Swansea Bay tidal lagoon: Government should 'get on bus'

Tidal lagoon Image copyright TLP
Image caption The project would see energy produced for 14 out of every 24 hours, according to TLP

The UK government should "get on the bus" and back the proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon "sooner rather than later", former energy minister Charles Hendry has said.

He told BBC Wales the country was facing a "real crisis" in terms of energy supply unless investment was made in such innovative schemes.

Mr Hendry led the independent review which supported the plans.

He met business leaders and assembly members about the plan.

Mr Hendry said he had never seen such enthusiasm among local people and businesses about a project of this scale.

The UK Government is considering the findings of his year-long review into the viability of tidal lagoons.

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Media captionCharles Hendry said he has never know such enthusiasm from industry

Ministers were, he said, being "quite tight lipped" about where they stand, but Mr Hendry repeated his view that backing the concept was "in the national interest".

"We need to make decisions now for how we generate the power which we know we're going to need in 2020s," he said.

"We know we've got £100bn to invest in new energy infrastructure - and if we don't get on with that work we are going to to have real crisis as we won't have demand.

"So if we want that investment to happen, if we want supply chain to invest in creating new jobs then we have to give them the signals to go forward.

"We can always wait for something better to come along but actually eventually you have to get on a bus - and you've got to say 'I want to get there, I want to go to that destination'. And if you're forever waiting for the next thing to happen you'll never start."

He urged members of the public to write to Prime Minister Theresa May and other UK Government figures to make their views know.

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Media captionWatch Tidal Lagoon Power's video of how the turbines would work

Mr Hendry briefed members of the assembly's climate commitees at the Senedd.

He then greeted an audience of 80 business leaders and local council representatives at the Wales Millennium Centre.

Gower MP Byron Davies said the project "breaks the mould" in cross-party support and echoed the call.

"It is imperative that it is now given a green light so that construction can begin as soon as is possible," he said.

Mr Davies, who introduced Mr Hendry at the business and council briefing, said there were "no points to be scored here - this is one issue on which we are united".

Mr Hendry's independent report into the technology's viability earlier this month said it would make a "strong contribution" to the UK's energy supply.

He said it was cost effective and would bring "significant economic opportunity".

Analysis: Lagoons could transform UK coastline

The UK Government still needs to agree on a deal and a marine licence would also need to be approved.

There are hopes of developing a network of larger lagoons around the UK coast, including in Cardiff and Colwyn Bay, harnessing power from the ebb and flow of the sea's tides.

But Mr Hendry believes the technology should be tested first with the "pathfinder" Swansea project.

Phil Jardine, partner in Blake Morgan solicitors, who was at the briefing, said he believed the positivity from Mr Hendry was unprecedented.

"This is one of the most exciting things to land in Wales in recent times. It's a chance to put Wales back on the international map and regenerate in so many ways. We now need to see delivery".

Mike Unsworth, director of engineering construction for Tidal Lagoon Power, said they wanted to be in a position to start building work in early 2018.

"We're ready to go and the strength of Charles Hendry's report was basically saying to government, this is a no regrets decision, just get on with it. We're shovel-ready and keen to get on and build this.

"This whole community are fully engaged and supportive of this project, they want it to start moving and for us to start building it. It's not just a power station, there are so many amenities and tourist opportunities this project can deliver for the area."

But he said the UK, including Wales, needed to be a "first mover" in the technology and so other countries followed and "did not take the lead".

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