UK government review backs world’s first tidal lagoon project

An independent review commissioned by the UK government has found that the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project could put the UK at the global forefront for alternative energy technology.

A review commissioned by the UK government has backed plans for a £1.3 billion tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay and concluded the technology could make a "strong contribution" towards securing the nation's power supplies.The independent review, headed by former energy minister Charles Hendry, found that the lagoons' technology, which harnesses tidal power to generate electricity, was cost effective in the long run and represented a "significant economic opportunity" which would put the UK in the global forefront of alternative energy.Mr Hendry said going ahead with the world's first lagoon off the Swansea coast, with 16 turbines harnessing the power of the tides from the Severn Estuary, would represent the first step in what proponents hope will be the construction of a network of such projects around the UK coast."I don't believe there would be any debate in decades to come about whether this was the right thing to do," he said, though he added that a wider network "could only be considered properly when more progress had been made" on the Swansea project.Mr Hendry, who began his review almost a year ago, concluded the lagoons could contribute positively to the UK's decarbonisation goals as well as boosting local economic regeneration.

The review said the cost of the technology "appears attractive, particularly when compared to nuclear projects", at least in the long term, though it said a high level of monitoring of environmental impacts would be needed. Environmental groups have broadly backed the technology although concerns remain about effects on local wildlife.Mr Hendry said: "If you look at the cost spread out over the entire lifetime - 120 years for the project - it comes out at about 30p per household for the next 30 years. That's less than a pint of milk. That's where I think we can start a new industry and we can do it at an affordable cost to consumers."Doug Parr, chief UK scientist for Greenpeace, said tidal energy was the most reliable source of renewable energy for the UK. "Up to now, cost has been considered a barrier but the Hendry report suggests that tidal lagoons can potentially play a cost-effective role in the UK energy mix," he said."And the government should get on with it because it could be the first of a wave of tidal lagoons across the UK, and even internationally. So we can lead the world in providing a new, renewable innovation to meet our clean energy needs."If Swansea is successful it could prove the investment case for further major projects that could potentially generate a significant chunk of the UK's electricity needs, and help towards meeting our carbon targets, whilst creating thousands of new infrastructure jobs too."Mr Hendry told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We know it absolutely works. One of the great advantages is it is completely predictable for all time to come. We know exactly when the spring tides and neap tides are going to be every single day for the rest of time and so, in terms of meeting security of supply, lagoons can play an important role."The review, Mr Hendry said, had assessed how expensive the project was by spreading the cost of the subsidies over the 120-year life of the project, during which time it should provide electricity to 155,000 homes. "If you look at it over the cost of that 120 years then you get a very much lower figure than almost any other source of power generation," he added.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre

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