A ‘Team Wales’ approach is needed to deliver the renewable energy advances promised by the Celtic Freeport, according to Tom Sawyer, CEO of Port of Milford Haven and Celtic Freeport executive member.

The Celtic Freeport, due to be formally designated by the Welsh and UK Governments in spring/summer 2024, will build on the strengths of two of the UK’s leading ports, Milford Haven and Port Talbot, to create a green investment corridor. This will enable Wales to capitalise on renewable energy technologies and to position itself as a leader in the field.

Mr Sawyer is one of four speakers discussing renewable energy in the South West Wales region at the inaugural Green Economy Conference, which takes place in Swansea Arena today, Wednesday November 22.

The discussion, chaired by Abigail Beck, communications manager for RenewableUK Cymru, will also feature Arwyn Williams, head of faculty engineering, computing and strategic lead for higher education at Pembrokeshire College; Joseph Kidd, co-founder of renewable energy developer Hiraeth Energy and a partner in sustainability consultancy Afallen; and Andrew Harston, strategic adviser, Wales & Short Sea Ports, ABP and Celtic Freeport executive member.

A key topic of discussion will be the rollout of floating offshore wind, which is one of the key commitments of the Celtic Freeport, along with supporting 16,000 green jobs.

“We need to adopt a Team Wales approach to get this over the line,” said Mr Sawyer. “The conference will provide a focal point for supply chain businesses, education providers, energy developers and politicians to coordinate efforts to accelerate our readiness for the floating offshore wind opportunity around the corner."

Andrew Harston added: “This is Wales' opportunity to create a new green industry. Floating offshore wind will play a central role in our green future and is essential to ensure we hit net zero targets. The opportunity from floating offshore wind is huge for new port infrastructure, factories and jobs."

Arwyn Williams will also be discussing offshore floating wind power, along with hydrogen developments, plus how the existing hydrocarbon sector views the energy transition.

“There are so many exciting and new opportunities emerging in the region, it is critical that these opportunities can be fully realised by the local communities,” he said. “This conference is an ideal platform for raising awareness and discussing the key topics. I am delighted to be given the opportunity to be involved and hope to further strengthen the region’s position in leading on the skills development in these areas.”

Joseph Kidd’s sustainability consultancy Afallen is working with Swansea Council on several decarbonisation initiatives and is at the forefront of delivering the Local Area Energy Plan for net zero across Wales.

He will be giving Afallen’s perspective in the panel discussion. He will also comment from the perspective of Hiraeth Energy, which is focussed on offshore wind development in the Celtic Sea.

“I will be talking about how the Celtic Sea developments have the potential to deliver significant benefits to Wales if the right foundations are put in place,” he said.

“The Green Economy Conference and Exhibition matters because it helps highlight a lot of the positive work being undertaken in the region. But perhaps more importantly it helps put a spotlight on the challenge that still faces us in getting to net zero, and ultimately trying to limit climate change.”

The conference is run by 4theRegion, a membership alliance working to bring about positive change in the region. It builds on the success of the annual Swansea Conference and Exhibition, which took place in March this year, and Swansea’s Green Recovery Conference, which was held by 4theRegion in June 2022.

Zoe Antrobus, managing director of 4theRegion, said: “We’re delighted to be hosting this important panel discussion on renewable energy in our region. It will highlight the important work that is already underway in the sector, the challenges faced by those working to effect change, and how to overcome these. Our panellists will also discuss the exciting opportunities that are on the horizon.

“Above all, the message is that when all the stakeholders pull together, transformation to a green economy is possible – and south west Wales can lead the way. The Green Economy Conference and Exhibition will help to make that happen.”