Sustainable Energy

UK government pulls out of $1.72 billion tidal lagoon project 

Key Points
  • The proposed facility would have generated electricity for 155,000 homes, according to those behind it. 
  • Government's decision criticised by both politicians and environmental organizations. 
A rendering of Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay
Source: Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay

Plans for a £1.3 billion ($1.72 billion) tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay in Wales have been rejected by the U.K. government.

If built, the proposed project would have been the world’s first tidal lagoon power plant. Tidal Lagoon Power, which is behind the project, claimed it would produce enough electricity for 155,000 homes over the next 120 years. 

In a statement to parliament on Monday, however, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark rejected the scheme.

“The inescapable conclusion of an extensive analysis is that however novel and appealing the proposal that has been made is, even with these factors taken into account, the costs that would be incurred by consumers and taxpayers would be so much higher than alternative sources of low carbon power, that it would be irresponsible to enter into a contract with the provider,” he said.

The news was met with dismay by those behind the project. “In light of today’s statement and having heard next to nothing from government for two years, the board will be meeting in two days’ time to consider its next steps,” Keith Clarke, the chairman of Tidal Lagoon Power, said.

“Any new industry needs a pathfinder and that can only be Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon,” Clarke added. “If government is serious about energy diversity and the potential of tidal lagoons and marine energy more generally, it needs to get serious about delivering Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. The entire industrial strategy of employing British manufacturing to harness British tides relies explicitly on delivery of a pathfinder at Swansea.  Without it, we will again export jobs that could and should stay here.”

The government’s decision was also criticized by politicians and environmental organizations. Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales, described it as “short-sighted” and “another crushing blow to Wales and the Swansea community.”

Haf Elgar, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said that the government’s decision to pull the plug on its support for the project was a “kick in the teeth for the region — and a massive blow for the development of Wales’ huge renewable energy potential.” Elgar described the scheme as a “ground-breaking opportunity to create jobs and harness the power of the second largest tidal range in the world." 

Hugh McNeal, the chief executive of trade association RenewableUK, described the decision as “deeply disappointing” and one that showed a lack of vision.