A Welsh industrial park is set to be without any electricity for a number of weeks until a new supply is put in place after the Welsh Government failed in a High Court bid to resolve the problem.
Some businesses based at Baglan Enery Park in Neath Port Talbot are now in the dark about how they will power their operations for almost two months after it was revealed that a new connection would not be in place until the end of May – several weeks after the existing power supply could be cut off on April 4.
Baglan Operations Limited and the Baglan group of companies entered compulsory liquidation on March 24, 2021, and an official receiver was appointed to ensure a safe ‘wind-down’ of operations. This included the ongoing provision of the sole electricity supply to Baglan Energy Park via a private wire network linked to the now-closed Baglan energy plant.
The Welsh Government, together with Dŵr Cymru, Neath Port Talbot Council, and the largest company on the energy park, Sofidel, issued legal proceedings to seek to prevent the discontinuation of the private wire network, pending a longer-term solution being implemented.
The judge in the case has dismissed the applications made, but he did direct that the power supply to the private wire network should be maintained until April 18 for Dwr Cymru and Neath and Port Talbot Council. A court order also directs that the power supply to Sofidel and other customers at the park should be maintained until at least April 4. However, this will be some weeks ahead of the new power arrangements, even with Western Power working ahead of schedule to get a new connection in place by the end of May.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, the Welsh Government’s minister for economy, Vaughan Gething, said: “My officials and I are considering the judgement, and are considering Welsh Government’s position with regards to a possible appeal. You can get the latestWalesOnline newsletters e-mailed to you directly for free by signing up here.
“In parallel, I have served proceedings for Judicial Review on the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as I continue to believe BEIS do have the powers to intervene to ensure continuity of supply for the benefit of the citizens and businesses in the Baglan Bay area.
“The Welsh Government is mindful of the stress and uncertainty that customers of the Energy Park have experienced as a result of this ongoing issue. We will continue to work with Neath Port Talbot County Council, Dwr Cymru, and all relevant parties to seek to secure a solution to the very significant risks of public health and environmental harm including increased flood risk (as well as the risks to the local economy) the termination of the private wire energy supply would create for businesses and citizens in Baglan ahead of the new distribution network being in place.”
Jonathan Ridd, a director of a number of businesses at the site, told the BBC that firms located there would have to pay for diesel generators to keep going in any gap in time between being cut off and a new connection being set up. He said costs could be as much as eight times higher as a result and that jobs could be affected “without a shadow of a doubt”.
Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, and David Rees, MS for Aberavon, have issued a joint statement on the issue. They said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s statement on Baglan Energy Park and the work they’ve been doing to both prevent disruption to the private wire network power supply at the park and to establish a new supply.
“The loss of power to the park will impact local businesses, jobs and livelihoods, as well as having environmental and possible flood risks. The loss of jobs at a time of a cost-of-living crisis will have a devastating impact upon families. The Insolvency Act gives the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy the powers to direct the official receiver in this matter.
“We call on the Secretary of State to step up and use those powers to avoid economic and environmental damage. We also call on the UK Government to work positively with the Welsh Government to help keep the power supply to Baglan Energy Park on, until businesses on the site are able to connect to the national power grid.”
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