THE Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) 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.
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.
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in Tariffs in 2010, there was a rapid increase in renewable energy production on Welsh farmland, but this incentive was withdrawn in 2019 and growth in such production has levelled off significantly.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.