It is now some 6 years since the Swansea Tidal Lagoon was rejected by UK Government, halting a major energy infrastructure project in the Severn estuary.

The proposed lagoon represented a near miss in terms of the development of tidal range in the UK, a country  which has some of the best resources to take advantage of this technology. 

In the end it was a value for money call made by government, but tidal range has not gone away. There is still at least 8 project proposals at various stages including the Mersey Barrage, West Somerset Lagoon and North Wales Lagoon and Welsh Government funding soon to be announced for the “Tidal Lagoon Challenge” to define benefits and address the challenges enabling tidal range to come forward. 

In those 6 intervening years you could argue that the UK energy position has moved on, possibly to the advantage of this technology.  Energy security has become more important for the UK, the need for indigenous green energy to hit our Net Zero targets has never been more important. The need for steady green electricity supplies is also important with increasingly intermittent renewables coming on stream.  Tidal range can help with all of the above and has the additional potential to alleviate areas of flooding and erosion as well as insulating the UK from the volatile global fuel market. 

No tidal range project will succeed without a suitable government business model and the traditional business model for renewable generation of the Contract for Difference (CfD) does not ideally fit with tidal range. The CfD is designed for 15-year support for projects which have a shorter timespan than tidal range.  However, we now have the regulated asset-based models for longer term assets being brought forward, for example, for nuclear and carbon capture and other energy infrastructure. Tidal range has the potential to benefit from this and it would seem a more suitable model. 

Burges Salmon has been involved in a number of the tidal range plans in the UK over the last few years and remains actively involved in the sector. We have a history of helping renewable developers and projects find a route through to build out.  It is a long game for tidal range, but as a renewable energy practice committed to Net Zero we think tidal range deserves to be looked at again.