UK Government rejects plan for Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

The UK Government has rejected long-term plans to construct a tidal lagoon across Swansea Bay. Greg Clark, the Business and Energy Secretary for the UK Government, told Parliament that the scheme would prove to be too expensive.

“The inescapable conclusion of an extensive analysis is, however novel and appealing the proposal that has been made is … the cost 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.

“Securing our energy needs into the future has to be done seriously and, when much cheaper alternatives exist, no individual project, and no particular technology, can proceed at any price,” he added.

Government analysis estimated that the lagoon would cost the average British household consumer an additional £700 between 2031 and 2050.

However, development body Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) – which has campaigned for the Swansea Bay lagoon since 2012 – has decried the decision, and questioned the validity of Clark’s claims.

TLP chief executive Mark Shorrock said that Government estimates of the cost of the project were incorrect, and that they have been invited to no formal talks with the government to discuss the project for over a year. Whilst the UK Government has stated that it cannot afford to pay TLP the energy fees it has asked for, the TLP itself claims it made a revised offer in February this year which was affordable.

“It’s a very, very sad day for Wales, for Swansea,” Shorrock told BBC Radio Wales’ Good Evening Wales programme.

The decision to scrap the project has been met with frustration and anger across the Welsh political spectrum, with First Minister Carwyn Jones tweeting that the decision represented a ‘crushing blow to Wales’.

Plans for the tidal lagoon power plant, which would have been the first built in the world, had received a backing of £200m from Jones’ Welsh Government.

Speaking in an interview on Good Evening Wales, Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “Wales has not had an effective voice at the cabinet table.”

Liz Saville-Roberts, Plaid Cymru’s energy spokesperson, said the UK government’s decision “demonstrates the need for Wales to gain greater control over its own future”.

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party said: “Once again, we have seen that the Westminster Government has no vision for what a fossil-free future will look like.”

But politicians are not the only ones to have shown disappointment at the news.

Friends of the Earth Cymru said: ‘This is a short-sighted move’. In a statement, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers called the decision a ‘missed opportunity to boost innovation and manufacturing in Wales’.

Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales

Much of the political frustration has been directed towards Alun Cairns, Welsh Secretary of State. A number of Welsh Labour MPs have called for his immediate resignation. Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East and deputy leader of Welsh Labour, spoke of the ‘frustration and anger in my city’ at the decision.

Plaid Cymru have put forward a motion to the Welsh Assembly to propose a vote of no confidence in the Vale of Glamorgan MP. The motion also calls for the abolishment of the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and its replacement with a UK Council of Ministers.

Despite the calls, Cairns has told BBC Wales Today that he remains proud of his record, adding that “I realise the disappointment this decision may cause, but ultimately this project did not meet the threshold for taxpayer value”.

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