Residents 'dumbfounded' by energy company plans to build pylons across Powys landscape

  • "I'm quite shocked, dumbfounded and flabbergasted that they are considering this"

A row has started brewing across more than sixty miles of Welsh countryside in mid and south-west Wales after residents found out about plans to construct a series of new electricity pylons through their land.

Letters from a company called Bute Energy were sent out to farmers and landowners between New Radnor, Powys, and Llanartheny, Carmarthenshire, asking to carry out surveys through their land.

Subsequent dialogue between those people and the company revealed that there are plans to construct a series of pylons linking up a new windfarm in New Radnor and the national grid at Carmarthenshire.

The grid capacity for that windfarm in mid Wales is simply not there at present.

So within a matter of days, a conflict about whether residents in the Towy Valley in particular wanted any new electricity pylons through their land.

It comes against a backdrop of need to increase national electricity grid capacity in Wales, following a Welsh Affairs Committee report last year that described current capacity as "restrained".

It has almost been a year since Putin invaded Ukraine. The political fallout meant less of an energy supply from Russia and it made those calls for home-grown renewable energy much louder.

Pylons around 27m high (like the one pictured above) could be built on the land in just a few years' time. Credit: ITV Wales

Ann Davies belongs to the Carmarthenshire branch of the Farmers' Union of Wales and is a dairy farmer near Llanarthne.

She said: "I haven't got any problems with green energy at all. We all need electricity, we use it here on the farm. But what I don't agree with is having pylons.

"The entire portfolio of wind farms planned by Bute Energy are worth three billion pounds, funded by a Danish company. So surely they can afford to put the electricity underground?"

Roger Fitz-Patrick lives near Ann. He too is unhappy about the prospect of new pylons in an area acclaimed for its beauty and tourist attractions. 

"To be honest, I'm quite shocked, dumbfounded and flabbergasted that they are considering this," he said.

"We've formed a community group to join everybody together to explore what was being proposed within our area, and to see whether we should combat it."

Ross Evans has joined their campaign against the pylons from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, which is becoming known as The Welsh Countryside Charity.

He said: "Pylons first came onto the UK scenery in 1928, and technology doesn't seem to have moved on since then. However, the National Grid are burying cables where possible.

"Bute Energy have said to people on the doorstep that to bury these cables they would need to dig a ditch the size of the M4. Now that is simply not true."

Landowners are worried about the affect building pylons will have on the landscape of the area, renowned for its picturesque beauty. Credit: ITV Wales

I joined Aled Rowlands from Bute Energy on top of a windy common near Senghenydd in the south Wales Valleys.

He said they plan to put a wind farm here called Twyn Hywel, as part of their mission to create clean, green and renewable energy in Wales. Aled showed me a nearby pylon as an example of the type they are proposing to construct in mid Wales.

He also confirmed that ditches would need to be dug for electricity cables underground. But he says that the size of these ditches varies according to the cable type needed and the geography of the landscape.

Aled's biggest point though is about this issue of grid capacity.

On the 12th October 2022, the Welsh Affairs Committee at Westminster published a report that said that "grid capacity in Wales is significantly restrained" and that the "current pressure on the grid will be exacerbated by increases in demand for electricity".

He reminds me of those reports into the lack of grid capacity in Wales and talks about exactly why we need to improve that.

"Lots of farmers, for example, are telling us that they would like to have renewable electricity-generating systems on their farms," he said.

"And we're hopeful that this grid will enable them to connect in better and get their energy to where it's needed. They can also have an income from that as well. They can't do it at the moment in large parts of mid Wales."

Aled Rowlands from Bute Energy said the issue of grid capacity needs to be addressed in order to push forward with the windfarm plans. Credit: ITV Wales

On Friday 17 February a public meeting is being held at Llandovery Rugby Club about the proposals. It has been organised by the Countryside Alliance.

On Wednesday 15 February there was a public meeting in Llandeilo, which was attended by 132 people wanting to know more about the plans.

I understand Friday's meeting will be attended by senior Plaid Cymru members of the Senedd, who also wish to discuss the potential impact on the local area. And indeed the whole issue is not far from political attention.

The Climate Change Minister Julie James was asked about the Welsh Government's policy on new electricity cables in the Senedd earlier this month. She stated that it was her preference that they should go underground, where possible. 

For now the political debates and the local debates are hotting up. But Bute Energy is set to unveil its plans fully and consult with local people in early March. So Friday's public meeting will probably be the beginning - and not the end - of this story.