Ynys Môn MS’s new law to help communities profit from energy projects

YNYS Môn MS Rhun ap Iorwerth has proposed a new law to ensure that energy developments such as solar farms must provide evidence of benefits they will bring to the community.

The move comes as several plans have been put forward to develop solar farms on Anglesey who have demonstrated little or no benefit to the community.

Using the opportunity open to Members of the Senedd to submit an individual member’s bill, Mr ap Iorwerth is proposing legislation that would require developers of large energy projects to assess and demonstrate genuine community benefit, financial and otherwise.

This would help ensure that needs are taken into consideration and that profits can be shared with local communities across Wales.

He said: “The Welsh Government’s recent decisions to designate large parts of Anglesey for solar energy development has created an opportunity for multinational companies such as BP (British Petroleum) and EDF (Électricité de France) to have an easier path to consent to create huge solar farms.

“I am an avid supporter of increasing our output of renewable energy, and solar has a big part to play in that.

“But I am a firm believer that there is a better way to do this than by licensing huge enterprises that leave a mark on our landscape, take away large swathes of agricultural land and, while making large profits for international investors, create little or no profit for our local communities.

“I have been in discussions with several developers of the proposed new solar farms on Anglesey.

“They have seen a business opportunity, but there’s little detail on potential community benefit. Very few local jobs are involved, even in the construction phase. A small cheque here and there is not enough.”

Mr ap Iorwerth is eager to see more projects developed local communities from the area.

Where that is not the case, external developers should be expected to genuinely ‘share profits’ with host communities.

He added: “We should aim to see as many projects as possible delivered ‘from the ground up’ as community energy initiatives.

“But we should always aim to make renewable energy projects ‘joint ventures’, where the needs of host communities are genuinely considered.

“That is why I am proposing a new bill which would put it in law the need for developers of large energy projects to present plans that demonstrate and assess a community benefit of any such project, much in the same way as they are required to submit Environmental Impact Assessments.”

The Ynys Môn MS also wants to see a wider debate on how best to plan for a growth in solar power generation – something he strongly supports.

Alternatives include encouraging for more developments on homes and industrial and agricultural buildings, or to have more, smaller developments.

He added: “One development company recently claimed that giving hundreds of acres to a solar farm will be an opportunity to ‘rest agricultural land’.

“This is a patronising attitude towards Anglesey, an area where agriculture is so important. We need to ensure that energy developments of this kind are not something that happens to us, but with us.”

Members of the Senedd have an opportunity this week to submit their proposals for an individual member’s bill.

A ballot will then be held to choose one proposal, and the chosen member will then have the chance to put their proposed bill before the Senedd for a vote.

North Wales Chronicle | Anglesey