The independent review was led by former energy minister Charles Hendry.
Summing up the final report’s findings Hendry said tidal lagoons could be “very competitive” with other low-carbon sources and that the government should move forward with a ‘pathfinder’ project “as swiftly as possible”.
“I believe that the evidence is clear that tidal lagoons can play a cost-effective role in the UK’s energy mix and there is considerable value in a small (less than 500 MW) pathfinder project,” said Hendry. “I conclude that tidal lagoons would help deliver security of supply; they would assist in delivering our decarbonisation commitments; and they would bring real and substantial opportunities for the UK supply chain.”
“Most importantly,” he added, “it is clear that tidal lagoons at scale could deliver low carbon power in a way that is very competitive with other low carbon sources. The aim now is that we should move to secure the pathfinder project as swiftly as possible, so the learning opportunities it offers can be maximised.”
The independent review estimated that the cost of such a project would be around 30p per household per year over the first 30 years. For a large-scale project the estimate was less 50p per household per year over the first 60 years. It said large-scale tidal lagoons could match the costs of other low-carbon projects commissioning in the mid to late 2020s and that the potential impact on bills “appears attractive” when compared to new build nuclear.
“Having looked at all the evidence, spoken to many of the key players, on both sides of this debate, it is my view that we should seize the opportunity to move this technology forward now,” he concluded.
Hendry’s report has made more than 30 recommendations for maximizing the benefit of tidal power to the UK. These included allocating any subsidies to large-scale tidal lagoons through a competitive tendering process; introducing a National Policy Statement similar to the one for new build nuclear to aid the consenting process; and establishing a new body at “arms-length” from government called the Tidal Power Authority.
Hendry’s optimistic outlook for tidal lagoon power in the UK was welcomed by Renewable UK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal as a “ringing endorsement” of innovative technology and modern industry. He also called on government to now conclude negotiations for support of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon which was granted a development consent order in June 2015. The project will deliver 320MW of capacity and is expected to cost £1.3 billion to build.
The Swansea Bay developer Tidal Lagoon Power hopes to begin construction in 2018 but has not yet been able to secure a low-carbon subsidy through the Contracts for Difference scheme.