Monday 22 June 2020 4:09 pm

Swansea tidal lagoon backers call for Boris Johnson to greenlight project

The chief executive of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon has called for Boris Johnson to give the go ahead to the renewable energy project, saying that the UK will need to use “every green project we can” if it is to decarbonise its energy system.

Currently, the project is waiting for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to approve a decommissioning plan which would allow work to begin on site.

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However, if the plan is not signed off in the next eight days, the planning consent for the £1.3bn project will be lost. 

Speaking to City A.M., Mark Shorrock said that the development needed someone in Whitehall to push it over the line.

“We need the Prime Minister to say to Whitehall, ‘I want to do this project – take that decommissioning plan out of the drawer”.

Johnson has previously spoken out in support of the Swansea lagoon, which would power 155,000 homes at least, when he was running to be the leader of the Conservative party.

 “He’s said he wants to see Swansea get going. He has said Britain’s recovery is all about jobs, apprenticeships and long term investment and we have this wonderful project that’s on the cusp of being able to break ground at the end of the week with our global alliance partners”, Shorrock told the BBC.

“We can turn the tide on economic downturn with tidal. We hope the Prime Minister can get behind us.”

Over the weekend the Daily Mail reported that a group of 25 backbench Tory MPs were lobbying business secretary Alok Sharma to push the plan through.

Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who is one of the group’s leaders, said that the lagoon was the type of “shovel ready” project the government should be embracing to create jobs after the coronavirus pandemic.

Shorrock told City A.M. that the project presented the government with a chance to develop a world-leading industry in the UK with developments all around the country, thus pushing its levelling-up agenda.

Back in 2017, a review of the project by former energy minister Charles Hendry concluded that moving ahead with the pilot project was a “no regrets policy”.

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The Swansea project will support 2,200 jobs, but expansion to a second project at Cardiff would mean a further 11,000 jobs. 

Looking further ahead, a fleet of four Welsh tidal lagoons would lead to 33,500 positions being created and six tidal lagoons across the UK would mean employment for 71,000.

The initial project will require a subsidy of £18m from the government, but the subsequent lagoons would pay for themselves, Shorrock said.

“The national significance is enormous if we get Swansea away. Then we can do it at Cardiff and Colwyn Bay, but not with any subsidy. That’s already £13.7 billion into the UK economy”, he added.

Furthermore, the cost of the energy the lagoons would provide has now been lowered to the point where it is now cheaper than nuclear.

In addition, he said, working with supply chains across the UK would mean that 84p out of every £1 spent on the billion-pound project would be spent in this country.

Shorrock said that he already had a team working on two tidal lagoon projects in France, demonstrating the export value of the proposition.

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If it is given the go-ahead, the lagoon will be built by a consortium of some of the UK’s biggest construction companies, including Costain, Atkins, GE and Keltbray.

According to Shorrock, BEIS officials had already approved the decommissioning plan back in March, but the firm is still awaiting proper sign-off. 

A government spokesman said: “Any proposed project like the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon must provide value for money for the consumer, which we have been clear about since this project was first proposed. Following extensive analysis, the project did not meet this criteria.”

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