[Ian Paisley in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered tidal lagoons and UK energy strategy.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. This is a timely moment for the House to return to the subject of tidal lagoons as a future energy source, and specifically the projects of Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd, starting in Swansea bay, for which it has already received a development consent order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart), my constituency neighbour, led the previous Westminster Hall debate on Swansea tidal lagoon on 8 March 2016, which underlines the keen interest in this project from people in west Wales. It is encouraging to see colleagues here from across the United Kingdom, which demonstrates that what we are discussing is of strategic importance to the whole UK’s energy policy, economic policy and industrial policy.
The previous debate was essentially held under a different Government, when energy and climate change belonged in a stand-alone Department under a different team of Ministers led overall by a different Prime Minister. I welcome the new ministerial team at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The team is experienced and well equipped to take on the challenges before us. I also welcome what the new Business Secretary said to the Institute of Directors on 27 September in his speech on industrial strategy:
“Many of the policies and decisions that form our industrial strategy will not be about particular industries or sectors, but will be cross-cutting.”
I welcome the departmental integration of industry with energy to make that happen, and tidal lagoons are a good example of the kind of opportunity that such integration is intended to foster.
The last general election feels like ancient history, but it is worth reminding ourselves that Conservative colleagues stood on a manifesto that:
“All parts of the UK will soon be helping to deliver secure, affordable and low-carbon energy, from the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, to offshore wind turbine manufacturing at the new Green Port in Hull, the next generation of pipelines West of Shetland and the Swansea tidal lagoon.”
I am proud of that manifesto commitment, and I would like to see it delivered.
Ten months ago the Government announced an independent review of the feasibility and practicality of tidal lagoon energy in the UK, recognising that tidal lagoons have the potential to provide the country with clean and secure energy but saying that more work needs to be done to determine whether it provides value for money. The Government therefore commissioned a review of the technology to improve our understanding of how tidal lagoons could contribute to the UK’s future energy mix in the most cost-effective way. The purpose of the review, led by the widely respected former Energy Minister Charles Hendry, was to help to establish an evidence base to ensure that all decisions on tidal lagoon energy are in the UK’s best interest, to better understand whether tidal lagoons can be cost-effective and to consider the impact on consumer bills both today and in the longer term.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree—perhaps the Minister will reflect on this too—that, given that 75% of identified fossil fuels cannot be exploited if we are to fulfil our Paris and COP 22 climate change obligations, the spot price of oil, which is often deflated by Saudi excess production to attack frackers, should not be the point at which we identify value for money? We should get sustainable green power at the lowest cost possible, even if the cost of oil is down.
The hon. Gentleman makes his point well. The purpose of the Hendry review is to help to provide clarity so that the Government can determine the role that tidal lagoons could have as part of a long-term strategy to provide secure, clean and affordable energy for families and businesses across the country. The review is now complete and will be presented to the Government this afternoon. I, and I suspect the Minister, have no idea what the review says and what it concludes, but given the strength of support for a tidal lagoon industry across such a wide spread of business and political opinion, I imagine that Mr Hendry has heard some powerful and compelling arguments that cannot be dismissed lightly.
It would be absurd to ask the Minister to address his remarks this afternoon to the contents of the review—he will rightly need time to digest and assess it—but my one request is that he commits today that a decision will be made, along with a full response to the review, in as short a timeframe as possible. Even as I say “as short a timeframe as possible,” I sense the scope that that allows for foot dragging, so I seek assurance that the Government will respond in a timely and purposeful way, with no foot dragging. This cannot become another third runway decision, where industry makes repeated calls for a Government decision only for it to be kicked further down the road. There is too much at stake.
I commend my right hon. Friend for securing this important and timely debate in the light of the Hendry review. Does he share my hope that the Minister will outline when he will share the Hendry review with Parliament? The review will provide great context for our future debates.
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I look forward to the Minister addressing that point later this afternoon.
A key feature of UK energy policy, whatever else might be said, it that it is not neutral. It does not rely solely on market choices to drive new investment. To that extent, we have an activist energy policy that demands big, difficult and timely choices from Ministers. A core objective of recent UK energy strategy, as the last Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), said last year, is to ensure
“enough electricity generation to power the nation.”
