Thursday, July 02, 2015

Another Mid Wales Connection Project 'Update'.

I had promised myself I would not allow the flicker of a wind turbine blade or the shadow of a pylon to intrude on this blog ever again. The whole Mid Wales Connection Project (MWCP) stuff has caused me so much angst, I want to escape it's turbulence. But I'm being pressed to update the position, as best I can. So ok. Just this once. And not offering opinion but a perspective on where we are at. And I speak only of my constituency, Montgomeryshire. There is much more to be said if taking a UK perspective.
Firstly, It seems to me that the conjoined public inquiry into 5 local wind farms, which so many people are anxious about is largely irrelevant. There is no reason to think anything other than that those which want to connect to the MWCP are dead as dodos. The Prime Minister no less has made clear that no subsidy will be available for any of them under the Gov't's new subsidy scheme, Contracts for Difference (CfD). And none of them, or any other which might want to use the MWCP can  even think about the old subsidy scheme, based on Renewable Obligation Certificates. They would have to actually be exporting power to the Grid by April next year. And at best the connection line could not be operating until 2020.
There are two wind farm proposals in Montgomeryshire which could go ahead - one I think very likely and one not likely at all (but possible). Tir Gwynt nr Carno is very likely. It meets the conditions which allow an extra year to reach production stage - April 2017. It has planning permission, a grid connection agreement and ownership of the land. Nothing to stop it. In truth I'm very surprised it has not already been built. The much less likely one is the Llandinam re-powering. Technically, it does not qualify for the 'grace period'. It does not have planning permission, but I suppose the developer could well argue there is already a permission on the site (for the current wind farm which would be removed). And it would not produce electrics by the relevant date to qualify for RO in time - but again the developer could try to argue the site is producing electricity already. Not sure these arguments will stand up though - which is why I think it very unlikely. 
Many people want to know when we can draw a line under this whole saga. Well, this I don't know. National Grid, who have I'm told largely, though not totally suspended work on the line still maintain it is contracted by developers to continue building. "Nothing to do with us mate"!  It's Scottish Power Energy Networks (representing developers) which holds the contracts with National Grid. I plan an early discussion with SPEN to try establish what the position is. Expecting obfuscation though.
There are other tangential issues which make things confusing. One issue is the decision by the UK Govt to 'devolve' decision making across England and Wales to local communities. In Wales it applies only to wind farms over 50 MW, since below that figure it's already devolved. And It seems likely that the Welsh Govt will very quickly make a power grab for everything over 25mw (up to 350mw). UK Conservative Govt is localising while Welsh Labour Govt is centralising! But none of this makes much difference in Montgomeryshire, if there is no subsidy available for the wind farms.
And then there's the public inquiry. We know the Planning Inspector gave his report to DECC on Dec 8th 2014. Since then nothing. Personally I hope it stays that was. Sorry - opinion creeping in!! Anyway, if they are approved it makes no difference because no subsidy.
Now to the main concern I continue to have. Some of these developers may decide to go to war with the Govt, and secure permissions, even with no prospect of actually building. If they do a minimal amount to establish a 'start on site' and just sit on them in the hope of a future Government restarting the subsidy train again. This would leave a long term legacy of uncertainty.
Dare say there will be lots of questions. Fire away. I still have a few myself. I'm not getting involved in opinion of what's right and wrong here. Just what I think it the actual position - and surely missed a few things.


Geoff said...

My neighbour recently renovated a derelict property in the countryside, and he had to pay a 5-figure sum to SPEN to get a line and a transformer erected to connect to the electricity network. Do windfarm developers also have to pay SPEN (or NG) to get connected to the grid? Or do they get it free, the connection effectively financed by electricity consumers in general (like you and me)?

JennyKealArt said...

What's the position on feed in tariffs for single farm turbines please Glyn?

Peter Foulkes said...

Glyn- OK no subsidy but could Welsh Government attract wind farm developers to use their Forest Estate at very low (or no) 'rent'? Afterall the kinetic energy carried by wind is a natural resource which WG's Environment Bill is determined to manage. Carwyn is not going to let his obsession with wind power go away without a fight!