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Independent review backs tidal lagoon plans

12 Jan 17 The independent review into the feasibility and practicality of tidal lagoon energy in the UK has come down firmly in support of the concept.

Plans at Swansea involve the construction of a 9.5km-long sea wall to create a lagoon in the Severn Estuary
Plans at Swansea involve the construction of a 9.5km-long sea wall to create a lagoon in the Severn Estuary

Not only can tidal lagoons offer a secure, cost-effective source of energy, the review concluded, but the UK “can reasonably aspire to be the global leader” in the technology.

Former energy minister Charles Hendry was commissioned by the government in February 2016 to assess the potential role of tidal lagoons n the UK’s energy mix. At the time it was broadly seen as a tactic by the government to delay making a decision on supporting the £1.3bn Swansea Bay tidal lagoon scheme being privately promoted by Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP). TLP’s intention is that the 320MW Swansea Bay lagoon will be the prototype for a series of much larger tidal energy projects around the UK coastline. The Swansea lagoon secured planning consent in 2015 and was all set to start construction when the government ordered a review.

Mr Hendry’s support is unequivocal. He says that the Swansea scheme should be allowed to proceed as planned, as a pathfinder project, and future schemes be subject to competition.

“I believe that the evidence is clear that tidal lagoons can play a cost effective role in the UK’s energy mix and there is considerable value in a small (less than 500 MW) pathfinder project,” he said. “I conclude that tidal lagoons would help deliver security of supply; they would assist in delivering our decarbonisation commitments; and they would bring real and substantial opportunities for the UK supply chain.

“Most importantly, it is clear that tidal lagoons at scale could deliver low carbon power in a way that is very competitive with other low carbon sources.”

Mr Hendry also sets out in his report what the next steps should be. “The aim now is that we should move to secure the pathfinder project as swiftly as possible, so the learning opportunities it offers can be maximised. I have, however, also concluded that the smaller pathfinder project needs to be operational before we move to larger scale projects. This means that a clear long-term government strategy in favour of tidal lagoons will be required if the full supply chain and cost reduction opportunities are to be realised,” he said.

“Tidal lagoons can be an important and exciting new industry for the United Kingdom. We are blessed with some of the best resources in the world, which puts us in a unique position to be world leaders.

“The costs of a pathfinder project would be about 30p per household per year over the first 30 years. A large scale project would be less than 50p over the first 60 years. The benefits of that investment could be huge, especially in South Wales, but also in many other parts of the country. Having looked at all the evidence, spoken to many of the key players, on both sides of this debate, it is my view that we should seize the opportunity to move this technology forward now.”

The report makes more than 30 recommendations for delivering a tidal lagoon auditory bringing maximum benefit to the UK, including:

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  • An allocation by a competitive tender process for large scale tidal lagoons;
  • Informing the consenting process with a National Policy Statement for tidal lagoons similar to Nuclear new build, where specific sites are designated by the Government as being suitable for development;
  • The establishment of a new body (Tidal Power Authority) at arms-length from government with the goal to maximise UK advantage from a tidal lagoon programme.

Energy secrtary Greg Clark said: “I am grateful to Charles and his team for the hard work that has gone into the Review. The issues are particularly complex as they relate to untried technology in the marine environment. The government’s energy planning is focused on ensuring affordable, secure, low-carbon energy. We will now consider recommendations and determine what decision is in the best interests of the UK energy in the long term.”

Mark Shorrock, chief executive of Tidal Lagoon Power, was unsurprisingly happy with the findings and called it “a watershed moment”.

Mark Shorrock  said: “This is an exemplar of a well-managed, timely and thorough independent review. We thank Charles and his team for their positive and professional endeavour throughout the process.

“With the publication of the Hendry Review we’ve hit ‘peak consensus.’

“Home-grown power from the tides, starting at Swansea Bay, is something we can all agree on: communities and investors, conservationists and industrialists, politicians of all persuasions and now an independent government review, all singing from the same hymn sheet.

“Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is a vision of how Great Britain can replace part of our ageing power station fleet with low cost, reliable power that also revitalises our industrial heartlands and coastal communities. When we pay our electricity bills, we are mostly supporting other countries’ energy industries and other countries’ workers. It doesn’t have to be that way. Tidal lagoons will generate electrons that work for Britain and bring down bills.

“The Hendry Review has set the final piece of the jigsaw in place: a watershed moment for British energy, British manufacturing, British productivity and our coastal communities. We look forward to working with Ministers and Officials to bring this new industry to life.”

Marie-Claude Hemming, head of external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, added: “The Swansea Tidal Lagoon project is an enormously exciting opportunity for the UK to move forward in securing our energy supply. We hope that the government now moves forward in delivering this project and others like it without delay.”

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