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Health boards to receive additional funding to complete £17m programme of solar PV and energy efficiency schemes

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Three health boards will receive more than £10m in Welsh Government funding this year and next, to install new solar energy measures and help them improve energy efficiency across their estates, resulting in carbon and financial savings.

This investment builds on £2m provided last year, as part of a larger £17m programme.

The funding – repayable on an Invest to Save basis – will support energy projects for Swansea University Health Board, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and the Hywel Dda University Health Board.

The funding includes £2m in Covid recovery funds, earmarked for an ambitious 4MW solar farm project for SBUHB, which will help to power Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

Combined with an ongoing £7.7m Re:fit programme, the solar farm will save the health board more than £1.6m per year on energy bills.

Subject to planning permission, the proposed solar farm will be situated at Brynwhillach Farm and linked to Morriston Hospital by a 3km long private wire.

The decision to grant the funds was announced Wednesday, December 2, by the Minister for Health and Social Service; the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd.

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The energy projects to be backed by the funding are:

Swansea Bay University Health Board

  • More than £5.7m for 2020-21, as part of a larger £7.7m programme. The Welsh Government funded the first phase of the project with £2m in 2019/20, allowing the health board to complete energy efficiency measures, including upgrades to LED lighting which are already generating savings.
  • To supplement the £2m in Covid recovery funds, a further £3.8m will allow the health board to complete the solar farm by the end of 2022.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

  • A further £600k, will support the health board, to expand work to improve energy efficiency across its estate. This will be in addition to £1.4m of funding agreed earlier this year.

Hywel Dda University Health Board

  • £1.75m to allow the Health Board to install solar panels on buildings across its estate, as well as other energy efficiency measures, with £250k provided this year and, £1.5m provided next year.

Each of the health boards has worked with the Welsh Government Energy Service – which provides advice and support on energy to communities and public bodies – to identify opportunities to improve their energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy across their estates.

Vaughan Gething, the Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “Our NHS has been at the forefront of Wales’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the importance of the sustainability and strength of the services provided by our hospitals cannot be over-stated.

“Wherever possible, we want to help our health boards to see where savings can be made, whilst at the same time supporting them to maintain their vital services. Measures such as these which will help our hospitals to lessen their energy use are hugely important and I am pleased my fellow Ministers and I have been able to announce these funds today.”

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “As we look towards making Wales a carbon-neutral nation, we want to do everything we can to support public bodies, such as health boards, to minimise their carbon output through efficiency measures and to use renewable options wherever possible.

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“I would like to thank each of the health boards for the work they have already undertaken in this respect; and would especially like to thank Swansea Bay University Health Board for their ambition, as they work towards creating a new solar farm, which will help power Morriston Hospital.”

Rebecca Evans, the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, said: “We are determined to keep Wales moving forward and will continue to be guided by our values as we build a recovery together. This investment is an important part of our £320m Covid reconstruction package which is dedicated to supporting jobs and protecting the future of our public services and our planet.”

Emma Wollett, Chair of Swansea Bay University Health Board, said: “Our health board takes seriously our responsibilities to future generations by reducing our environmental impact and in particular cutting our carbon footprint.

“I’m especially delighted to see the hard work and commitment of our dedicated estates staff being rewarded in being the first health board in Wales to go green in such a pioneering yet practical way.

“Cutting our carbon footprint and cutting costs is a win-win for the health board, our patients and taxpayers.”

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(Lead image: Pixabay on Pexels.com)


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Business

Energy intensive industries could get further relief under new Government proposals

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High electricity using businesses like steel and paper mills could see further relief under new proposals to help subsidise their electricity costs.

The UK Government is consulting on the option to increase the level of exemption for certain environmental and policy costs from 85% of costs up to 100%.

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This reflects higher UK industrial electricity prices than those of other countries including in Europe, which could hamper investment, competition and commercial viability for hundreds of businesses in industries including steel, paper, glass, ceramics, and cement, and risk them relocating from the UK.

The proposal would help around 300 businesses supporting 60,000 jobs in the UK’s industrial heartlands. Looking at ways to reduce the cost of doing business for key industries would help secure the future of domestic manufacturing and maintain a competitive business environment in the UK, ensuring economic growth and protecting thousands of jobs across the country.

The Energy Intensive Industries Exemption Scheme provides businesses with relief for the costs of renewable levies, including Contracts for Difference, the Renewable Obligation and Feed in Tariffs, in their energy bills.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “British manufacturers are the lifeblood of our economy and central to our plans to overcome this period of economic uncertainty.

