UK tidal power company Tidal Lagoon Power has this week struck back at the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, saying that its recent decision not to support the 320 megawatt (MW) Swansea Tidal Lagoon project in Wales and its statement on tidal lagoons as a whole was “designed to mislead” and was “a manifest distortion of the truth.”
Late June, the UK’s Business Secretary Greg Clark announced to the country’s Parliament that the country’s government would not back the £1.3 billion, 320 megawatt (MW) Swansea Tidal Lagoon project in Wales, 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.”
The Swansea Tidal Lagoon project had been in the works for several years and was proposed back in the early part of the decade. Power generated from tidal lagoons has a lot of promise, and a number of supporters — especially in the UK renewable energy industry — but it is still in its infancy despite various attempts to develop and upscale projects and technologies.
In particular, the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project was originally awarded a Development Consent Order in 2015 and would have consisted of 16 hydro turbines, a 9.5 kilometer breakwater wall, generating enough electricity to supply 155,000 homes for the next 120 years — a lifespan that far outstrips other renewable energy technologies like wind and solar.
The BEIS’ argument that “the project and proposed programme of lagoons do not meet the requirements for value for money” was a hard pill to swallow for many who pointed to other boondoggles currently being backed by the UK Government, including a third runway at Heathrow airport and the continued expansion of the country’s nuclear energy capacity.
“This decision is deeply disappointing and shows a lack of vision,” said RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Hugh McNeal. “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.”
Tidal Lagoon Power, the company behind the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project, has kept silent until Tuesday, when it published an audit of the statement delivered by Greg Clark and the BEIS regarding tidal lagoons. The audit walks, step by step, through the BEIS statement and its underlying assumptions, and makes a compelling case to back up its claim that the BEIS statement was “designed to mislead” and that it was “a manifest distortion of the truth.”
“The audit demonstrates that the figures employed by BEIS to support its position on tidal lagoons are inaccurate by orders of magnitude, which raises serious questions about the approach taken and the conclusions drawn,” explained Keith Clarke CBE, Tidal Lagoon Power’s chair. “BEIS’ inaction is still holding up tidal lagoons. The Department has not released a full and thorough value-for-money assessment for Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, has not responded to the Hendry Review of tidal lagoons, and has continued to ignore our requests to meet with ministers for a fuller explanation of the position and approach taken.
“This is irresponsible and obstructs our appraisal of the options available to bring further funding into the business and to work up alternate approaches for delivering a pathfinder tidal lagoon at Swansea Bay without the award of a Contract for Difference from the UK Government.”
The audit (PDF) is worth reading for several reasons, as it deals with nine separate statements and assumptions made by the BEIS and clearly refutes not only the individual underlying assumptions but puts a hole through the BEIS’ overall decision to abandon tidal lagoon power because it is wasn’t “value for money.” Tidal Lagoon Power’s audit shows that its technology would not only be more cost-effective than the respective comparisons used by the BEIS (offshore wind) but that the Department’s reasoning is based on repeatedly inaccurate and unverified information.
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