OVER recent weeks the conversation around renewable energy and food production has featured prominently in the public arena, writes FUW president Glyn Roberts.

And rightly so, especially as our reliance on and exposure to global fossil fuel markets has been laid bare by the impacts of the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

As consumers and businesses face crippling cost of living prices, including energy prices and the view of those going up further, we ask why aren’t we producing more of our own? 

Vast amounts of renewable energy are produced on Welsh farmland, but we have only tapped into a fraction of what is possible.

Energy production using fossil fuels also remains the biggest single contributor to Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions and the second highest contributor in the UK after transport, which is not helping in our bid to be carbon neutral.

READ MORE: FUW is highlighting the importance of food production

In 2020, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the energy supply sector represented 21 per cent of total UK GHG emissions, with the main source of emissions from this sector being the combustion of fuels in power stations.

This compares with 24 per cent from surface transport, 18 per cent from business and 11 per cent from agriculture.

Additionally, between 1990 and 2020, the contribution of energy supply to the UK and Wales’ GHG emissions fell by 70 and 55 per cent respectively, with renewable energy produced on farmland playing a central role in these reductions.

Renewable energy production in Wales has increased dramatically over the past decade, with a vast proportion of that energy produced on Welsh farmland. However, growth in recent years has slowed significantly as Government incentives for farmers have been removed.

We have been clear for many years - 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.

With that in mind, the Welsh Government is currently consulting on Wales’ renewable energy targets, proposing to set goals on how much renewable energy capacity is locally owned of which the Government recognises that the uptake of small-scale renewable energy technologies could be a key contributor.

A big problem in the home-grown energy market was the removal of business rate relief for privately-owned hydropower projects, which has served as a significant barrier to investment, while obstacles such as landscape designations, a lack of supporting infrastructure and disproportionate regulations continue to block developments.

It is imperative that our Governments remove such barriers and restore incentives in order to boost agriculture’s contribution to our energy security without undermining our food production capacity.

Farmers here in Wales can do both - produce sustainable food and help meet Welsh Government’s renewable energy targets!