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National Grid highlights importance of onshore renewables for achieving net zero in South Wales

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Solar Farms required for net zero

A new report from National Grid, dubbed Zero 2050, has highlighted the importance of onshore renewables if there is to be any decarbonisation of the energy system in South Wales. 

Teaming up with the Welsh Government, South Wales Industrial Cluster and other public and private sector representatives, National Grid took a deep dive into what it would take for South Wales to achieve a net zero energy system – the results are rather unsurprising. 

South Wales is currently a hub of activity for the UK’s whole energy grid, with the area playing host to several coal-fired and gas-fired power stations. That’s one of the key reasons National Grid undertook this analysis, as the firm understands the impact that decarbonisation will have on the area. 

The report took into account both the future impact on jobs in the area, as well as ensuring that any path to net zero came at a minimal cost to consumers. It also included input from National Grid Electricity Transmission, National Grid Gas Transmission, Western Power Distribution, Wales & West Utilities and the Welsh Government, as well as experts from Cardiff University and energy and transport consultants. These experts modelled future energy demands across the residential and commercial, industrial and transport sectors, and how this demand could be met.

So, what did the report recommend? Well, in order to meet future demand without decimating the local economy and causing increased prices for consumers, National Grid had some ideas. 

Onshore renewables

One key pathway to decarbonising the energy grid in South Wales comes from increasing onshore wind and solar energy. 

This is an obvious improvement that can help build a more resilient grid after gas and coal is phased out, but one that has met local opposition. Recently the Government in Wales rejected a plan to build a 250,000 solar panel project across a 129 hectare site, which would have generated enough electricity to power 32,000 homes annually. 

Energy efficiency improvements

Another key target identified by National Grid is through the improvement of the area’s building stock with energy efficiency upgrades. 

The modelling which informed the report found that, for example, if all recommended energy efficiency measures in Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for homes were to be implemented, annual heat demand would decrease on average by 30% in Cardiff and Newport and 32% in Swansea.

As we transition to electric heating, that reduction in heat demand will be crucial to ensuring the future resilience of the grid. After all, electricity consumption requirements for the South Wales industrial cluster is already set to increase to 8-12TWh under different decarbonisation scenarios.

Other improvements

Other improvements identified in the Zero 2050 report include: 

  • Develop a major residential retrofit programme and develop a robust heat pump supply chain.
  • Incentivise commercial and industrial energy efficiency.
  • Consider opportunities for industry co-location and circular economy processes and develop an approach to decarbonising “behind the meter” industrial supply.
  • Investigate further the role of demand side response.
  • Pilot hydrogen production from both autothermal reforming and electrolysis.

Commenting on the report Julie James, Minister for Climate Change at the Welsh Government, commented, “I congratulate National Grid and all the project partners on this complex and impressive work. A just transition to a prosperous low carbon future is at the heart of my portfolio and the Welsh Government’s work.

“This report is a further piece of evidence for change. I look forward to building on the work as we develop clarity on the grid infrastructure Wales needs, which is necessary to allow Wales to take the actions set out in the report.”

Robin Gupta, Net Zero Innovation Manager at National Grid Electricity Transmission, added, “Now, more than ever, with changes to how we travel, heat our homes and use energy it’s vital that organisations and individuals come together to help achieve the collective goal of net zero.

“Projects such as Zero2050 are crucial in providing leadership and guidance and can offer a blueprint for decarbonisation in South Wales. We look forward to sharing the findings and helping the industry continue progress in the months and years ahead.”

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