Action must be taken now to prepare for a future shift towards more renewable energy use, according to a group of Welsh MPs, who said the nation stands at a "crucial moment for the climate agenda". 

Wales is well-placed to harness its natural resources for energy production and build on its current efforts. Nationally, its 86 operational wind farms, combined with various hydro projects, have helped renewable generation capacity grow from 789 megawatts in 2010 to 3,540 megawatts in 2019. With an eye on the future, the nation's significant tidal ranges offer an opportunity to expand into marine energy projects, too. 

This autumn's UN climate change conference (COP26), to be held in Scotland, is a "significant opportunity for Wales to showcase its achievements," the MPs said.

But government climate targets, set both in Cardiff and in Westminster, mean these efforts have to be intensified. The UK government wants carbon emissions to be cut by 78 per cent by the year 2035, while Welsh ministers want 70 per cent of our total electricity demand to be supplied by domestic renewable sources by the end of this decade.

The MPs who sit on the Welsh Affairs Committee believe the UK government should take more leadership on the future of Welsh renewables and give pay more attention to the nation's specific energy needs and priorities.

Boris Johnson and his ministers have devised a Ten Point Plan for the so-called Green Industrial Revolution that will shape future climate policy, but the MPs said more clarity was needed over Wales' role in Westminster's vision. They called on the government to set aside specific time in parliament to ensure Wales was not sidelined.

"While Wales has the potential to benefit from the Ten Point Plan, it will not do so automatically or by right," they said. "Rather, it will require a clear vision, and a specific plan, for job creation from the UK government.

"Using the Ten Point Plan as a starting point, the UK government should develop a Wales specific plan that provides a detailed route-map and aspirations, including in terms of job numbers, for the Ten Point Plan in Wales."

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At the same time, the MPs say there must be a healthy working relationship between Westminster and Wales' devolved government if there is to be any hope of the renewables sector fulfilling its potential and Wales reaching 'net-zero' emissions by its 2050 target.

"Effective collaboration and co-operation between the UK and Welsh governments will be essential," they said, adding that there were "key areas where there are common interests" between the two.

They added: "To facilitate effective collaboration, where renewable energy projects in Wales are under consideration, the UK government should invite Welsh Government ministers to attend and participate in the Ministerial Delivery Group."

But the relationship between the two government has been less than harmonious in recent months, particularly when it comes to questions of how, where and why Westminster chooses to invest in Wales. Disputes over Johnson's levelling-up agenda throw up frequent flashpoints and there have been accusations in the Senedd that the prime minister has cut the Welsh Government out of decisions.

The two have also, to date, failed to find common ground on the question of freeports – one of the UK government's flagship schemes as it looks to build new trading relationships with the world after Brexit.

If the UK is to increase its renewable energy capabilities, then offshore wind is one of the areas likely to see investment. The Crown Estate has recently given the go-ahead for new offshore projects in the Celtic Sea, and the MPs said this expansion would have to be complemented by improved port infrastructure.

"Freeports are one current area where significant investment is being discussed by the UK government, and we urge the UK and Welsh governments to reach agreement, as soon as possible, on the funding arrangements for a freeport in Wales," they said. "If these discussions can be unblocked, the competition process for a Welsh freeport should place a heavy emphasis on renewable and net-zero considerations and should look to facilitating investment in the development of renewable energy generation."

And while talk of a Green Industrial Revolution promises new opportunities, there will inevitably be some sectors of the economy which are less compatible with climate goals. The MPs warn the shift to a greener future means "one of the most significant economic transformations in decades" with "far-reaching consequences for communities and individuals" and "significant risks for the Welsh economy".

There is "no guarantee" Wales' renewables wealth will translate into employment opportunities here, and the MPs urged the UK government to act now with the Welsh Government to upskill the workforce.

Ahead of COP26, they urged Westminster to bring together a "high-level panel of stakeholders" to begin work on a reskilling strategy.

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