (in Anglesey/Wales), expected to become operational by 2025. The current plant, which was built in 1971, is scheduled to close down in 2010.

8. (SBU/NF) Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist Party, however, is vehemently opposed to nuclear energy. Dr. Ron Loveland told Emboffs that even raising the issue of nuclear energy with Welsh Deputy First Minister and Leader of Plaid Cymru Ieuan Wyn Jones is "too sensitive." This negative attitude toward civil nuclear energy is pervasive in Wales, as several contacts echoed to ESTHOff similar concerns about nuclear waste. Andy Fraser, a climate change official in the Welsh Assembly Government, told ESTHOff there is a repository site that meets geographical requirements for disposing of nuclear radioactive waste in northern Wales, but it is unlikely to gain public support.

COMMENT -------

9. (SBU/NF) There is considerable national pride among the Welsh, as various contacts referred to Wales as "our country" to Emboffs on multiple occasions. The Welsh Government has already initiated a number of innovative energy programs, some of which could later be expanded to the UK level. On the other hand, Wales' independent streak may cause friction with the UK. Many Welsh think the UK has already "milked" Welsh resources without providing anything in return.

10. (SBU/NF) As its independent political power grows, the Welsh may look to exert their power and block projects seen as beneficial to the UK but harmful to Wales. It is possible that within two years Wales could have a Scottish-style devolution. While it still would not technically have the ability to control energy projects, it would have the power to legislate over the environment, which it might be able to use to block nuclear and other projects. If this occurs, HMG will have more difficulty in making country-wide decisions. Energy and environmental issues could become the focus of an intense struggle between London and Cardiff. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX

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