The UK Government has thrown out plans for a £1.3bn Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.
Rumours have been circulating amongst the Welsh business community for weeks about when a decision will be made, and although the decision will naturally be disappointing for some, it at the very least has brought clarification on the situation. Swansea Bay won’t be getting the UK’s first tidal lagoon.
This decision has been made despite the commitment from Welsh Government, who pledged £200 million to help build the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon earlier this month.
This news is a bitter pill for Swansea and the hopes for South Wales to become a hub for the renewable energy industry.
This is a short-sighted decision by the UK Government. The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon was meant to be the first of many lagoons along the coast of the Severn Estuary, and eventually around the UK, and would give us clean energy for at least 120 years.
It’s true that this first pathfinder lagoon would cost a lot and wouldn’t generate as much electricity as the new nuclear power station at Hinckley Point, but if the government are to be believed when they say they support renewable energy they need to start somewhere.
Wednesday marks 64 years since the opening of the world’s first nuclear power station. That generated just 5 MW of electricity but if it hadn’t happened the industry wouldn’t have grown to develop the 3260 MW Hinckley Point C. In the same way, if the 320 MW Swansea lagoon doesn’t happen it’s unlikely that another lagoon in Cardiff, which is estimated will be able to power every home in Wales, will be built.
Today’s announcement leaves us asking what is the government’s long-term plans for renewable energy? Business not only wants affordable energy today, it needs assurance that the lights will stay on over the coming decades, and beyond the lifespan of the power stations currently being built, which are relatively short compared to the tidal lagoon. The government needs to be clear about the support it’s willing to give to untested renewable energy technology and what it sees as acceptable subsidy levels for anyone else bringing forward a tidal lagoon project.
We understand that naturally many of our members will be disappointed by the decision as they have supported the concept since the beginning. However, businesses in the Swansea Bay City Region are hugely resilient and have proved time and time again how strong they really are. Business optimism remains high, as evidenced in our most recent Business Barometer and we hope that this decision will not dent the current sense of optimism in the business community.
Looking ahead, we now call on local and Welsh Government stakeholders to work closely with businesses in the region to deliver the various City Deal projects which we know will have a concrete impact on the region and can genuinely transform the economic landscape of the area. We need policymakers across the region to remain ambitious, forget looking over their shoulders to Cardiff and continue focusing on future proofing our city in our way, with tangible investment like the City Deal.
Acorn has been a firm supporter of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and has been working very closely with the team behind the initiative right from the outset. Today’s decision is a real blow and we feel very much for all those directly involved in developing it and bringing it this far.
The people at Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) have been tireless in their promotion of the benefits such a project could bring to Wales, and it’s our hope that today’s announcement, as disappointing as it is, will not be the final outcome for this wonderful initiative – instead, we hope that other routes can be considered to bring the series of tidal lagoons to life, with the first being in Swansea Bay.
We appreciate that there are different perspectives on the costs and value in relation to this first tidal lagoon, but we hope very much that the decision makers will look positively at reviewing again how the UK can make this work rather than simply let it drop. If the UK’s strategy is to develop more green energy and to become more self-sufficient, then we surely must consider, together, how we can make this happen.
The tidal lagoons bring an opportunity for the rest of the world to be reminded that Wales, and the UK are places where innovation can be encouraged, supported and thrive – something that is perhaps particularly poignant during these uncertain Brexit times.