The Welsh Government has launched the ‘Energy Efficiency in Wales’ strategy 2016-26, which aims to play a major role in addressing efficiency issues and driving economic growth by supporting green jobs and skills throughout the country over the next decade. The strategy sets out the increasing need to recognise the benefits of energy efficiency and take action to reduce pressures on consumer bills. In addition, the strategy addresses fuel poverty, supports the development of a sustainable energy efficiency supply chain and aims to improve the energy efficiency of housing stock.
The plan outlines how increasing energy efficiency will make Wales a more prosperous nation by creating new jobs, a skilled workforce and a flourishing supply chain. The new 10-year efficiency strategy is aimed at making Wales a major exporter of energy efficiency technology and expertise and outlines the role of organisations, businesses and householders in improving the nation’s energy efficiency. It states that for every £1m spent on energy efficiency, 23 jobs are directly supported in the industry. The strategy goes beyond seeing energy efficiency as a tool for reducing bills and energy use and looks at the negative impact living in a cold home can have on health and wellbeing. It drives the message that supporting people to install appropriate energy efficiency measures will improve living conditions and quality of life with a secondary benefit of reducing healthcare costs preventing repeated treatment of individuals affected by living in the cold.
The Welsh Government is set to spend £9m on a range of energy efficiency projects, boosting overall investment to £13 million over the last 12 months. The cash-injection will offer repayable grants for the Welsh public sector to generate energy and financial efficiencies and will help mobilise a variety of projects, while also encouraging the reduction of carbon emissions. The new scheme, ‘Invest to Save Green Growth Fund’, will aid the development of LED lighting on sections of the Welsh Government trunk road network and the installation of LED street lighting. The government initiative will also provide £2.1m of financial support to a number of energy efficiency projects across various council premises, as well as £333,000 towards the implementation of efficiency measures for environmental advisory body Natural Resources Wales. It is anticipated that the investments will generate savings of £2.4m and cut carbon emissions by over 8,000 tonnes annually.
Power to take action on energy efficiency is not fully devolved to Wales. The Welsh Assembly’s role is limited to the promotion of energy efficiency while the regulation of energy efficiency rests with the UK Government. The Minimum Energy Efficiency standards due to come into force from April 2018 across England and Wales and make it unlawful issue a new lease for a private property that does not have an EPC rating of ‘E’ or higher. Figures from DCLG show that 30% of Welsh Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) since 2008 have been Bands E to G which highlights the need to improve energy efficiency across the Welsh property stock. With the 2018 deadline in sight and given that Wales has limited control over such measures, the action taken by the Welsh assembly is extremely positive.
The energy market is undergoing major transformation affecting Wales and further afield. The Welsh Assembly is demonstrating its commitment to its role in ensuring that all sectors, households, businesses and the public sector in Wales use less energy. Wales is hailing itself as a beacon of best practice in sustainable development and, with the investment and commitments contained within the strategy, it is well on the way to being just that.