As ageing and dirty power plants are retired from use, delivering on that objective becomes more challenging. National Grid now projects that, without emergency measures, the UK’s winter electricity margin stands at just 0.1%.
The vision we are discussing today speaks directly to that energy challenge. How do we harness the phenomenal tidal range that surrounds our country to replace many of the ageing power plants that are being decommissioned?
It is encouraging that the right hon. Gentleman is a former Secretary of State for Wales and for Work and Pensions, and he has support from the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams), a Treasury Parliamentary Private Secretary, which gives me hope that perhaps there is something in the wind to suggest that we might get the early decision for which he is calling—we would support such a decision. Will he support me in asking the Minister to give us a decision before the end of this year?
It would be fabulous to have a sense of the timeframe in which the Minister will be making his decision, but it might be unfair to ask him to provide one today, given that he probably has not yet seen the contents of the review. I do not even know the length of the report, and it might take a bit of time to digest. The key point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) is essential: we need a timely decision in the shortest possible timeframe.
The vision of harnessing tidal energy is exactly why Tidal Lagoon Power was started five years ago with the aim of providing home-grown, secure power from a fleet of tidal lagoons around the British coast that could provide low-cost, zero-carbon power for the next five generations, thereby building a new British industry of turbines, generators and turbine housing, with all the manufacturing and engineering jobs, skills and investment that comes with it. That is a compelling and exciting vision of energy and industrial policy coming together in the national interest.
Does my right hon. Friend, and hopefully the Minister, agree that the key point about this and other projects is that they represent long-term investment? The strike price that this project will achieve underlines that this is a cost-effective way of producing energy.
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I will address that point later. It is with a long-term view and an appropriate framework of support for the right projects that the prospect of a new UK tidal energy industry is within reach, and with it a source capable of providing 10% or more of the UK’s total electricity requirements.
The right hon. Gentleman is making a fine speech. The strike price over 90 years is £96.50, which compares with the Hinkley Point strike price of £92.50 over 30 years, both at 2012 prices. Of course, it is often forgotten that nuclear has had 60 years of support, and 44% of the budget of the former Department of Energy and Climate Change was spent on addressing the legacy of old nuclear. Putting all that together, Swansea bay and other tidal lagoons represent very good value for money.
The point about comparability is well made. Although the purpose of this debate is not to do down any other energy source, I recognise that drawing such comparisons is right and proper in this context.
A tidal lagoon industry would mean multi-billion-pound infrastructure investments in two areas of the United Kingdom with ideal conditions for tidal lagoon infrastructure: the Severn estuary and the Liverpool bay and Irish sea area. I understand that about a dozen viable sites have been flagged to Charles Hendry as part of his investigations, and that Tidal Lagoon Power is working on specific projects for five of those sites, starting with a pathfinder project in Swansea bay and moving shortly afterward to the first full-scale lagoon in Cardiff.
New manufacturing facilities to serve the various lagoon sites across England and Wales will be served by a UK-wide supply chain. Original manufacturing will be spread throughout the UK; particularly important components will come from a number of regional centres of excellence, mirroring the UK’s historic manufacturing heartlands, including South Yorkshire, south and west Wales, the west midlands, western Scotland, Tyneside and Teesside.
A UK tidal lagoon industry would represent a world first. The wide body of bespoke maintenance and engineering expertise it would build up could lead to the export of skills, knowledge and human resource to projects in the first phase of international tidal lagoon deployment, potentially securing up to 80% of global market value in that space. That is absolutely what UK industrial strategy should be all about: renewing and enlarging world-class manufacturing and engineering skills right across the United Kingdom.
Does my right hon. Friend have any views, or evidence of any views, about how the cost per unit, or per bay created, might drop as the industry gets under way? I am thinking of the solar photovoltaic industry, where the cost per unit has decreased dramatically over many years. It is important that we have some sense of how much cheaper tidal lagoon energy might become, because the costs will ultimately be borne by consumers through their energy bills. Many people are struggling for cash these days, and we are trying to drive up the productivity of the UK economy, so lower long-term cost to the consumer if we can make it work will be an important prize to gain.
