When we signed up to the One Wales programme a year ago, one of the most significant commitments was a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 3% per year. To achieve such an ambitious target we will have to use whatever renewable energy sources are available to us. At the moment, wind power is the most advanced and readily-available form of renewable energy. As long as the main responsibilities for energy lie with Westminster, we will have to make use of whatever we can. To do nothing and wait for London to form our energy policies for us would be a dereliction of duty. Although Westminster does have this control, we do still have the power to determine projects with a generating capacity of up to 50MW.
I support the One Wales Government's decision to revise upwards the levels of planned wind farms in the Strategic Search Areas. While no-one wants to see the whole of Wales carpeted in wind farms, we have to make use of the abundant wind that we have. Most people seem to favour offshore wind power as an alternative to onshore sites. Offshore sites can provide far more energy than onshore wind can, and have less of an impact on the landscape. But because many offshore wind developments are greater than 50MW, Wales is not allowed to have a say. Some of the largest offshore wind developments in the world are currently being planned around Wales. This is to be welcomed because these projects will reduce the need for so many wind farms in our countryside, but the Government of Wales and the Assembly won't have the final decision on such developments.
The latest proposals for more wind power will result in less than 1% of the Welsh landscape accomodating wind projects. I can still sympathise with wind energy's critics when they state that even this small amount of affected land is a great loss to the Welsh countryside, but if we are to play our full part in fighting climate change we must make these sacrifices. In the long-term, Plaid Cymru would not advocate an over-reliance on wind, just because it is the most convenient source of renewable energy. We need to ensure that the One Wales Government does not neglect micro-generation and other decentralised energy options and that we continue to demand that Westminster gives us the powers to determine our own energy future.