GRID capacity issues remain a barrier to developing renewable energy projects, according to Carmarthenshire Council leaders.
But the authority’s carbon footprint in four key areas is reducing overall.
The council has a target of reaching “net zero” in carbon emissions by 2030 – and to do that needs to be able to offset emissions which it can’t eliminate, like those associated with heating council buildings and schools.
One way of offsetting is to commission solar and wind projects on council-owned land, but connecting them to the grid poses problems because grid capacity in Mid Wales is said to be limited.
Referring to this offsetting option at an executive board meeting, Cllr Cefin Campbell said: “It is frustrating at the moment that we can’t do that.”
He said council leader Emlyn Dole was lobbying on this issue with other authority leaders in the region.
Cllr Campbell also said it was disappointing that guidance on how the public sector should measure and report net zero progress had not been published by the Welsh Government, nearly a year after it was supposed to.
A council scrutiny committee is writing to ministers to raise the grid constraint and guidance issues.
The Welsh Government said councils shouldn’t have to wait too long on the new guidance.
“The guide will be published soon, allowing local authorities to calculate their own carbon footprints – which will in turn allow for the calculation of a carbon footprint for the whole of the Welsh public sector,” said a Welsh Government spokesman.
Carmarthenshire Council is using its own method of measuring the carbon footprint of its non-domestic buildings like leisure centres and schools, and also its fleet mileage, business mileage, and street lighting.
Non-domestic buildings account for around 70% of this carbon footprint, fleet mileage 18%, with the remainder shared equally by business mileage and lighting.
The footprint in these four areas reduced overall by 2.9% in 2019-20 compared to the previous year.
The coronavirus pandemic is changing things further. Cllr Campbell said business mileage plummeted by 45% in the first six weeks of 2020-21 compared to the previous year, with electricity consumption in council buildings falling by 34%.
“I know moving forward that this new pattern of working will be with us for a long, long time,” said Cllr Campbell. “This will have a positive impact in more carbon reductions in the future.”
The aim is for the public sector in Wales to be net zero by 2030. The Welsh Government has set a 2050 deadline for a net zero Wales, but wants to get there sooner.
The issue of grid capacity was discussed in a Welsh Affairs Committee hearing last week about renewable energy.
Matthieu Hue, chief executive of EDF Renewables UK, told MPs that Wales had a lot of potential but that one of the key issues was grid infrastructure, particularly in Mid Wales.
“There are a few barriers that I think are well-known and they need to be tackled urgently if we are to make the most of what Wales has to offer,” he said.
Frank Elsworth, head of onshore business development at another energy company, Vattenfall, agreed with Mr Hue’s analysis. He said the grid was a “well-understood” barrier.
A spokeswoman for electricity distribution company Western Power Distribution, which covers Wales, said it was re-engineering the network to allow a greater integration of renewable energy.
“Specifically in Wales, transmission capacity has been limited over the past few years but this has recently been lifted with the closure of a number of large fossil fuelled generators,” it said in a statement.
But it said there wasn’t surplus capacity everywhere, and that generation projects needed to connect where capacity was available or contribute to building new infrastructure to serve those areas.
“We are committed to providing connection options to any generator in any location,” added the statement.