That question goes absolutely to the heart of the matter, and I will address it in a bit more detail later. The figures that I have seen from Tidal Lagoon Power demonstrate that as we move from the pathfinder project in Swansea to the larger full-scale fleet of lagoons starting in Cardiff, the costs of energy generation decrease markedly. That does not even assume any of what economists call project learnings, which help to drive efficiencies in future projects.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way a second time. The key point here is that one project will help to start the next project, and therefore another and another. That is the central reason why this project as a whole is important: it will create more opportunities still.
Again, my hon. Friend demonstrates his knowledge of the potential industry that we are discussing. His point is well made.
It is envisaged that the machining and pre-assembly of the turbines will take place at a new purpose-built facility in the Swansea bay city region. Heavy fabrication of steel components will take place at a new purpose-built facility, also in the region. Final full assembly of the turbines will take place on site in the turbine housing itself. The turbines’ control systems and generators, which connect to the turbines and generate renewable electricity, will be manufactured in Rugby, also from a majority of British-made parts. Meanwhile, a Stafford facility will provide high-voltage switch gear and control and protection systems, all of which demonstrates the UK-wide potential for the supply chain to serve a new tidal lagoon industry.
Quite simply, the development of a fleet of tidal lagoons, starting with Swansea, would provide an enormous boost to UK civil and electrical engineering, our manufacturing sector and our domestic steel industry. According to Graham Honeyman, chief executive of Sheffield Forgemasters:
“Being part of the Tidal Lagoon project would be an important win for this business. The prospect of working on a new power generation concept is an exciting one and is inspiring to our team. The possibilities for this concept, which could play a huge part in addressing the global power deficit, are vast. For such a project to be delivered through British designs and implementation would also be a great boost to the UK economy.”
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again; he is making a fine speech. What he and other Government Members have been talking about is first mover advantage. We could make a strong case for first mover advantage. I hope that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is listening to that point. It should not be seen in any way as a cost to consumers. The previous Department was obsessed with snapshots of the cost to consumers in the present, whereas we should be looking towards long-term savings to consumers that will eventually be achieved through this work and the first mover advantage.
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. If we are serious about rebalancing the economy, revitalising our industrial sector and creating new high-quality manufacturing jobs and apprenticeships, we need real and substantial projects to enable that to happen. The proposals for a tidal lagoon industry comprising five or more lagoon projects around the UK represent exactly the kind of new thinking that we need for our industrial strategy.
Tidal lagoons would mean new jobs, requiring new skills for a new industry. To give one example, there is currently no UK facility of sufficient size to serve the tidal lagoon sector with caissons, the large watertight chambers in which construction work may be carried out underwater. Tidal Lagoon Power and its partners have identified a number of potential sites for such a purpose-built facility around the Welsh and Scottish coastlines. The construction of such a facility would further enhance the UK’s civil engineering capability and upskill our industrial workforce.
In a report to Tidal Lagoon Power extending its earlier work for the Welsh Government, Miller Research and SEMTA found that the development of four tidal lagoons in Welsh waters would support 22,000 jobs in manufacturing and assembling the main component parts of the turbines, generators and sluices, which equates to 15% of the total number of people working in manufacturing in Wales in 2014.
The right hon. Gentleman and I agree on the importance of low-carbon technology, particularly to port communities in west Wales such as the ones that he and I represent. They have natural deep water and the facilities and skills from previous industries. Rather than reinventing the purposes of those ports, we should continue their excellent record of serving the energy sector.
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point that is well understood in Government. The Government recognise the particular importance of ports as linchpins in their local economies.
If Ministers choose to harness our abundant natural resources and, in doing so, launch a new industry here in Britain, just as the Danes did with wind, we will secure a considerable competitive advantage over new market entrants from day one. Britain’s first post-Brexit industry will not only underwrite a strong domestic order book but help to put us at the front of the queue in future technology export markets. If we seize the moment now, wherever a new tidal power project is commissioned in future—from Garorim bay in South Korea to the Gulf of Kutch in India—there is every chance that the people, the parts and the components that build it will contain the words “Made in Britain”.
