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Lack of grid capacity could hamper development of renewable energy projects

A LACK of grid capacity could hamper Carmarthenshire Council’s bid to become a “net carbon zero” authority, a committee has been told.

The council wants to develop renewable energy projects on land it owns, but sustainable development manager Kendal Davies told a scrutiny committee that it would have to fund upgrades to the electricity network to facilitate such schemes.

“We are limited by capacity on the local grid,” said Mr Davies.

“The grid is chock-a-block, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

He said discussions were taking place with the Western Power Distribution – the network operator in South Wales – and the Welsh Government.

The urgency has increased after the council unanimously declared a climate emergency in February, with the aim of becoming a net-zero carbon authority by 2030.

Because it cannot simply stop generating carbon emissions, it wants to reduce them and offset the remainder with renewable schemes, as well as tree planting and peatland conservation.

Cllr Cefin Campbell, who introduced the council’s draft net zero action plan at a meeting of the environmental and public protection scrutiny committee, said a joint approach to the grid issue was “crucial for us”.

He said the council was already doing a lot to reduce its carbon emissions, and that the action plan would evolve as time went by.

“There are many local authorities who have declared a climate emergency – we are the first to develop an action plan,” said Cllr Campbell, an executive board member for communities and rural affairs.

The focus will be on reducing the carbon footprint from schools and other council buildings, street lighting, and fleet and business mileage.

These assets are generally emitting less carbon, said the report, although the picture is slightly complicated by changes to the way some emission conversions are measured.

The council spends more than £4 million on energy for its non-domestic buildings, but all new builds incorporate renewable energy measures where appropriate.

Some new schools in Carmarthenshire have been built to the highly energy-efficient Passivhaus standard – but the latest Welsh Government funding formula for schools, said the action plan, does not cover the extra cost required.

The council sources of all its electricity from renewable energy sources, and it is expanding its electric vehicle charging network – albeit from a low base.

Cllr Hazel Evans, the executive board member for environment, told the committee that council refuge lorries were relatively new and energy-efficient and that a trial was taking place elsewhere of an electric bin lorry.

“In two years’ time I would sincerely hope we would be in a far more energy-efficient position than now,” she said.

The draft action plan will be brought to the full council early next year.

Last month Carmarthenshire councillors agreed to a non-binding motion that the Dyfed Pension Fund, which has several member groups including the council, should pull out of fossil fuel companies within two years and invest in local renewable energy schemes instead.

Labour leader, Cllr Rob James, said at the time: “We believe two years is ample time that we can divest in a prudent manner.”

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