Constructing six tidal lagoons around the coasts of Britain to harness power from the tides could bring up to £27bn to the UK economy over 12 years, a report has suggested.
Once built, the fleet of lagoons would supply 8 per cent of the UK's electricity and would contribute £3.1 billion a year over their 120-year life-time, the study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) said.
Moreover, developing the innovative technology would provide UK businesses with a competitive edge and allow them to find new export opportunities worth up to £70bn.
The programme would also create thousands of jobs, cut carbon emissions and provide flood protection to at-risk coastal communities, the study suggested.
"Having analysed all of the costs and all of the savings associated with this decision, this study clearly demonstrates that the benefits to the national economy would be enormous, immediate and long-lived," said Mark Shorrock, chief executive of Tidal Lagoon Power who proposed the series of tidal lagoon power plants around the western coast of the UK examined in the report.
Apart from the planned Swansea Bay tidal lagoon power plant, expected to cost £1bn, further five projects could be built in the Severn Estuary, North Wales and the northwest coast of England.
The proposal expects all six tidal lagoon power plants could be completed by 2027 with the Swansea Bay project beginning construction as early as spring 2015.
Douglas McWilliams, executive chairman and chief economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the proposal could address the current situation in the UK energy sector, which he compared to that in the 1970s.
""The UK is losing its hard-fought energy independence and struggling to identify genuine drivers of growth. The response in the 1970s was to support a domestic offshore oil and gas industry which became a world leader and has delivered huge benefits to the UK economy,” McWilliams said.
"This report shows why today's response to the same challenges to energy sovereignty and economic growth would do well to exploit the new opportunity presented by tidal lagoons."
The six proposed tidal lagoon power plants, generating renewable energy by capturing and releasing tidal water through turbines, could create or sustain up to 35,800 jobs a year on average during the time of construction.
The operation of the lagoons and the electricity they produce will contribute £3.1bn a year and support up to 6,400 jobs, the report predicts.
Net exports from tidal lagoons, through cutting imports of fossil fuels, exporting tidal electricity at times of over-supply and exporting components and expertise to roll out lagoon power plants overseas, could reach £3.7bn a year, totalling £70bn between 2030 and 2050.
Harnessing the tides for power would provide predictable renewable electricity, which could end up cheaper than other low-carbon sources of energy such as nuclear and offshore wind.