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Government denies dragging its heels over tidal lagoon project

The Government has denied that it has played a part in delaying the construction of tidal lagoons which could provide cheap, renewable electricity for years to come.

In a Government-commissioned review earlier this month, former energy minister Charles Hendry offered support for the technology, saying the plans could create a new global industry for the cost of a pint of milk per household per year. 

The lagoons use the power of tides to generate electricity and would be less expensive than both offshore wind and nuclear power over the first 60 years of its 120-year life, the review found.

Labour’s Cardiff South MP Stephen Doughty said there was massive potential for tidal energy in Wales, where a pilot scheme has been trialled in Swansea Bay.

Speaking during business questions in the Commons, Doughty said: “There is huge potential for tidal energy, not just in the Swansea scheme but along the South Wales coast and the Severn estuary and indeed along the North Wales coast.

“But I am hearing concerning things about the department dragging its heels.

“Will the minister assure me there will be strong ministerial leadership to take the recommendations forward, to get on with the Swansea scheme and to get on with other schemes?”

Energy minister Nick Hurd rejected the claims, saying the review was being considered to ensure the best interests of UK energy consumers.

He said: “There is no suggestion that the department is dragging its heels, nor will we. We will give this, however, a proper thorough consideration in the public interest on value for money and other grounds as well.

“The question must be considered in the round and not merely on the merits of the Swansea Bay scheme.

“It’s the Government’s job to consider the advantages and disadvantages of tidal lagoons as a whole and to take a decision which includes not merely the financial elements, but also environmental elements, the capacity to generate power as part of a wider energy mix and ancillary elements as well.”

Shadow energy secretary Clive Lewis called on ministers to commit to a deal on a smaller “pathfinder” lagoon, which could pave the way for full-scale projects across the UK.

The trial project could address issues such as the environmental impact on developing tidal lagoons.

Lewis said: “With all due respect to the minister, simply not dragging your department’s heels is simply not good enough. The Hendry Report recommends the minister secures the pathfinder project as swiftly as possible.

“Will the minister therefore press the Chancellor for an agreement on the Swansea tidal lagoon to be announced in the March Budget?”

Hurd said: “May I simply remind him that the Hendry review itself specifically asks Government to give these issues careful consideration, as we will be doing.”

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