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New energy planning powers for Welsh ministers

Words: Laura Chubb
Renewable energy

The second part of the Silk Commission report into the future of devolution in Wales proposes that "decisions on developments which affect Wales are made in Wales".

To that end, all energy planning consents below 350 MW should be handled by the devolved administration, the Commission said.
The report, which makes a total of 61 recommendations for changes to the current devolution settlement, urges a general transfer of pre-devolution Minister of the Crown powers to Welsh ministers.
Today, all energy schemes above 50 MW are determined by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. However, under the report's suggested reforms, energy planning consents – both renewable and non-renewable – below 350 MW will be handled by the devolved administration.
In addition, the Silk Commission has advised that the UK government should have a duty "to take account" of Welsh planning policies when exercising its responsibilities for larger energy projects.

"This will enable locally sensitive decision making"

The Commission, chaired by Paul Silk – once the most senior official of the Welsh Assembly – also stated that powers relating to issuing marine licences in Welsh offshore waters should be devolved. Existing executive responsibilities of Welsh ministers for marine conservation in the Welsh inshore area should be extended to offshore, too, the report added. 
First minister Carwyn James said: "Devolving new energy powers to Wales will ensure decisions on developments which affect Wales are made in Wales.
"This will allow us to maximise the economic potential of renewable energy power generation, as well as enabling locally sensitive decision making."
Other recommendations made by the report include appointing a Welsh Crown Estate Commissioner and making changes to the Building Regulations Regime.