THE company behind the stalled Swansea Bay tidal lagoon is making a last-ditch attempt to resurrect the project before planning consent expires.
Tidal Power plc is trying to raise £1.2 million to discharge the planning conditions which are attached to the scheme and prepare for a start on site.
The company said the five-year planning consent awarded by the UK Government in 2015 expires in June 2020 “unless material works have commenced”.
Tidal Power wouldn’t be able to start work in the sea because it hasn’t got a marine licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). But it said works could get under way on land and that terms had been agreed with the principal landowners, subject to a final sign-off.
Labour and Plaid Cymru have pledged to deliver the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon in their general election manifestos, while the Liberal Democrats and Green Party of England and Wales support new tidal power investment.
Tidal Power’s chief executive Mark Shorrock, said: “With the increased awareness of the climate emergency, the rationale to deliver lagoons is stronger than ever and that view is shared by the majority of political parties contesting the 2019 general election. However, we must first remove the cliff-edge from the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon’s planning permission. No amount of political will can resurrect this vital pathfinder project if the planning permission is allowed to lapse. By raising a relatively modest sum we can retain for the UK the option of large-scale, multi-generational tidal power.”
He said the Swansea lagoon would act as a pathfinder project for larger lagoons, which could together generate 10% of the UK’s electricity needs.
The project looked sunk in 2018 when the UK Government declined to provide a financial package of support to make the £1.3 billion scheme viable.
Mr Shorrock has now claimed that, following lengthy negotiations with private and public sector organisations interested in signing long-term electricity purchase agreements, no such subsidy would be required. He said Tidal Power hoped to complete the £1.2 million raise of funds from experienced investors on or before March 20 next year. This would also enable the company to progress its marine licence work with NRW.
Mr Shorrock thanked everyone who had invested £37 million in the project in recent years, and added: “Political and institutional support are important but in the struggle to decarbonise the global economy, it is individuals that hold the key to transformation.”
Roger Evans, chairman of the independent Tidal Lagoon Industry Advisory Group, which was established to champion the tidal lagoon industry, said: “Major infrastructure projects always take longer than initially envisaged but the looming deadline for the planning consent means that timing really now is critical if we are ever going to deliver on lagoons for the people of Wales.”
Separately, a Swansea Bay City Region lagoon task force has been examining ways of making the tidal lagoon concept more cost-effective and more of an investable proposition.
Ideas include building up to 10,000 floating homes within the Swansea lagoon seawall and installing a floating solar farm.
The task force submitted a report to the Welsh Government this summer, and said it was positively received.
A spokesman for the Swansea Bay City Region lagoon task force said: “We are anticipating an announcement about the tidal lagoon in the new year.”