A groundbreaking tidal power project planned for Swansea Bay can be delivered on the same terms as the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, a Conservative MP has claimed.
Richard Graham, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on marine and tidal lagoon energy, has written on the Conservative Home website that the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon is more affordable for billpayers following an offer of financial backing by the Welsh government.
The project’s developer, Tidal Lagoon Power, has said it would produce the equivalent electricity used by 155,000 households per annum and create more than 2,000 construction jobs.
But the project has been stymied since ex-energy minister Charles Hendry recommended it should be given the go ahead in a government-commissioned feasibility study, published in January last year.
Utility Week reported then that Tidal Lagoon Power had asked the government for a 90-year Contract for Difference (CfD) with an average strike price of £89.90/MWh, starting at £123/MWh in the first year and falling steadily to £43/MWh by the end of the period.
Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones wrote to prime minister Theresa May last month, offering that his devolved government would help pay for the £1.3 billion project if Westminster agreed to provide subsidies through a CfD.
Jones has not specified publicly how much the Welsh government is prepared to offer, but a figure of £200 million has been quoted in parliament to help cover construction costs.
In his blog, Graham writes that the Welsh government’s offer means the company is now able to offer “exactly the same terms” for the pilot project at Swansea as the government has accepted for Hinkley Point – a £92.50/MWh strike price over a shorter 35-year period linked to inflation.
“The Swansea pilot project proposal is now affordable, has the support of the Welsh government, and will transfer equity and dividends to Wales while establishing a UK supply chain for this new industry.
“It is no longer more expensive in the short term than nuclear, with huge potential for future efficiencies.”
Graham adds that the tidal industry should be able to match the cost reductions achieved by the offshore wind industry in last autumn’s CfD auctions.
“If we take the same approach to tidal lagoons we can help create another new industry, bringing costs down for consumers in due course and generating a wider economic benefit as well.
“Later full-scale projects, such as those proposed for Cardiff and Colwyn Bay, could each have a generating capacity to match nuclear and a cost in line with offshore wind.”
In his blog, Graham urges the government to agree a “sensible deal” for the project.
“The prime minister has always felt there was something in this for our nation, and HM Treasury and BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) must surely now seize the moment – precisely when many are looking for examples of a new post-Brexit industrial strategy.”