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Swansea tidal project torpedoed over costs

Words: Roger Milne
Tidal Lagoon

The UK Government's refusal to back the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon has caused outrage in Wales, where Monday’s (25 June) decision was panned by business leaders and Welsh politicians.

The £1.3 billion project was designed to act as a pathfinder for other tidal lagoon projects around the UK, including two others in Wales: one in Cardiff Bay and across Colwyn Bay in North Wales.

First minister Carwyn Jones complained: “The UK Government’s short-sightedness and complete lack of ambition has thwarted this project, which could have positioned the UK as a world leader in a new global industry. Despite our serious offer to help the UK Government make this proposal work, they are letting this opportunity slip through their fingers."

Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said the government had made a huge mistake. "The tidal lagoon is a once in a generation opportunity to create a new industry and provide renewable, tidal energy for the UK. 

"It's a game-changing project that would create 1,000 jobs during construction and almost 200 full-time jobs. As a pathfinder project Swansea would pave the way for an entirely new industry where Wales and the UK would be a world leader.

"The UK Government has spent 18 months on this decision and after all that time they have made the wrong call.

Stewart said he was working closely with the Welsh Government, other councils and partners to find alternative ways of delivering the project.

Business secretary Greg Clark told the Commons this week that “the programme of six tidal lagoons, the first of which is Swansea Bay … does not meet [government] requirements for value for money".

He said the government's calculations suggested the scheme would be significantly more expensive than generating the power through wind turbines or nuclear.

Tidal Lagoon Power, the company behind the projects, disputed the government’s assessment of the economics of tidal generation.

Mark Shorrock, its founder and chief executive, said: "This is a vote of no interest in Wales, no confidence in British manufacturing and no care for the planet. Justified through a faux concern for consumers who would readily invest in a British tidal power industry for today and for future generations."

Clark insisted the UK Government wasn’t closing the door on all tidal energy projects. “Far from being against tidal technology, I am in favour of it, but a value-for-money case has to be presented. We will continue to be open to proposals that can demonstrate such a case,” he told Welsh MPs.

The Swansea scheme has been on the drawing board for most of this decade and had secured a development consent order from the government. However, the scheme still needed an environmental licence from Natural Resources Wales.

Image credit | Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon