'Ambitious but realistic' solar energy targets can be reached

THE States’ new electricity strategy, likely to be debated next month, should not be seen as a definitive plan for the island between now and 2050, the president of Environment & Infrastructure has said.

Lindsay de Sausmarez hosting a media call at Frossard House to discuss the States’ electricity strategy. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 32181188)
Lindsay de Sausmarez hosting a media call at Frossard House to discuss the States’ electricity strategy. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 32181188)

‘We’re not asking the States to commit to specific components, specific technologies. What we’ve done is modelled the most optimal cost pathway to achieving net zero, which was what we were directed to do under the energy policy,’ said Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez.

The preferred proposal is a mixture of wind power, solar power, a direct cable link with France, and on-island electricity generation as a back up.

Other options were considered, including continuing to import energy from France with back up from the power station.

‘One message we are keen to communicate is that there is no such thing as no decision. If we fail to agree a direction, events will overtake us,’ she said.

‘We will by default end up in pathway A, and that is the costliest option for the consumers of Guernsey.’

Deputy de Sausmarez said that millions of pounds would need to be spent, but it was impossible to know how much, and on what, until the States had agreed long-term strategic direction.

The strategy was also important for Guernsey’s ambitions to cut carbon emissions, she said. The energy sector is responsible for about three-quarters of the island’s total emissions.

‘There’s a very sharp and urgent focus internationally on transitioning away from what we call the brown economy, which is underpinned by fossil fuels, to the green economy, which is based on low carbon cleaner alternatives. It makes sense for Guernsey to keep pace with that change.

‘The decarbonisation commitments that we’ve made are really important to our finance sector. We position ourselves as a green and sustainable finance centre on the international stage, so it is really important that we are able to substantiate that with our domestic policies.

The challenge that we have with the electricity strategy is how to balance the three core tenets of the energy trilemma – security of supply, affordability, and environmental impact. It’s a little bit like a game of Whack a Mole because when you when you nail one, another one can pop up, so there are some tensions in between those objectives.’

Talks with industry partners over an offshore wind farm are in very early stages. It has been said that Guernsey might not build its own, but might seek to have some involvement in a much larger model than the island needs.

But while a wind farm and new undersea connections to France are long term projects, Deputy de Sausmarez said that a rapid expansion of solar energy was achievable.

‘We’ve set ambitious but we think realistic targets with industry for solar PV. We would rather set an ambitious target than set a low one and rest on our laurels.’

She said that the expansion of solar power would be for domestic and commercial markets.

‘There are already planning policies that support solar, with recent exceptions, and policies that allows redundant glasshouses to be used for energy production. There are already enabling policies with the IDP to achieve those targets. And as we have a strategy agreed, all this will be easier to achieve.’

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