Terry Breverton is the author of over forty books on Welsh history, and has had a successful career in business and in academia. He now lives in Penarth. He has contributed this article.
This is not an official Gwlad Gwlad statement but represents the view of an individual who is sympathetic to our aims. We encourage our members and supporters to add their comments so that we can have an open discussion about these topics. We present it in the context of our manifesto policy on renewable energy, which is summarised as follows:
“Gwlad Gwlad supports a diversity of energy sources including renewables, but we are opposed to onshore wind because of its disproportionate disruption to landscapes and communities. Likewise we shall not subsidise the use of agricultural land for solar farms, but will encourage the adoption of solar energy in urban environments. We are very supportive of offshore renewable power generation, whether wind, wave or tidal, seeing Wales as being particularly richly endowed with these resources.
We support investment in modern alternative technologies such as hydrogen technology as a way of storing, transporting and consuming energy generated by renewable methods.“
The Fantasy of a Green World for Wales
Plaid Cymru has in its 2019 manifesto promised a £20bn ‘green jobs revolution’, with investment in rail and bus travel, three tidal lagoons, a barrage and a new offshore wind farm. Does the party not realise that construction jobs are temporary, not permanent? There are hardly any extra permanent jobs under such a programme. Adam Price wants a new ‘green’ industrial revolution would help tackle the threat of climate change. Wales cannot contribute a hundredth of a per cent to altering climate. (Historically, climate has always changed. I was in Venice during the 1966 flooding, higher than the present level, but which was not blamed upon carbon levels. I have also written about Milankovitch Wobbles and other drivers of climatic changes. The Romans grew grapes as far North as York, and in the ‘Medieval Warm Period the Vikings farmed in Greenland from c.800-1200. Then the ‘Little Ice Age’ lasted from 1300 to 1870. Freezing and warming over the millennia had nothing to do with transport emissions).
China is building another 300 to 500 coal-fired power plants by 2030, plus hundreds of others across Asia and Africa. India also has a massive ongoing coal programme, being the third largest emitter of pollution in the world (after China and the USA). Prime Minister Modi said: ‘We have to meet demand and address the intermittencies we have with solar and wind, we have no choice but to keep depending on coal-based generation in the near future.’ The gullibility of Welsh politicians, few of whom have ever worked in the private sector, is astounding. They talk of Wales being a ‘global leader’ in green energy, but the fact is, from someone who has worked in over 40 countries, hardly anyone has ever heard of Wales. Global population is growing by 3 million, the population of Wales, every fortnight! And politicians and the general public are totally taken in by ‘marketing-speak’, whereby a ‘generator’ becomes a more clean-sounding, but totally different, ‘turbine’. These are totally different items. And a power station becomes a wind ‘farm’, or a solar ‘farm’ – much more appealing to the people – so we may as well have coal farms, nuclear farms and gas farms! And even ‘renewables’ is a meaningless term. You cannot ‘renew’ energy – you can transfer it at a loss of efficiency, but transferables doesn’t hit the same buttons as ‘renewables’. Renewable energy does not exist, turbines are in fact generators and farms are power stations.
Wales is already self-sufficient in energy. Indeed, the Pembroke gas-fuelled (CCGT) 2,150 MW (2.15GW) power station has the capacity to supply well over Welsh consumption of 1850 MW. Strangely, its pylons traverse and despoil the beautiful Welsh countryside, but go underground on the borders. To match Pembroke’s output we would need 4,000 massive 400-foot high wind turbines, planted in Wales 8015 square miles. On a windless, or too windy day, they, just like offshore wind ‘farms’ would produce nothing. Incidentally, wind ‘turbines’ all need an external electricity supply, to keep them turning and not freeze up in cold weather. Indeed, in a current fossil fuel electricity generation analysis, Wales has around 740 MW of small-scale (<100 MW) fossil fuel electrical capacity, which includes diesel generators, CHP projects, open cycle gas turbines and gas reciprocating engine sites. Over the last decade there has been a greater need for smaller, decentralised power stations to provide flexibility services to the network, in order to replace decommissioned centralised power stations and to support the rapid increase in renewable energy generation. Back-up diesel generators are needed for breakdowns, as well as renewables not working because of wind/sun factors, so Wales can never be carbon-free. Solar ‘farms’ equally are incapable of permanent power supply. Wales is already scarred by five times the English density of useless, unrecyclable wind turbines, not to mention all the solar parks now being built, promoted by Labour and Plaid for green credentials. In high or low winds, they supply no electricity.
Compare and contrast
The border counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, Hereford, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire seem to have no wind ‘farms’ as presumably the wind stops at Offa’s Dyke. On the other hand, my mother’s home county of Montgomeryshire, which should be an Area of Outstanding National Beauty, has been despoiled.
Just drive 135 miles across England, from Morecambe to Whitby, and try and spot a wind farm. Drive the 66 miles across Wales from Harlech to Oswestry and notice the difference. Wherever you drive across our tiny country, they are there. And when the subsidies run out, and they end their working lives, in 15-20 years, their operators will sell them on to dummy companies which will quickly go bust. Their 1,500 tonne blocks of cement will stay in place, but the towers and blades and motors cannot be recycled. Who will pay to dispose of them? At least there will be fewer bird, bat and insect fatalities.
