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Swansea tidal lagoon backers claim government ‘misled’ on figures

Lagoon wall  Tidal Lagoon Power  3x2

The firm behind plans to build a £1.3bn tidal energy scheme in Swansea Bay says the government got its sums wrong when it decided to pull support for the project.

Business secretary Greg Clark confirmed last month that the government would not back the first-of-a-kind scheme despite recent attempts to breathe life into the project, including a £200M offer from the Welsh Government.

It took 18 months for the British Government to make its decision after ex-energy minister Charles Hendry said backing the project would be a “no-regrets policy” in January 2017.

Now project promoter Tidal Lagoon Power has published an audit of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) statement on tidal lagoons delivered to Parliament on 25 June. It says the audit has been peer-reviewed by the Centre for Economics & Business Research and sent to BEIS. The government insists it has used the most appropriate methodology. 

Tidal Lagoon Power chair Keith Clarke said: “Readers of the audit can and will draw their own conclusions. Ours is that the BEIS statement on tidal lagoons was a manifest distortion of the truth.

“The audit demonstrates that the figures employed by BEIS to support its position on tidal lagoons are inaccurate by orders of magnitude, which raises serious questions about the approach taken and the conclusions drawn.”

It says BEIS “obstructs” its ability to appraise other funding options by failing to produce a government value for money report for the project. It claims ministers have failed to respond to a request for a meeting for a fuller explanation of the government’s stance.

Government claims disputed include the BEIS statement that the scheme’s capital cost would be more than three times as much, per unit of electricity, as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Tidal Lagoon Power says it would only be twice as much, due to its longer asset life. Likewise, it gives longer asset life and also higher production costs as reasons why it believes the £400M cost of using offshore wind to generate the same power as the lagoon would actually cost £1.5bn.

The National Infrastructure Commission’s first National Infrastructure Assessment, which takes a 30-year view of infrastructure, was published today. It says its analysis suggests that tidal lagoon power will remain an expensive technology in the future.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “The Department does not recognise the company’s analysis, which appears not to use accepted approaches to appraising this type of project and seems to include out of date cost comparisons.

“The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and the proposed wider programme of lagoons did not represent value for money for consumers.

“That said, we absolutely recognise the potential of marine technologies and are open to proposals demonstrating value for money for taxpayers.”

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