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West Wales Zero Carbon Zones report

A black and white picture of an aerial view of Wales

Harnessing the social benefits of a decarbonised energy system.

Project duration: January 2016 to July 2016

At the time of the West Wales Zero Carbon Zones study, the Welsh Government was committed to developing in line with EU’s 10-year jobs and growth strategy (knows as ‘Europe 2020’). This aimed to create the conditions for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and move to a low carbon economy in a way that created positive socio-economic benefits for local communities.

There are, of course, big challenges to achieving this. Among them the reliance of local economies and energy systems on national or international technological networks and regulatory frameworks which inhibit disruptive change. There is also a lack of public buy-in for certain new projects.

It’s within this context that the Welsh Government and the councils of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Swansea sought to act. They commissioned the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), in partnership with Eunomia, to research how the creation of zero carbon zones (ZCZs) could help to achieve decarbonisation goals while delivering other benefits such as jobs and reduced levels of fuel poverty.

Zero Carbon Zones in West Wales

In the UK as a whole, low or zero-carbon zones that have focused on energy efficiency measures and behaviour-change programmes have generally been successful. So, an important first step for this work was to explore what ZCZs might mean practically in West Wales, and to develop a replicable approach to identifying and assessing potential zones.

To this end, CSE’s research team created a routemap which outlines the necessary conditions for an area to progress rapidly to a zero carbon energy system.

This includes, for example, the presence of an existing ‘catalyst’ energy generation project, such as a community wind turbine, district heating system or new low carbon housing development. This kind of project can kickstart the transition to a zero carbon zone by linking up energy generators with consumers and creating a network of relationships between supply and demand.

Previous work CSE had done for the Welsh Government highlighted the importance of consciously shaping technological change, particularly in relation to the opportunities presented by smart data on energy generation and use. ZCZs are likely to rely heavily on smart tech to create a networked system that is flexible and resilient to change. As such ZCZs can act as a demonstrator of how to successfully use this technology to create a smart, low carbon economy.

The research also identified a number of case study areas that have the best potential for becoming a ZCZ, and detailed the next steps to make these case studies a reality. It is hoped that these areas can become practical examples of Wales’ energy transition in a way that works for local people.

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