Christopher Booker: Mind-Blowing Figures Put Tidal Lagoons In Land Of Make-Believe

  • Date: 15/01/17
  • Christopher Booker, The Sunday Telegraph

At the centre of all the excitable media puffs given to Charles Hendry’s report on Swansea Bay and tidal energy (led inevitably by the BBC), there was a crucial black hole. Not one report focused on how absurdly tiny is the amount of electricity this colossal expenditure and environmental havoc will produce.

Undated handout artist's impression issued by Tidal Lagoon Power of how the world's first tidal lagoon power plant may look in Swansea Bay, South Wales. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 10, 2015. British industry will play a central role in building the world's first tidal lagoon power plant, its developers have pledged. International firms General Electric and Andritz Hydro have been appointed as preferred bidders to supply turbines for the ?1 billion project in Swansea Bay

Bizarre dreamworld: a computer-generated visualisation of how the world’s first tidal lagoon power plant may look in Swansea Bay – CREDIT: PA

Described as “independent”, this review by an ex-energy minister was all that could have been wanted by Swansea’s would-be developer, Mark Shorrock, who promotes himself as “the Brunel of tidal energy”. Echoing claims made by his expensive PR firm, Hendry gave a glowing account not only of the £1.3 billion Swansea project itself but of five other, much larger schemes that Shorrock is proposing, including three more in the Bristol Channel, which for £40 billion, he claims, could meet 8 per cent of all Britain’s electricity needs.

In fact, the £1.3 billion Swansea scheme alone, working at full power for just a few hours a day, would on average generate only a pitiful 48 megawatts (MW), which Shorrock initially hopes to sell for a mind-blowing £123 per MW hour, three times the current normal wholesale cost of electricity. A 2,000MW gas‑fired power station recently built for £1 billion at Pembroke is capable of producing nearly 40 times as much, whenever needed and without subsidy, at a third of the cost.

That such projects can actually be taken seriously is a measure of just what a bizarre dreamworld we are being carried into by the drive to “decarbonise” Britain.

The real test will come when we see how ministers respond to Hendry’s recommendations, when all the hard facts indicate that this is one of the most ludicrous confections of make‑believe any British government has ever been asked to fall for.

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