The Swansea Bay tidal lagoon pathfinder project could be “one of the nation’s biggest industrial opportunities in a generation” according to a letter from civil engineering and manufacturing bosses published in the Financial Times.
More than 20 UK-based manufacturers and civils firms – including Laing O’Rourke and Welsh firm Alun Griffiths – have called for the £1.3bn project to go ahead, urging the government to put its confidence in an industry which could give the UK a global competitive advantage in tidal power.
The letter was published ahead of the Hendry Review , whose conclusions were made public on Thursday. Last May former energy minister Charles Hendry was tasked with investigating the cost effectiveness of tidal lagoons in a government review.
“Tidal lagoons can quickly become a pillar of the UK energy mix. Energy generation that is predictable, never-ending, zero carbon and, crucially, that is made in the UK,” states the letter.
“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. All of this before we even think about the massive potential as a British export technology,” it adds.
The letter claims that if approved, Swansea Bay and subsequent tidal projects could provide power for up to a third of UK houses for the next five generations, and catalyse a new British engineering and construction industry which could export its skills around the world.
“If the UK really wants to be a world leader in manufacturing and trade once more, we need to make a sector our own — both domestically and internationally,” adds the letter.
“We must have the confidence to embrace our first-mover advantage in a new global tidal lagoon industry.”
Digital industrial company General Electrics’ (GE) UK division – which is manufacturing components for part of the lagoon – signed the letter because of the opportunities a new tidal industry could bring to the UK.
“We believe this is about seizing the first-mover advantage in a new global industry valued in the tens of billions, capable of scaling to sustain tens of thousands of UK jobs, with a potential export market for British-made turbines (using British-made steel), generators, grid equipment and engineering expertise,” said GE UK chief executive and president Mark Elborne.
“Tidal power, with the Swansea project as its pathfinder, gives the UK that opportunity. We signed the letter because we feel that if the UK government is bold, sees beyond the short-term perspective and grasps this opportunity now, by 2030 it could once again be a case of Britannia ruling the waves.”
Swansea Bay partner Atkins also looked forward to the outcome of the Hendry Review, stressing that tidal lagoon technology could give the UK a global edge.
”A positive decision on the lagoon at Swansea Bay will prove the concept and provide the confidence to develop a fleet of lagoons domestically as well as open up opportunities for the UK supply chain in overseas markets,” said Atkins’ infrastructure division managing director Mike McNicholas.
Swansea Bay is a pathfinder project planned by Tidal Lagoon Power, which has five more full-scale projects in the pipeline. Tidal lagoons are thought to have a 120-year lifespan, double the lifespan of a nuclear plant.