Hidden in a secluded valley you will find one of the UK’s oldest renewable power stations.
For 60 years, the Rheidol hydroelectric power station near Aberystwyth has been producing clean electricity from abundant rainfall.
Operators say Wales has the key ingredients to be a ‘strong player’ in green power generation, but the Institute of Welsh Business has warned progress is too slow.
The Welsh government has said it has bold ambitions to meet energy needs.
He is expected to speak later about his plans to tackle climate change, as world leaders gather in Egypt for the COP27 summit.
Renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro meet 56% of Wales’ electricity demand, but the Welsh Government hopes this will rise to 70% by 2030, although this is currently underway revision.
People are “always amazed” when they come across the vast hydroelectric power station in the scenic Cwm Rheidol valley, according to boss Dennis Geyermann.
“But that’s the story of renewable energy – it brings good, high-tech jobs to rural areas,” he said.
Made up of a series of interconnected reservoirs, dams, underground tunnels and power stations, it is the largest such project in Wales and England.
It covers a total area of 162 km² (62 square miles) and provides enough electricity to power up to 15,000 homes.
Since 2008, it has belonged to Statkraft, an offshoot of the Norwegian government and Europe’s largest producer of renewable energy.
From there, the company’s other renewable energy programs – all the way to the Scottish Highlands – are also monitored around the clock.
“It’s kind of like the brains of the operation,” explained Mr. Geyermann, vice president of operations and maintenance.
He said the company – which recently announced it hoped to develop a new green hydrogen plant in Pembrokeshire – had a “big pipeline of projects for the UK”.
And Wales, in particular, could be “a big player in renewable energy”, he added.
“We have the right landscape, we have enough rain and wind and there is a great coastline.
“The Welsh are in too,” he said.
Sarah South, who is health and safety manager at Statkraft UK, grew up nearby and remembers fishing with her father in the scheme’s tanks, as well as countless school trips to the site.
She said she would encourage young people to learn the skills needed to take advantage of the “big push” towards green energy.
“Your English, your science, your math, your geography – you might think these are boring subjects in school – but they will be really important,” she said.
“It’s such a big industry growing now, and so important to the future of the world.”
Built in 1962, long before concerns about climate change hit the headlines, the Rheidol hydroelectric scheme has seen an energy revolution in the UK.
Back then, virtually all of our energy came from burning coal.
Fast forward to 2020 and, for the first time in over 200 years, official energy statistics have shown that coal has played no part in Wales’ energy generation mix.
And 56% of the country’s electricity demand is now met by renewable sources like wind, solar and hydropower.
Officially, the Welsh Government’s target is to reach 70% by 2030, although this is currently under review.
“Progress is too slow”
Auriol Miller, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, said progress had so far been too slow.
“We have to look higher, further and faster in terms of goals,” she explained.
The think tank has urged Welsh ministers to aim for 100% by 2035 in a series of reports in recent years.
Scotland, by comparison, is pretty much already there.
Neil Lewis, founder of Carmarthenshire Energy, which has helped develop wind, solar and electric vehicle projects across the county, said it had taken too long to get the projects off the drawing board.
“We have colleagues who have built community-owned wind farms and have taken 10 to 20 years to get permission to build them,” he said.
“It is really important that we accelerate our efforts.”
Meanwhile, the Senedd’s climate change committee has also expressed concern over the slowdown in renewable energy development since 2015.
The Welsh government, which this year carried out what it described as an in-depth investigation into the barriers facing renewables, has promised new targets by next summer and a national energy plan by 2024 .
He also announced earlier this month that he was setting up a state-owned renewable energy developer for Wales – a first in the UK.
“Wealth and Worth”
In a statement, the Welsh Government said it had “bold ambitions for renewable energy generation to at least fully meet our energy needs in Wales – while receiving a fair share of its wealth and value”.
He said he was “making progress towards our goals, but we need to go further and faster”.
“We’re supporting local organizations to fight climate change and we’ll help businesses develop their people for the clean energy future,” he added.
“In this cost of living crisis, we must focus on finding the most affordable and least impactful solution, because the decisions we make today will have a massive impact on generations to come.”