Wales pledges to phase-out fossil fuels in favour of renewables

The Welsh Government has committed to phase out the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels, including those obtained by fracking, as it strives to reduce national carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, against a 2011 baseline.

Published on Wednesday (5 December), the nation’s revamped planning policy places the extraction and use of coal, oil and gas at the bottom of its new “energy hierarchy”, while wind and solar take precedence.

The policy paperwork states that shale gas, coal bed methane and underground coal gasification are “not compatible” with Wales’ long-term decarbonisation goals or its interim carbon budgets.

“When proposing the extraction of on-shore oil and gas, robust and credible evidence will need to be provided to the effect that proposals conform to the energy hierarchy, including how they make a necessary contribution towards decarbonising the energy system,” the policy states.

“Proposals for open-cast, deep mine developments or colliery spoil disposals should not be permitted,” it adds. 

According to Wales’ Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths AM, these “precautionary” measures will prevent Wales from becoming “locked in” to further fossil fuel extraction projects and high-carbon developments.

“[This planning policy] will deliver the vision of the Wales we want set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act: a more prosperous Wales, a resilient Wales, which supports healthy, functioning ecosystems and recognises the limits of the global environment, a healthier Wales, a more equal Wales, a Wales of more cohesive communities, a Wales of vibrant culture and a globally responsible Wales,” Griffiths said.

The move has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth Cymru, with director Haf Elgar dubbing it a “historic moment” for a nation once at the forefront of the global coal mining industry.

“As David Attenborough told world leaders at the UN climate change talks this week, climate change is our greatest threat, and time is running out,” Elgar said.

“This new policy is a positive sign that the Welsh Government is taking this threat seriously. A fossil-free future is the only future for Wales – and the rest of the planet. People in Wales are proud that their country is taking the lead, and hope that other countries follow our example.”

Low-carbon leadership

The publication of the new planning policy comes shortly after the Welsh Government updated its Energy Wales strategy, which now includes an aim of generating 70% of the nation’s energy from renewable sources by 2030. As of 2015, Wales has sourced just over one-third (36%) of its energy from low-carbon sources, including nuclear.

The Energy Wales strategy states that this shift to renewables could help the nation reduce its overall carbon footprint by 80-95% against a 2011 baseline.

Early signs of progress seem promising, with a former underground coal mine in the Maesteg area currently being converted into a geothermal facility capable of heating 150 nearby homes, a church and a school.

Nonetheless, the moves come at a time when carbon emissions are set to rise for developed nations for the first time since 2013, largely due to an over-reliance on gas and oil as coal is phased out, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Sarah George

Comments (3)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    The problem with this knee jerk "good intention" is it ignores the fact that the majority of the hydrocarbons produced are NOT used for fuels but for petrochemicals including fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, plastics, synthetic fabrics and a thousands other essential everyday products.

    I happen to agree that we can not continue to waste this essential resource by burning it, be that in a power station or a vehicle, but that does not mean we will stop extracting it safely and utilising it

  2. Ken Pollock says:

    It seems as if the Welsh have gone completely mad, and I just hope they won’t come running to England for help when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow and their nuclear power station is being serviced.
    The Germans decided to abandon nuclear power and bought their electricity from France – 80% nuclear generation – and then used lignite – much worse than coal for CO2.
    FoE Wales quotes David Attenborough in Katowice: The Times carried the story at the bottom of page 17 – and got the importance about right. We will all wake up soon and realise that the impending catastrophe has been oversold…

  3. Richard Phillips says:

    Both Ken and Kieron are absolutely correct in their analyses.

    The problem faced by the UK Governments, both national and provincial, is that they lack, completely, any ability to understand the science and engineering of energy generation and distribution.

    They cannot seem even to understand that wind power can drop to a negligible level for days on end, that solar is for daytime only, hydropower is good only if rainfall has been sufficient, that wave energy is as intermittent as the wind which causes it, and tidal power is available for only some 14 hours out of 24.


    Storage for industrial amounts of power is not available and would be prohibitively expensive.

    The perfect power supplier is the fast reactor, but mention that to a politician is to invite mental paralysis.

    I can find no record of any scientific or engineering academic study for either Lesley Griffiths or Haf Elgar. But I stand to be corrected. In any case I back my own knowledge, from 35 years at AERE Harwell, and close following of energy matters over the last 30 years, against any Parliamentarian.

    Just a little jaundiced!!!!!

    Richard Phillips

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie