The UK’s Business Secretary Greg Clark announced on Monday that the Government will not back the £1.3 billion, 320 megawatt (MW) Swansea Tidal Lagoon project in Wales, a move which has been described as “deeply disappointing” given the “massive potential” tidal lagoons have for providing clean electricity.
The Swansea Tidal Lagoon project has been in development for several years now, being proposed back in the early part of the decade. However, the project has had a rough road and original plans to begin construction in 2015 and to be online 2018 were shelved as the company behind the project, Tidal Lagoon Power, kept pushing forward.
Speaking before Parliament on Monday, however, the UK’s Business Secretary Greg Clark announced that, after analysis, the Government will not back the project claiming that “the project and proposed programme of lagoons do not meet the requirements for value for money, and so it would not be appropriate to lead the company to believe that public funds can be justified.”
Critics of the move were quick to point out, though, that the UK Government seems more than content to approve a third runway at Heathrow airport and the continued expansion of nuclear energy.
The move was unsurprisingly frowned upon by those campaigning for the project and supporting the marine energy industry in the UK.
“While this project will not go ahead, it’s crucial to remember that the UK maintains a world lead in developing wave and tidal energy,” said Hannah Smith, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables. “These sectors in Scotland are at the forefront of marine energy innovation, with a number of significant achievements over the past 12 months, helping drive the cost reductions which will assist them to fully commercialise.”
“Wave and tidal developments have a vital role to play in boosting rural economies and contributing to both our energy ambitions and Industrial Strategy,” Smith continued. “However, all of this is at risk with the lack of a clear and viable route to market for tidal and wave technologies in the UK.”
Less sanguine about the decision, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Hugh McNeal said: “This decision is deeply disappointing and shows a lack of vision. Tidal lagoons have massive potential to meet our national energy needs and create jobs, as well as bringing industrial-scale economic benefits to the UK – including opportunities to export worldwide. The review commissioned by the Government on this innovative technology found that it can deliver secure power at a price that’s competitive in the long term.”
Secretary Clark justified the Government’s decision by comparing the cost of building the tidal lagoon project with offshore wind energy, explaining that “the same power generated by the lagoon, over 60 years, for £1.3 billion, would cost around £400 million for offshore wind even at today’s prices, which have fallen rapidly, and we expect to be cheaper still in future.” However, it’s similarly worth noting that offshore wind technology benefited greatly from government support in its early developmental period, an option being denied to marine technologies such as tidal and wave power.
“The UK’s future energy mix will be powered by a range of low carbon technologies,” added Hugh McNeal. “We know that with the right support, tidal energy can quickly become competitive on cost with other renewable and low carbon power like nuclear.
“With supportive policy and continued investment, we can rapidly cut the cost of new technologies and build world-leading industries. But at present there is no financial support on offer from government for marine renewables – or any new, innovative technologies. These are high-value new technologies that the UK can export to markets across the globe.”
The Swansea Tidal Lagoon project could still move forward if the necessary investment can be sourced elsewhere, but hopes are not high after all this time.
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