Britain should “embrace” its first-mover advantage in a new global industry by pressing ahead with the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, according to a group of 20 manufacturing executives.
“We have at our fingertips a brand-new sector that will create a multibillion pound industry, provide tens of thousands of jobs across the country and create a significant local supply chain,” said the group in an open letter in the Financial Times. “All of this before we even think about the massive potential as a British export technology.”
The group, which included the bosses of Sheffield Forgemasters and the UK arm of GE, said the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon would use “proven, yet cutting-edge” British-built technology to “harness the rise and fall of this island nation’s tides” and act as a pathfinder for a fleet of larger projects.
The letter came ahead of the publication this Thursday of an independent review into the feasibility of tidal lagoon power in the UK led by former energy minister Charles Hendry. The review was started in February and submitted to the government last month.
If built the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon will be the first of its kind in the world. The £1.3 billion scheme will feature a six-mile-long breakwater water wall and 16 hydro turbines generating up to 320MW of power.
The project will take four years to build, with the first power being generated in year three. The developer, Tidal Lagoon Power, was awarded a development consent order in June 2015 but the following October delayed the start of construction until spring 2017 as the government was taking “longer than expected” to agree to a subsidy through the Contracts for Difference scheme. The firm says the project is “primed for construction” and is currently aiming to begin work in 2018.
The outcome of the Hendry review is likely to determine what level of support is made available by the government for tidal lagoon deployment in the UK. Tidal Lagoon Power says it only needs the same rate of subsidy as that offered to Hinkley Point C which as part of a “60-year established industry” is arguably less in need of support.
In January, the then prime minister David Cameron cast doubt over the future of the Swansea scheme after raising concerns over the cost of tidal lagoon power during an appearance before the Liaison Committee.