The Hendry report is good news for the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, after five years spent raising £48 million. The right hon. Gentleman is making a valid point about the jobs that it would create, but it would also create apprenticeships, which we in Wales need at the moment. What are his views on that?
Perhaps we need another occasion to talk more fully about the role that apprenticeships play in rebalancing the economy, but the hon. Lady makes a vital point. If we are to have a new tidal lagoon industry, there is a lot of training to be done. A lot of new skills need to be brought into the workforce, so one can readily see that apprenticeships will play a key role.
I will draw my remarks to a close by drawing attention to the elephant in the room, which a number of hon. Members have already mentioned: money and affordability. I was discussing the Swansea tidal lagoon project with one Minister recently who described it to me as “eye-wateringly expensive”. When I pressed him on that, it became embarrassingly clear that he did not understand the project at all and was merely repeating what he had heard someone else say about it. A myth of unaffordability has grown up around the vision of tidal lagoons as it has developed over the last five years.
Let us be clear: the projected investment costs should not deter us. We know that investors are ready to support the Swansea bay project, whose overall project cost is about £1 billion to achieve construction and connection to the national grid. Tidal Lagoon Power has already spent around £50 million on the development work, and another tranche of money is ready to be used to bring the project to financial close, as long as the Government give the green light. Of the total capital investment of around £1.3 billion, we know that around 84p of every £1 will be spent here in the UK, and at least 50% of that will be spent in Wales. For the Welsh economy, a project of that scale would certainly help to move the dial in terms of gross value added.
We have still have not addressed the crucial point on which this whole thing hangs: value for money. I am interested to see what the Hendry review says about it, but after seeing the figures that crossed my desk when I was a Minister, and again more recently, I have been greatly encouraged that the project does represent value for money. By taking a long-term view of the asset—for that is what it is: a long-term source of power generation—and using established modelling that will be familiar to Treasury officials, the current net value of subsidy for Swansea could amount to a contract for difference equivalent of £89.90 per megawatt-hour. We would be talking about a 90-year contract with a diminishing subsidy each year for 35 years—because it is de-linked from inflation—which then starts to pay money back to the Government for the rest of the life of the contract. That compares favourably with Hinkley C, which locks in an escalating strike price with a contract for difference of £92.50 per megawatt-hour.
The point is that it is affordable: Swansea bay tidal lagoon would put an additional 18p on to household bills, and would require only 0.41% of the 2020-21 levy control framework budget in its first year. By its 35th year, Swansea bay would require just 0.15%—effectively a rounding error—of the levy control framework budget. To put that into context, Hinkley C will add around £12 to household bills.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that because the value of the pound plummeted by something like 20% after the news of Brexit—I think it is now down by around 14%—the lagoon will be much greater value for money, because it obviously costs more to import oil and energy if sterling has a low value?
I genuinely do not know about that. We are discussing the long-term view. I do not know what oil and gas prices, or the value of sterling, will be in six months, let alone in 35 years.
The Swansea bay project does have strong credentials as a stand-alone project, but think about a Cardiff tidal lagoon as the first full-scale project. That would see the cost of electricity drop markedly, with a potential contract that could, I am told, take around £5 off the average household electricity bill. That is why it is so important to talk about a tidal lagoon industry, not just about doing Swansea as a one-off. It is the fleet of full-scale lagoons that will unlock the full energy opportunity for the UK. If we get it right, the country will win with low-cost, reliable and clean power and the emergence of a new globally significant industry here in the UK. Tidal power is reliable, as well as clean, and it is not subject to the vagaries of the weather. It is predictable—we know exactly when every high tide will be for years ahead—and tidal lagoon systems will be built to last for at least 120 years, making them all the more worthy of investment.
We have a unique and historic industrial opportunity before us, and we absolutely should seize it. We have the natural resource on our coastline, and we need new sources of low-carbon power. We have a rich industrial heritage that has bequeathed us the skills, the capabilities and the ambition to take on the challenge. After five years and expenditure of more than £50 million, the pathfinder project at Swansea bay is almost ready to start construction. The project has planning consent, strong funders, strong industrial partners, political and public support, and a delivery team and supply chain ready to kick into action. It has also proved to the international marketplace that the successful commercial development of tidal lagoon infrastructure can be achieved.
