The developer of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon has responded vehemently to the announcement yesterday (25 June) by the business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, that the government will not support the £1.3 billion pathfinder project.
The chair of Tidal Lagoon Power, Keith Clarke, said the refusal makes a “mockery” of the government’s new industrial strategy, and described its level of engagement with the project as “highly disturbing”.
Clarke said in statement that, having heard “next to nothing” from the government for two years, the board of Tidal Lagoon Power will meet on Wednesday to consider its next steps.
He said the company has requested a meeting with the government, explaining: “There has been no negotiation and it is not unreasonable to expect that government will now be willing to meet and discuss its position on Swansea Bay tidal lagoon in some detail.”
“The lack of engagement with us during this process has been highly disturbing,” he added.
“Had just half the government time wasted on distraction and hollow excuses been applied to collaborative engagement, we could today be sending out a very different message to the world about Brexit Britain.”
Clarke decried the “abject failure” of the government to implement the recommendations of the Hendry review, and complained that the “unique longevity, commitment to employ British industry and the multi-functional role” which the project offers has been “twisted” to work against its favour.
He said if the government is serious about unleashing the potential of the tidal lagoon and marine energy, it must support a pathfinder project for the sector, which “can only be Swansea Bay tidal lagoon”.
He continued: “The treatment of the pathfinder tidal lagoon makes a mockery of a supposed new industrial strategy for the UK that pledges to back the disruptors and embrace new industries for a new future.
“The reality is that indecision sucks the life out of innovation and timid leadership will condemn Brexit Britain to the 20th century.”
Tidal Lagoon Power chief executive and founder Mark Shorrock had strong words for the business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, in particular.
After the Hendry review advised the government to back the project as a “no regrets” option, he said Clark’s speech to parliament was “sodden with regret”. He said the statement was “very misleading” and that the secretary of state is “clearly misinformed”.
Clark told the Commons the electricity produced by the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon would be three times as expensive as the power generated at the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, currently under construction in Somerset.
Shorrock disputed this assertion, pointing out that his company has offered to build Swansea Bay project “at the same price” as Hinkley – a 35-year contract for difference with an index-linked strike price of £92.50/MWh.
“We note that government has chosen not to answer the question clearly put to it by Welsh government: will Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon be offered a contract of equal price and terms to that already offered to Hinkley Point C?”, he remarked.
The offer is dependent on £200 million of funding from the Welsh government. But Shorrock said it is “beyond rich” for the government to imply that the investment “somehow hides the true cost of the pathfinder lagoon”, having “artificially deflated” new nuclear strike prices by transferring “a huge burden of cost and risk to consumers”.
Clark’s statement made reference to several independent reports which, according to Shorrock, have “come out of the blue and make some bold claims”. He called for Tidal Lagoon Power to be allowed to view them.
Continuing his barrage of criticism, Shorrock said the government’s position on tidal lagoons is one of contradiction: “Open to tidal lagoons in the future but closed to the pathfinder project that makes them possible; keen to talk to other marine developers having repeatedly refused to talk to the only developer with a consented project ready to go; concerned that it’s a relatively small project and yet blind to the fact that means its impact on energy bills is extremely modest”.
“This is a vote of no interest in Wales, no confidence in British manufacturing and no care for the planet,” he added. “Justified through a faux concern for consumers who would readily invest in a British tidal power industry for today and for future generations.”
He finished by saying that, whilst Tidal Lagoon Power will continue to search for a way forward for its Welsh project, “greater emphasis will naturally be placed upon the projects we are already developing in international waters, including those in northern France.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to respond directly to the comments, referring Utility Week to Greg Clark’s speech and a value for money assessment released by the department.