Rival emerges for Swansea's tidal energy plans

Artist impression Image copyright TLP
Image caption Tidal Lagoon Power hopes to start work on its project in 2017

A competitor has emerged to challenge Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) as the first to develop tidal energy in the UK.

TLP's £1bn project aims to pioneer the technology with Swansea becoming the first of six lagoons around Britain.

But now Ecotricity, one of the first green energy companies in the UK, said it is working on proposals to generate electricity through tidal energy.

In a letter sent to the UK government, it claimed Swansea could be the wrong place for such a project.

Ecotricity claims it can generate tidal energy at a lower price and financed over a shorter time than TLP.

The company's founder Dale Vince said the technology used to build the "sea walls" in Swansea was hundreds of years old and offered "no technological advance".

In the letter sent in January, he said: "Our analysis suggests that Swansea Bay is simply the wrong sized project in the wrong place and it is these constraints that are at the root of its very high cost of energy."


Ecotricity, based in Stroud in Gloucestershire, told BBC Wales it wrote to the UK government before it announced a review two weeks ago into the sector.

It believes tidal power can work at a lower price than the £168 per megawatt hour (MWh) across 35 years that is being discussed for Swansea Bay.

Image copyright Alistair Heap/Ecotricity
Image caption Dale Vince is the founder of Ecotricity

Founder Dale Vince said: "We were concerned that the UK government was being pushed into paying too high a price for tidal energy through the Swansea Bay scheme.

"That would be bad for renewable energy generally because it would reinforce the myth that green energy is expensive, and bad for tidal power specifically because it may never get off the ground."

Tidal Lagoon Power is now talking with the UK government about a lower price for their electricity generation over a longer, 90 year time frame, for Swansea.

But Ecotricity said it believes that price is too still too high.

The company will not say which sites it is looking at - including whether they would include Swansea - but acknowledges that the tidal range of the Severn Estuary is very attractive.

It will make a further announcement in the summer.

The review by the UK government - which is seeking "clarity" about the potential of tidal - is due to start in the spring and report in the autumn.

Ecotricity currently operates nearly 70 wind turbines, has 175,000 customers and powers the equivalent of more than 40,000 homes.

TLB - which last week said it welcomed the idea of competition - envisages Swansea as a first project to trial the technology with work starting next year.

Cardiff and Newport would be among future locations for larger lagoons which would be able to produce power even more cheaply.

A spokesman said: "The emergence of a competitive marketplace for the future is another clear sign that Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is fulfilling its role as a pathfinder."

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