Green energy supplier sets out rival vision for tidal lagoon projects ahead of joint select committee review of Swansea Bay proposals
Ecotricity has today unveiled more details of its plans for two tidal lagoon projects on the border of England and Scotland in what is being positioned as a direct challenge to Tidal Lagoon Power, the firm behind the proposed Swansea Bay project.
Ecotricity's plans would see two tidal lagoons developed in partnership with Tidal Electric on the Solway Firth on the West Coast of the English-Scottish border.
The move will be seen by many as a direct challenge to Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP), a firm Ecotricity has voiced sharp criticism towards in the past.
Ecotricity's plans are being presented to government on the day MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee and the Welsh Affairs Committee start taking evidence on TLP's plans for a lagoon in Swansea Bay, and investigating the lengthy delay from government in deciding whether to back the project.
In 2016 the government commissioned a review into tidal tchnology by former Conservative energy minister Charles Hendry, which last year concluded that the government should back the 'pathfinder' 320MW Swansea lagoon to pave the way for larger projects in Cardiff and Newport. But since then, government has remained resolutely silent on whether it will offer TLP the financial backing it needs to build Swansea.
TLP has estimated the build cost of Swansea at £1.3bn, with electricity costs of £89.90 per megawatt hour, guaranteed for 90 years. Ecotricity claims its rival lagoons will be able to produce as much power as the Swansea scheme at half the capital cost, because they will be built offshore rather than onshore. It said its lagoons would also require a similar government price support contract of £90 per MWh, but for 25 years.
"The government has done well to resist the last couple of years of intense lobbying pressure from backers of the Swansea scheme, there was never a case for paying that much or for moving too quickly to allow for proper competition," Ecotricity's Vince said. "The projects we have unveiled today are ready to take part in a proper process. There is no need to rush; done properly tidal lagoons could play a big part in our future energy mix, and in lowering our energy bills. There are other companies and other projects that would take part in a proper process."
In response, TLP pointed out that the Hendry Review did look at other lagoon projects including Ecotricity's plans, but concluded the projects were not developed enough to consider in detail.
"If Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is encouraging future competition and innovation then it's doing its job as a pathfinder," TLP added. "The Hendry Review described plans for offshore lagoons in the Solway as 'aspirational' and we look forward to seeing them take shape in the years ahead."
TLP is headed by Mark Shorrock, the husband of Good Energy CEO Juliet Davenport, one of Ecotricity's main rivals. Tensions rose between the two firms last year, when Ecotricity demanded seats on the Good Energy's board after it quietly acquired a 25 per cent stake in the company.
In the hearing today, Shorrock told the joint Committee that he last met with BEIS in January 2017 to discuss the Swansea Bay scheme. "We would love to know what's going on," he said. "We would love to have a decision." In the face of mounting pressure from MPs and rival developers for the government to clarify its position on the scheme, could TLP finally be about to receive some answers?
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