Going Carbon free?
In Plaid’s manifesto we read: ‘The party would introduce the goal of making Wales carbon and single-use plastic free by 2030 and oppose the creation of new nuclear power sites’. Fair enough, as when Wylfa was operating, Wales was supplying well over four times its own needs, most going into England. But to make Wales carbon-free? Who came up with that one? Just think, please. In just 10 years, we would have to scrap and recycle all our cars, lorries, delivery vans, tractors, ambulances, taxis, trains and buses, and stop virtually all transport into our nation. The Pembroke and Holyhead ferries would need sails or conversion to electric. We would need to close the airport and stop shipping coming into our ports. Virtually all factories, hospitals and schools would have to close for conversion. Also it would be morally wrong to allow Aston Martin and Grenadier to manufacture vehicles in Wales (or Airbus, come to that). And how do people in flats charge their cars? There are over 2 million cars in Wales – will there be a charger in every home? All roads and pavements will have to be dug up. Several power stations would need to be built within 10 years to supply electric vehicle (EV) needs – when 25 years is a more achievable build target. Incidentally, under Teresa May, promises were made that Britain would have net zero emissions by 2050 – requiring an impossible number of new power stations. Why does no-one query the idiocy of politicians? 30 million cars, plus virtually all other means of motorised transport, will need power from somewhere.
And are electric vehicles clean? The German Hans-Werner Sinn has written: ‘Electric vehicles also emit substantial amounts of CO2, the only difference being that the exhaust is released at a remove – that is, at the power plant. As long as coal- or gas-fired power plants are needed to ensure energy supply during the “dark doldrums” when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, EVs, like ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, run partly on hydrocarbons. And even when they are charged with solar- or wind-generated energy, enormous amounts of fossil fuels are used to produce EV batteries in China and elsewhere, offsetting the supposed emissions reduction.’
We must presume that all our gas cookers will have to be replaced with ‘clean’ ovens, and that coal fires and wood-burners will be outlawed and replaced, along with propane tanks necessary in rural areas. And forget bonfires and barbecues, or course.
Borrowing money, for whose benefit?
Also included in the Plaid manifesto is the construction of 20,000 green social houses. For decades, 90% of population growth in Wales has come from outside, and as a result well over a third of the people living here already say they are not Welsh. The party said it would also press the Treasury to raise Wales’ borrowing limit from £1bn to £5bn, to reach the £20bn total for its ‘green jobs’ promise. Global interest rates are at an all-time low, but will rise sharply before long – how will Wales sustain another £4bn debt, say at 5%? That is another £200m a year, just paying off the interest, not the loan. Each taxpayer in Wales would probably have to pay an extra £200 a year to service a loan to fulfil a pipe dream. To pay off the additional borrowing, each would have to pay £800.
We read on: ‘An additional 1,000 doctors, 5,000 nurses and 100 dentists would be recruited and trained for the Welsh NHS’, but everyone at the patient interface in the NHS knows its real problem. There are too many layers. Doctors and surgeons and nurses spend too much time form-filling for the hordes of ‘managers’ above them. In dealing with district nurses, GPs, and hospitals at Llandough, Barry and Cardiff with my 97-year-old father, I was amazed that there was no interconnectivity of his records. Computers were dilapidated. Instead of voice transcriptions on modern laptops, everything had to be written. The hordes of consultants have no wish to solve NHS problems as they are then out of lucrative work. Anyone with experience of the European health sector realises that it is better than our fabled, precious NHS. Try seeing a doctor in Penarth… And in terms of pay, the wages of the public sector – the NHS, local government, the education sector, civil service etc., are paid for by taxes from the private sector. In the UK, private sector workers are paid less, with poorer pensions than the public sector. This is not the way to run any economy. A strong private sector is needed across Wales to support the massive public sector, but nowhere is this issue addressed.
Plaid would abolish the Vagrancy Act of 1842, which effectively criminalises rough sleeping. Has anyone walked around Cardiff centre recently? The homeless, like the sick and elderly, are being attracted to Wales from outside the country. The party will also push for more powers over corporation tax rates in Wales – all that will happen is that companies will move their HQ overseas and via transfer pricing and other methods, stop paying any taxes.
A missed opportunity
I wrote to Plaid and Welsh Labour during the Brexit discussions, saying that if they threw their weight behind Brexit Wales could blackmail the government into giving us back the billions lost via the Barnett Formula. No response, wrth gwrs, as that would be beneficial to Wales but not in line with party thinking (or lack of it). All in all, there is not one item in this manifesto that will stimulate any private initiatives across Wales that will give us permanent jobs.
The other parties are no better
Plaid Cymru is aped by the LibDems, Greens and Labour for idiocy on energy policies. In just a decade they expect many new ‘clean’ power stations to be built. Transport for London research claimed that expansion in electric cars alone could mean that the UK needs ’20 more nuclear power plants’! Research said that low emission vehicles could cause ‘massive strain’ on the power grid. It has led to calls for ‘more investment’ in alternative fuels ‘beyond electricity and hydrogen’. Paul Blacklock of Calor, which produces gas-based fuel for cars that is available at around 1,500 filling stations in the UK, told The Times: ‘Everyone is saying that we need to go to a wholly electric vehicle future, but they aren’t being honest about what the possible cost of this will be.’