New electricity generating stations being built in Wales could have to be part-owned by the local community to bypass Local Authority planning processes, a new amendment has proposed.

The amendment, tabled by Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MS Adam Price, aims to increase the benefits seen in the local area from energy infrastructure projects.

Under current regulations, projects deemed of such scale that they are of national importance – Significant Infrastructure Projects – can bypass Local Authority planning processes and receive consent directly from the Welsh Government.

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However, under the amendment proposed by Mr Price, electricity generating stations could not be considered Significant Infrastructure Projects unless they meet certain statutory requirements of local ownership.

This would mean that if a company wanted to build an energy generating station in Wales, they would have to surrender a percentage of the ownership of the station to the local community.  

Mr Price has also tabled amendments to the Infrastructure Bill at the committee stage that would strengthen the existing policy of undergrounding being the default method for electricity line transmission. This is of particular significance due to the current proposed lines in the Tywi and Teifi valleys.

“There is an opportunity here to fundamentally change the way Wales deals with energy infrastructure,” Mr Price said.

“Unfortunately, the historical relationship between Wales and it’s natural resources is all too familiar to us – companies come in, they profit, and the benefit for local communities is negligible by comparison.

“We’ve seen it with water, we’ve seen it with steel recently at TATA, and I am very concerned that unless the Welsh Government takes a long-term view on our domestic renewable energy generation we’re going to see this cycle repeated once more.

“This is about ensuring that communities see real, tangible benefit to the implementation of energy infrastructure, and not just the exportation of resources while the average consumer’s bills keep soaring upward.

“What we cannot have is developers pleading economic unviability just in order to get these lines overhead, when the reality is that it would just be less profitable for them. Strengthening these parameters as part of this Bill is an excellent opportunity for Welsh Government to set the record straight by accepting these amendments.

“There are communities up and down the Tywi and Teifi valleys who are really concerned about the gathering pace of which applications are coming in from developers.

“The Government has the tools in this bill to strike the correct balance between encouraging development of the electricity grid in Wales, and ensuring our rural communities and sensitive landscapes are not a casualty of ambiguous policy.”

The Infrastructure Bill is going before the Senedd’s Climate Change Committee on Thursday, February 22.