As people across Wales party for their patron St. David's Day, its low carbon sector has been given other reasons to celebrate.

Wind farm developer Vattenfall has signed contracts with two Welsh companies, Ruthin and Swansea-based civil engineering firm Jones Bros. and Chepstow-based Mabey Bridge, for wind turbine steel towers, that will help sustain more than 200 jobs.

The towers are for an 11-turbine wind farm in Leicestershire.

Piers Guy, Vattenfall’s head of onshore wind development in the UK, said: “We are delighted that the turbine towers for one of Vattenfall’s projects will be ‘made in Wales’ for the first time. Wales is developing a renewable energy supply chain which is creating and retaining hundreds of Welsh jobs across many sectors.

“The growth potential for companies working in the sector over the long term is significant, as Jones Bros. are already demonstrating.”

Welsh minister for environment and sustainable development, John Griffiths, congratulated both companies on their success: “I am delighted that Welsh companies such as Mabey Bridge and Jones Bros. are proving their ability to compete for, and win lucrative multi million contracts within the renewable energy sector.

“This is great news for Wales, particularly when such contracts are resulting in well paid and skilled Welsh jobs.”

Grants for hard-to-heat homes

John Griffiths also announced yesterday an extra £6.6m to help reduce the energy bills of householders in some of Wales’ most deprived areas under the Welsh government’s successful strategic energy scheme, Arbed.

This will see money invested in installing external wall insulation, high efficiency, class A boilers and the transition to more efficient types of fuel in over 1,500 homes in areas including Flintshire, Blaenau Gwent, Ceredigion and Swansea.

Llyr Edwards, director of property services at Tai Ceredigion said: “The additional Arbed 1 funding is not only good news for Ceredigion, bringing with it training and employment opportunities, it is also excellent news for our tenants.

“Jobs are being retained by Welsh companies, Welsh products being used to externally insulate tenants' homes, and rural estates that had previously seen little investment are now being re-vitalised."

The Welsh Government will soon begin phase 2 of its Arbed scheme, which is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and will see a further £45m being invested in Welsh homes.

£12m to green Welsh businesses

A £12m initiative to help businesses across West Wales and the Valleys deliver goods and services in a more sustainable way was also announced by the deputy minister for European programmes, Alun Davies yesterday.

The scheme will support businesses offering expertise in areas such as developing renewable-based materials for use in products and improving the resource efficiency of services, helping to reduce their ecological footprint.

Help will be given to companies to undertake research and activities to develop ‘greener’ products and drive business growth by the WISE Network (Welsh Institute for Sustainable Environments), which is led by Aberystwyth University in partnership with Bangor and Swansea Universities.

Companies will be helped to green up their manufacturing processes, products and packaging, to make them more efficient and cost-effective, and increase their use of renewable materials to produce commercial goods and services.

The project is backed with £6.6m, again from the European Regional Development Fund.

Davis said: "We are helping to ensure EU funding is maximised for the benefit of people, businesses and our environment. Already through the 2007–2013 programmes, EU projects have helped 82,000 participants to gain qualifications and 34,400 to enter work, and created over 10,500 jobs and 2,150 enterprises."

More information is available from info@wisenetwork.org.

EcoCode carbon-reduction software

The news comes hot on the heels of the release of free software for Welsh small to medium-size enterprises that will help them cut costs and carbon emissions arising from their utilities use, transport operations and waste.

The Seren EcoCode software is the product of Cardiff University’s Geoenvironmental Research Centre (GRC) research project SEREN, which is also European-funded.

Dr Aleksandra Koj, senior manager at the project, said the Seren Encode can help “SMEs track the costs associated with their utilities, such as water and electricity, and quantify their carbon footprint, transport costs and waste produced.

“It is not time-consuming to use,″ he said, ″and so does not require significant staff investment. It only requires information readily available from sources such as utility bills, or data that can easily be monitored by the enterprise, such as the number of waste/recycling bags filled weekly.”

Data is entered through a user-friendly interface and enables the enterprise to easily track costs, both carbon produced and carbon saved, over a period of months and years.

The Seren EcoCode also prints and displays data which can then be used for presentations and dissemination of information.

Anyone wanting a copy of the GRC Seren EcoCode or to request further information can contact: Seren@Cardiff.ac.uk.

Story: David Thorpe, News Editor