Backers of the beleaguered Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project have admitted that they are working on a Plan B should the government reject the scheme.
Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) chairman Keith Clarke has announced that alternative paths are being explored for the £1.3bn tidal plant, after it emerged that the government is set to rule against the proposals in the coming days.
One option has come from Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones, who has reportedly offered the UK government £200M to help take the project forward. Clarke said he thanked Jones for his “particularly timely initiative” and hoped to see a positive response from Whitehall.
“The proposal for a joint deal with this structure is extremely constructive, we are eager to engage on it with all parties and it is a proposal we’d be delighted to take to our board,” Clarke said.
With planning permission already in place, Clarke said that developers could be making power on the pathfinder “within four years”.
However, he admitted that an energy policy is still necessary for the 320MW plant to go ahead and stressed that he had been kept in the dark on the government’s decision on the lagoon.
“The noises from government are resoundingly quiet. We have no indication of where they are, we haven’t been able to engage with them since we put our offer in to Amber Rudd when she was secretary of state,” Clarke told the BBC.
Four more lagoons are planned by TLP if the Swansea pathfinder goes ahead. However, ministers are expected to reject paying for the project this week after years of debate.
Clarke added that having a “random group of developers competing with each other” for different tidal lagoon proposals is unhelpful.
On Monday rival developer Ecotricity director Dale Vince said canning the Swansea Bay project would be “the right call” as he believes the pathfinder project is “unnecessarily expensive”. Ecotricity has plans for two offshore tidal lagoons in Scotland, which are completely separate to TLP’s large lagoon proposals.
Clarke said: “Hendry was very clear: to exploit this for the UK – homegrown energy as part of the industrial strategy – you need to have an authority getting a competition going between sites, not a random group of developers competing with each other. That doesn’t work with large-scale infrastructure.”
Clarke also rejected claims the 320MW plant is more expensive than new nuclear projects. Although the initial strike price for the pathfinder lagoon would be 120/MWh compared to a 92.50/MWh for Hinkley Point C, by the end of its 120-year lifecycle the tidal lagoon would be generating energy for free.
Ex-environment minister Charles Hendry said backing the scheme would be a “no-regrets policy” when he published his report last January. Since then the government has hesitated, blaming concerns over value for money for the taxpayer.
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