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The Hendry Review: A sea change for the UK energy sector?

News   •   Jan 13, 2017 15:58 GMT

Former Energy Minister Charles Hendry has made waves with the publication of a much-anticipated independent report endorsing tidal lagoon power in the UK.

Eleven months in the making, the newly-released Hendry Review was commissioned by the Government to determine whether, and in what capacity, tidal lagoons could contribute to the UK’s bustling energy mix.

As such, Mr Hendry and his team considered the cost implications, potential methods of financing, and opportunities for scale in the UK. Visits were made to those places most affected – Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Liverpool, Bristol and Sheffield – while the Review itself received almost 200 responses to a Call for Evidence.

In basic terms, tidal lagoons harness the natural ebb and flow of the tides, capturing and channelling sea water through submerged turbines to generate electricity. For many the UK coastline is a hitherto untapped energy resource, though concerns persist over practicalities and wildlife impacts.

Clarifying his position, Charles Hendry said: “I believe that the evidence is clear that tidal lagoons can play a cost effective role in the UK’s energy mix and there is considerable value in a small (less than 500 MW) pathfinder project. I conclude that tidal lagoons would help deliver security of supply; they would assist in delivering our decarbonisation commitments; and they would bring real and substantial opportunities for the UK supply chain.

“Most importantly, it is clear that tidal lagoons at scale could deliver low carbon power in a way that is very competitive with other low carbon sources.”

While Mr Hendry gave his consent, he also urged caution – favouring a smaller “pathfinder project” over a large-scale tidal lagoon to iron out best practice.

He said: “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.

“The costs of a pathfinder project would be about 30p per household per year over the first 30 years. A large scale project would be less than 50p over the first 60 years. The benefits of that investment could be huge, especially in South Wales, but also in many other parts of the country. Having looked at all the evidence, spoken to many of the key players, on both sides of this debate, it is my view that we should seize the opportunity to move this technology forward now.”

The Review made a further 30 determinations including a competitive tender process for large-scale tidal lagoons, and the creation of a new governing body – dubbed the Tidal Power Authority – to regulate future development.

Reaction to the Hendry Review has been broadly positive. Among the first to welcome Charles Hendry’s recommendation was Mark Shorrock, Chief Executive of Tidal Lagoon Power. You may recognise the name – his is the organisation behind the hugely ambitious Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

Mr Shorrock stated: “The Hendry Review has set the final piece of the jigsaw in place: a watershed moment for British energy, British manufacturing, British productivity and our coastal communities. We look forward to working with ministers and officials to bring this new industry to life.”

The Wildlife Trust was less effusive however, airing concerns over the potential impact to Swansea Bay’s salmon and sea trout populations.

Sarah Kessell, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said: “We firmly believe that renewable energy needs to be ‘right technology, right place’. The development of renewable energy should not be at the expense of biodiversity. The State of Nature report showed 60% of our wildlife is in decline. We cannot accept further loss of important habitats or species.”

Of course, the Hendry Review is little more than a recommendation. Responsibility for the best course of action now rests with Energy Secretary Greg Clark and the UK Government.

Mr Clark concluded: “The Government’s energy planning is focused on ensuring affordable, secure, low-carbon energy. We will now consider recommendations and determine what decision is in the best interests of the UK energy in the long-term.”

To read the Hendry Review in full, please visit: The Role of Tidal Lagoons

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