MPs to pressure government on backing for Swansea tidal lagoon project | Environment

MPs are to press ministers on why they have left investors hanging in limbo over taxpayer support for a pioneering £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea.

The business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee and Welsh affairs committee will call on government to explain why no decision has been forthcoming on the flagship scheme. The government has still not indicated whether it is minded to support the lagoon, 15 months since an independent review told ministers to back the clean energy project.

Tidal Lagoon Power, a Gloucester-based company, has been pushing for years to build the first of five lagoons at Swansea, to harness power from the ebb and flow of the tides.

But the company needs an indication the government is prepared to negotiate a guaranteed price of power for the renewable energy it produces, akin to the ones awarded to windfarm and nuclear power station developers.

The BEIS and Welsh affairs committees will now hold an evidence session on the government’s decision-making process, most likely in May, the Guardian understands.

The energy minister, Claire Perry, would be the obvious government representative to be quizzed by the MPs on the indecision, which Tidal Lagoon Power recently warned could lead it to significantly reduce its workforce.

Tidal lagoon graphic

Rachel Reeves, Labour MP and chair of the BEIS committee, has previously urged minister to give investors clarity on the lagoon.

“If they don’t think it can make a contribution, then they should be honest about that and explain what other measures they will take to reduce our carbon emissions,” she has said.

Greg Clark, business secretary, told parliament in March that he did not “want to close the door” on the project yet.

But he also said that the proposal had initially required a subsidy price twice as expensive as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

Privately, in letters to the Welsh government, which has offered to help on financing the lagoon, Clark said the technology was untried, with high capital costs and significant uncertainties. The Welsh government said talks with Whitehall had been constructive but “need to get into far more detail” to reach a swift conclusion.

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A spokesperson for BEIS said: “Any decision on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project will have to represent value for money for the UK taxpayer as well as the consumer.”

Tidal Lagoon Power declined to comment.

While the Swansea lagoon is currently stalled, another UK tidal power project took an important step forward this week.

Scotland-based Atlantis announced the first of its tidal power array in the Pentland Firth, a strait in northern Scotland, had entered the start of its 25-year operations phase.

The MeyGen scheme is the world’s largest tidal stream array but at 6MW of capacity is much smaller than the planned 320MW Swansea lagoon.