“With global energy prices at record highs, it is essential we explore what more we can do to deliver a competitive future for those strategic industries so we can cut production costs and protect jobs across the UK.”

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Director General of UK Steel Gareth Stace said: “The publication of this consultation is a significant step forward in delivering competitive electricity prices for the UK steel sector and should provide some much-needed relief in the face of extremely challenging circumstances at the current time. While there remain difficulties, this announcement demonstrates that UK Government understands the challenges of British industry and continues to support steelmakers and steel communities across the country.”

(Lead image: Gareth James / Geograph / Creative Commons 2.0)

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Carmarthen

Health board completes first solar farm at its St Davids site in Carmarthen

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Hywel Dda University Health Board’s (UHB) first solar farm has been installed at Hafan Derwen, located on the Parc Dewi Sant site in Carmarthen.

The 1,098 panels have been installed on an area covering just over one acre. The 450 KW solar farm scheme aims to deliver on-site generated electricity directly to the Hafan Derwen site, which is estimated to lead to an annual carbon savings of 120.43tCo2e, along with financial savings.

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The surrounding land is being developed to enhance biodiversity providing an area for staffto rest and relax while surrounded by wildlife which will have a positive impact on how staff perceive their workplace and offer a respite from a busy working environment.

Paul Williams, head of property performance at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We are pleased to announce that the solar farm installation work is nearing completion at Hafan Derwen site and it is set to be operational later this summer. The solar project is one of the initiatives aimed at reducing our carbon footprint. The project will generate an on-site renewable energy and also create a greener, environment friendly space for staff with the planned bio-diversity park.

“This is yet another positive step in the direction of tapping on and exploring environment friendly, energy efficient solutions across health board sites.”

The solar farm project is part of the health board’s decarbonisation initiative. This is one of the many steps the health board is taking towards addressing the climate emergency.

In the last few years, roof mounted photovoltaic panels have been installed at nine sites across Hywel Dda, including at Amman Valley Hospital, Bro Cerwyn, Bronglais Hospital, Withybush Hospital, Milford Haven Health Centre, Pembroke Dock Health Centre, South Pembrokeshire Hospital, Llandovery and Cardigan Integrated Care Centres.

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In total, these schemes are estimated to save approximately 622,763 Kwh of electricity. Annual carbon savings from these projects are expected to be approximately 153 tCO2e.

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Energy

Farming union calls on UK governments to boost on-farm renewable energy production

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales says Governments must act to boost on-farm renewable energy production in order to increase the UK’s energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The call is one of five demands which form the FUW’s ‘Five point plan’, which comprises key actions which together will help relieve pressures for farmers, food producers and consumers in the immediate term, while bolstering food and energy security in the long term.

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Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The pandemic and the war on Ukraine has not only emphasised the vulnerability of our food supplies to global events that are beyond our control – it has also brought into sharper focus our reliance on global energy and fuel markets and supplies.”

“Many farmers already play a key role in reducing that exposure through renewable energy production, but we have only tapped into a fraction of what is possible,” he added.

Energy production using fossil fuels is second only to business in terms of contributions to Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions, and is the second highest contributor to emissions in the UK after transport.

In 2020, nearly 23% of the EU’s oil and petroleum imports came from Russia, while Russian oil imports previously accounted for 8% of UK demand. Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter, followed by the USA and Qatar, and previously accounted for around 45% of EU gas imports.

“Our reliance on imported fuel and energy can be reduced by increasing domestic production, and farmers are keen to play their part.

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“However, we need the restoration of incentives for that to happen – and it must not come at the expense of food production and large areas of farmland,” said Mr Roberts.

Following the introduction of Feed in Tariffs in 2010, there was a rapid increase in renewable energy production on Welsh farmland, but this incentive was withdrawn in 2019 and growth in such production has levelled off significantly.

“Both the UK and Welsh Governments must step up efforts that restore growth in the industry by incentivising on-farm production of renewable energy – thereby reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and imported energy.

“The Welsh Government’s decision to remove business rate relief for privately-owned hydropower projects has also served as a significant barrier to investment, while obstacles such as landscape designations and disproportionate regulations continue to work against renewable energy production.

“Government must therefore seek to remove barriers and restore incentives in order to boost agriculture’s contribution to our energy security,” he added.

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(Lead image: FUW)

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