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UK water industry 'could fund' £1.3bn Swansea Bay scheme

Tidal Lagoon Power

The axed £1.3bn Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project could be revived by private investment from UK water companies, it has been claimed. 

Ex-head of Welsh Water Nigel Annett told the BBC Sunday Politics Wales programme that the UK water industry “could be persuaded to pre-purchase the energy, and then use its financial ability to finance this project at a low cost”.

Annett said signing long-term deals with water companies would mean the pathfinder project could be built without UK or Welsh government subsidy.

The government dropped financial support for the tidal lagoon last week, citing potential high costs for taxpayers.

A Welsh Water spokesperson said that although it had not had any direct discussions relating to the Swansea project, the water firm is looking for new opportunities to increase its own renewable energy generation.

The spokesperson said: “Energy is one of our biggest costs and we are always looking for ways to reduce such costs for the benefit of our customers.”

Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart also said that the Swansea Bay scheme has been abandoned and that discussions are ongoing with the Welsh government about selling power directly to the National Grid. 

Meanwhile, Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) chair Keith Clarke told New Civil Engineer that the developer is “looking at any system” to keep the project on the table.

“Having given them [the government] at their request, an offer two years ago, and having had no negotiation or feedback on it, we think it might be useful to see their analysis of how they projected their decision first, whilst we start to look at other options,” he said.

“Obviously we’re going to look at any system we can; it’s too early for us to say.”

Clarke also confirmed TLP has not had any feedback from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy other than the ministerial statement canning the lagoon last week.

Despite the renewed hope for the project, not everyone is convinced. Spanish owner of energy firm Scottish Power said the government should stop supporting expensive “moonshot” schemes such as the Swansea Bay project.

Iberdrola chief executive Ignacio S Galan told The Guardian that the cancellation of the pathfinder project should be “a line in the sand”, with the government dropping support for unproven renewable technologies in favour of wind and solar power.

A TLP spokesperson said: “Having once bemoaned the incumbency of fossil fuels, it’s disappointing that some in the renewables sector have adopted this bad habit.

“The pursuit of energy diversity is the foundation of sensible policy-making around the world. With modest initial support, tidal lagoons can make a significant and cost-competitive contribution to the mix.” 

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