The government is taking account of the pathfinder nature of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project as it weighs up whether to approve the project, Claire Perry has said.
Against a backdrop of reports earlier this week that an announcement on the £1.2 billion project had been due today, the energy and climate change minister was grilled on the decision during Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) questions in the House of Commons yesterday.
Former energy and climate secretary of state Sir Edward Davey pressed Perry on accepting the Hendry review’s recommendation that the project should be treated as a pathfinder.
He said: “Nuclear and offshore wind needed pathfinder projects, first-of-a-kind projects, to prove the technology and the economics, and to get the cost down.”
Perry said: “We have to consider the whole life cycle of technologies and that is exactly what we have been doing in considering tidal technology.”
But she said that the project had to be delivered at “a price that is affordable” for consumers.
Perry was backed up by Alan Cairns, secretary of state for Wales, who told the Commons earlier today that he is working hard to secure the go-ahead for Tidal Lagoon Power’s project, pointing out to MPs that he had introduced the company to No 10 Downing Street’s special advisers in 2012.
He said: “I would really like the tidal lagoon to go ahead, but of course it must prove to be value for money. Tidal projects could have a positive energy potential, but of course they must deliver value for money for the taxpayer.
“We are still looking at the numbers. We are doing anything and everything possible to try to make this fit.”
And he said that Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones’ offer of £200 million-worth of support for the project was “merely a small fraction of the cost of the proposal”.
But Cairns was criticised by Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen, who described the secretary of state as “the grim reaper of Welsh politics—the bearer of bad news”.
He said: “When he pulls the plug on the lagoon there will be huge public anger in Wales. Many people back in the motherland will be left asking not only what the point of the current secretary of state is, but what the point of having a colonial secretary at all is.”
Christina Rees, Labour MP for nearby Neath, said: “The tidal lagoon project is not just about Swansea. If the secretary of state’s UK Tory Government accept Carwyn Jones’s kind offer, tidal lagoons for Cardiff, Colwyn Bay and Newport will quickly become real prospects.
“They could bring jobs and prosperity to the whole of Wales and boost our vital steel industry. This is about the development of technological innovation and bringing it to the point of full commercial productivity.”