A new Government-backed report has highlighted the potential of tidal lagoon technology and the key role it will play in providing the UK with reliable and affordable energy.

The Hendry Review was carried out by Charles Hendry, a former energy minister, and concluded that tidal lagoons can play a cost-effective part of the UK’s energy mix. With large scale tidal lagoons almost certain to be able to play a valuable and competitive role in our electricity system in the future.

If such lagoons can be constructed and operated with low levels of lifetime emissions, then Mr Hendry believes it is clear that they would contribute positively towards progressing the UK’s decarbonisation goals.

Atlantis Resources welcomed the review, stating: “Britain is leading the world in the development of tidal stream, tidal lagoon and tidal barrage power and the conclusions of this paper justify our recently announced ambitions to develop large scale tidal barrage and lagoon projects in the future alongside out extensive tidal stream portfolio.”

“The business case for tidal power is compelling. New tidal generation capacity will assist the large-scale expansion of variable forms of renewable energy generation; address the growing demand for energy and help manage the increased number of interconnections between the UK and Europe.”

Although it was noted that a programme of tidal lagoons that could deliver the final goal of near constant power would be too huge a task to evaluate at this moment in time. Its full potential would only be considered properly when more progress had been made on building several tidal lagoons and therefore this report would focus on its potential in individual areas.

In terms of the environment, the Hendry Review stated that if lagoons are to be build, the Government should require a high level of on-going monitoring of environmental impacts to ensure that mitigation can be put in place where impacts are judged to require it. It was also recommended that developers should be required to demonstrate, as part of the planning and consenting process, that they have taken full account of potential deposition rates.

Another company which backed the findings of the report was Ocean Energy Europe, its CEO Remi Gruet commented: “The UK government has analysed tidal lagoons every which way and the conclusions are unequivocal. Tidal lagoons have a major role to play in providing UK households and businesses with reliable clean and affordable electricity”

Mr Gruet added: “It is time to give Swansea Bay the go-ahead and support the development of a new industry with the potential of creating thousands of jobs in the UK and across Europe.”

During the report, Mr Hendry did indeed create a case for the Government to push forward and back the pathfinder scheme at Swansea Bay. It recommended that the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay should be considered as an electricity project to all intents and purposes with benefits for the local area rather than a hybrid project with multiple sources of funding support.

It is hoped by many organisations that the Government will follow the review’s recommendations and enter into final stage negotiations with developers of the pathfinder project in Swansea. If the required marine licence is granted soon it could allow for construction to commence as soon as 2017.

Lara Moore, an associate in the energy and waste team at Ashfords, explained: “It is great news for the UK energy industry that the Hendry Review backs tidal lagoon energy in the UK and in particular the pathfinder Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. Tidal lagoons have huge potential to provide a low cost and sustainable source of power.”

She added: “Although it may be some years before a large scale tidal lagoon is constructed in the UK, the construction and operation of the pathfinder lagoon at Swansea Bay would make the UK leaders in the field and represent a huge and exciting step forward for the UK energy market.”

With the cost of a pathfinder project being around 30p per household per year for the first thirty years, and a more large scale project being less than 50p over 60 years, the benefits of investment could be huge - especially in South Wales.

The report makes over 30 recommendations for delivering a tidal lagoon auditory which hopes to bring maximum benefit to the UK if it seizes the opportunity to move this technology forward now.

It suggested there be an allocation by a competitive tender process for large scale lagoons and specific sites be designated by the Government as being suitable for development through a consenting process with the National Policy Statement for tidal lagoons. The report also recommended the establishment of a new body, Tidal Power Authority, at ‘arms-length’ from the Government with the goal of maximising the UK’s advantage from a tidal lagoon programme.

Mr Hendry concluded: “The aim now is that we should move to secure the pathfinder project as swiftly as possible, so the learning opportunities it offers can be maximised. I have, however, also concluded that the smaller pathfinder project needs to be operational before we move to larger scale projects. This means that a clear long-term Government strategy in favour of tidal lagoons will be required if the full supply chain and cost reduction opportunities are to be realised.”

“Tidal lagoons can be an important and exciting new industry for the United Kingdom. We are blessed with some of the best resources in the world, which puts us in a unique position to be world leaders.”

By Alice Mason