The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is hugely disappointed in the decision announced on Monday by UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark to cancel potential financial support for the Swansea Tidal Lagoon scheme. This is a retrograde step for a nascent and exciting technology, and compares negatively with the billions being offered to prop up new nuclear reactor schemes like Wylfa B.
The Secretary of State said an analysis of the project, expected to be able to generate 30 terawatt hours of power per year by 2050, could cost £20bn more than producing the same amount of power from wind and nuclear once financing, operating, and system costs were taken into account. The lagoon would saddle the average British household consumer with a bill that was £700 higher between 2031 and 2050, Mr Clark said. (1) Despite turning down the proposal, the Business Secretary still said the Government “believes in renewable energy and in the benefits of innovation”. It does not look that way to the NFLA.
For example, NFLA notes that former Conservative Energy Minister and the author of a Government requested independent study on the long-term potential of tidal energy, Charles Hendry, told the Guardian that the Government had failed to recognise the longer lifetime of lagoons compared to other alternatives. “The offshore wind turbines will have to have been replaced three or four times during the lifetime of a lagoon; a nuclear plant would only last half as long,” he said. (2)
NFLA also notes the cross-party anger at the UK Government’s decision. The First Minister and Swansea City Council have called it a ‘kick in the teeth’ for Wales and the Swansea Bay area. Plaid Cymru tabled a vote of no confidence in the Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns at the National Assembly for Wales. Even the Welsh Conservatives described the decision as “desperately depressing”. NFLA also agree with Friends of the Earth Cymru, who warned that “bold action” was needed to tackle climate change, which meant investing in innovative new technologies such as tidal lagoons. (3)
NFLA note that the Swansea tidal lagoon project was very much part of a series of five such schemes, which it is expected would get larger in size and cheaper in cost as the technology is more understood. This is what developing industrial strategy is all about and projects as important as railways, flight and the internet would never have been developed if the government’s logic for them was the same. In contrast, the cost of new nuclear is steadily increasing as safety and engineering complexity grows with them – the only reason the planned strike price for Wylfa B would be cheaper than Hinkley Point C comes largely from the £5 billion plus being offered by the government to Hitachi. Tidal energy was asking for a fraction of that figure.
It is clear to the NFLA that UK energy policy is about delivering new nuclear whatever the price, and in this case a nascent and potentially large form of generating renewable technology, that could have been sold all over the world, is lost. Instead, other countries are likely to do it instead and the competitive advantage Wales has at present will also be lost.
NFLA Vice-Chair Councillor David Blackburn said:
“NFLA is incredulous as to the decision of the Government to cancel the Swansea tidal lagoon scheme. It is a kick in the teeth for Swansea Bay, for the renewable energy ambitions of Wales and for realising the great industrial potential of this new and cutting edge renewable energy source. The UK Government has even ignored the views of its own Welsh Conservative colleagues in making this decision. And yet the Government has bent over backwards to keep Hitachi and EDF Energy happy in delivering highly expensive new nuclear projects, which may still never get delivered. I urge Greg Clark and the UK Government to reconsider its rejection of tidal lagoons or come up with an alternative financing solution that delivers the renewable energy revolution that most can see is there to be made.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) BEIS, 25th June 2018
(2) Guardian 25th June 2018
(3) The i newspaper 25th June 2018