'Let companies bid for tidal energy', says Ecotricity boss

Dale Vince Image copyright Alistair Heap/Ecotricity

Companies should be able to bid to develop tidal lagoons off the south Wales coast, the boss of a green energy firm has said.

Dale Vince said his company, Ecotricity, could generate tidal energy at a lower price than Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) - the company behind plans for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay.

He wants the project to be open to tender to ensure cost effectiveness.

The UK government is currently reviewing the sector.

On Thursday, Ecotricity - one of the first green firms in the UK - said it had written to ministers to try to challenge TLP's £1bn plans to be the first to develop tidal energy in the UK.

The Swansea Bay lagoon would pioneer technology needed to build five other lagoons around Britain, including in Cardiff and Newport.

Image copyright TLP

But Ecotricity said it would not want to build a lagoon in Swansea, claiming the bay would be too small for the technology needed.

Developing it elsewhere along the south Wales coast would allow the size of the turbine to be bigger, said Mr Vince, meaning electricity could be generated at a lower price and financed over a shorter time than TLP.

"We're proposing something better, something much more cost-effective," Mr Vince, Ecotricity's founder and chief executive, told BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales.

"We're asking for a level playing field. Let's have a competitive tender for tidal and see what the price comes out as."

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

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

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.

Mr Vince added: "We believe it can be done for about the cost of nuclear - about £90 per megawatt hour... conservatively across 30 years."

TLP - which last week said it welcomed the idea of competition - envisages work to start in Swansea 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 for the firm 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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