RENEWABLE ENERGY REGION ROUNDTABLE
THURSDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 2019
ST PAULS CENTRE, PORT TALBOT

This event was organised in partnership with Low Carbon Swansea Bay and sponsored by FLEXIS.  The intention was to celebrate the growing Renewable Energy Sector of South West Wales, showcase the fantastic, diverse projects and initiatives going on across the region, and bring together business, academia and individuals to learn from each other and explore what else can be done to strengthen our renewable energy sector.

All 4theRegion events are intended to be co-creative, and to help participants emerge shared priorities and a shared sense of purpose.  We deliberately create space for wisdom to emerge from the room, and aim to encourage as many different voices as possible.

A key theme that arose throughout the discussions at this event was the need for better collaboration and sharing of knowledge across the sector; better coordination; and the benefit of knowing who is doing what.  “We need more events like this!” was a recurring refrain, which reflects the appetite that exists for open-access, co-productive, knowledge-sharing regional events.  We cannot under estimate the value of simply getting people in a room together, who share an interest (or passion) for the sector.  Of course we all want to emerge actions and make change happen following events like this, but the events themselves – the CONVERSATIONS and CONNECTIONS are seen to be of great value irrespective of what happens next.

What did we learn?

  • That South West Wales IS ALREADY  “A Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy” and we should be shouting about it
  • Wind power generated in Wales equates to around half of our electricity needs
  • Hydrogen is a massive new clean resource which we’re using in a very small amount but it’s being researched 
  • Change must be convenient to create an environment where people want to change 
  • Repairing products instead of sending them to landfill will create new jobs, skills and reduce waste
  • Port Talbot has solar power, wind turbines, hydrogen power, the active homes project, district heating from the steelworks. 
  • FLEXIS research findings included: 
    • Resistance to living in smaller homes to reduce energy 
    • Support for making products and packaging more sustainable was high 
    • People were broadly supportive of extended life cycles of products but weren’t  always behind some of the strategies 
    • Concerns over renting products – worries included contracts, higher costs, insurance, less choice 
    • Language is key – people think that recycled, repurposed products are poorer quality, and that renting products mean you can’t afford to buy, 
    • Changing behaviours is a huge challenge – and different for different age groups

Barriers & Challenges

  • Policy changing with government changes 
  • Procurement red tape is an obstacle to change and flexibility 
  • Money goes out of our region
  • Government leadership on issues isn’t clear or concise
  • Not enough tangible outcome – to many talkers
  • Red tape in adopting technology
  • Lack of political will to make significant changes to the system
  • Grid upgrades are slow – 12 years, current grid is not fit for net zero ambitions
  • The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act has limited impact beyond public sector at the moment

What’s Already Happening

  • Renew Wales – offers support to community groups on climate change through mentoring, training & visit bursaries (holding and event on 13th November – support churches address climate change) 
  • Egin and Gower Power leading the way with co-operatives – encouraging a change in energy supply with benefits to local communities 
  • Innovation in our region is high with businesses like Marine Power Systems collaborating wave and wind for a new energy source 
  • Carmarthen Energy looking at links between energy usage and electric car charging times. With proven results of reduced energy costs.
  • SPECIFIC and the Active Buildings Centre at Swansea University.

What needs to happen

  • An immediate action step, and one which 4theRegion would like to take forward with partners, is the idea of MAPPING the renewable energy sector in our region.  Some way of visualising who is doing what, where, across South West Wales, would be a great resource for everyone.  This is very similar to something that was discussed at the Biobased Economy roundtable we held in Carmarthenshire – the need to join the dots and map activity (by sector and across sectors) across the region.
  • We need to upgrade the grid – investment in infrastructure
  • Inventive ideas or investment in energy storage solutions 
  • Public money invested in University research needs to be commercialised 
  • Raise awareness of skills needed – engineers, retrofitting existing homes
  • Collaborative thinking to reflect the future generations act 
  • Research needs to be turned into commercial assets – creating jobs and helping to reduce our carbon footprint. 
  • Technology & renewable energy sector needs to work hand in hand.

Actions

  • One clear energy strategy (one waste process for the whole of Wales) 
  • Positive use of procurement processes 
  • What can the region so to support a Tidal Lagoon in Swansea
  • Become a member of Low Carbon Swansea Bay get involved with and help develop a co-ordinated, integrated and sustainable approach to reducing carbon emissions across all sectors in Swansea and south-west Wales. https://lowcarbonswanseabay.weebly.com/joining-lcsb.html
  • Become an Ambassador of 4theRegion – be part of a network of passionate businesses, organisations and individuals who understand that collaboration and working together instills pride and passion in place and projects –https://www.4theregion.org.uk/join/
  • Buy shares Gower Power
  • Help FLEXIS with project research and to shout about the outcomes (don’t keep research behind closed doors for academics)
  • Connect FLEXIS with Circular Economy businesses in the region
  • Promote car sharing 
  • Continue to innovate and celebrate the Circular Economy – be part of our regional Circular Economy Club and take part in an annual globally connected events.

Keep in Touch with this Conversation

Email zoe@4theRegion.com with the subject line “Renewable Energy” if you would like to be notified of future events and projects.  Also please make you are subscribed to the 4theRegion newsletter!

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