I urge the Minister not to delay in his consideration of the Hendry review. I urge him to seize the moment, to give the go-ahead to Swansea bay, and to launch this affordable, sustainable, first new post-Brexit British industry, which will serve our energy needs into the 22nd century.
Order. Because of the extensive interest in this subject, I have a list of at least nine Back Benchers to call to speak, so I am going to impose a four-minute limit on speeches. The Minister and shadow Minister have indicated that they have a considerable amount to say. With that in mind, we will move straightaway to Liz Saville Roberts.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on securing this debate, which I hope we can use to build the cross-party consensus that we need to get moving on tidal lagoons, as well as many other much needed Welsh infrastructure projects. The Government seem to be rather caught in the headlights of Brexit.
I shall make my case for increased investment and urgency in the development of tidal lagoons in three parts. First, and most appropriately, I will outline the benefits of tidal lagoons for meeting current and future energy capacity requirements. I will then briefly touch on how they can contribute to our environmental targets, before finally outlining the economic benefits. Those Members who are familiar with energy policy will recognise my speech as an expanded response to what is known as the energy trilemma. I will conclude by highlighting the deficiencies in the Wales Bill and how it continues to hamper Wales’s ability to make use of its natural resources.
Eighteen major power stations, totalling 17,767 MW of capacity, have closed since 2012. By 2020, the amount of lost power is expected to rise to over 38,000 MW, representing more than a third of our current capacity. According to Tidal Lagoon Power, that means that, having put everything else into the mix, we will end up with a 32 GW deficit.
The 350 MW Swansea bay tidal lagoon will pave the way for projects between Cardiff and Newport, which are planned at equal capacity to Hinkley Point C. The projects will generate the lowest-cost electricity of all new power stations, and can be online in the mid-2020s. A 3,000-plus MW lagoon on the north Wales coast is planned for completion shortly afterwards, with two other projects in the pipeline for development slightly further down the line. As a fleet, the five scoped projects can generate secure, clean energy for 30% of UK homes for 120 years.
We face a clear and present risk when it comes to our long-term energy security. The highly predictable and secure energy created by tidal lagoons means that they face few of the uncertainties or dangers of other carbon-neutral technologies. A home-grown industry, producing power on our shores—what is more secure than that? What is there to like more than that?
I turn briefly to the role of tidal lagoons in meeting environmental targets, which is the second aspect of the energy trilemma. Whatever the impact of Brexit on the UK’s energy and environmental policy, under the Climate Change Act 2008, we are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 57% by 2030, on 1990 levels. As recognised by the Committee on Climate Change, it is likely that new technologies, including tidal lagoons, need to be implemented to meet that target.
In Wales, our abundant resources, particularly tidal energy, give us huge potential to become a world leader in carbon-neutral energy generation. However, Westminster is the dog in the manger when it comes to Wales’s abundant natural resources. For centuries we have been reined back from cultivating and benefiting from our own resources because of arbitrary restrictions from Westminster.
The third aspect of the trilemma is often referred to as energy equity—that is, the affordability of energy for consumers—but I shall also touch on the broader economic implications of tidal lagoons. As the first of its kind, Swansea bay tidal lagoon is undoubtedly more expensive than some of the rival technologies. However, as the project is small, its impact on household electricity bills will be small as well. For consumers, Swansea bay’s real benefits lie in its ability to act as a catalyst for an industry of cost-effective renewable energy in the form of future tidal lagoons.
That said, at a local level, during construction, Swansea alone will employ 2,323 workers, and 181 during operation. It will add around £316 million of gross value added throughout construction, and £76 million annually thereafter. We must also remember the possibilities for exporting the technology. At a time when exports are crucial to the future of the economy, why are the Government dragging their heels on the issue of getting shovels into the ground at Swansea? We can demonstrate to the world that we can lead the way on innovative technological solutions to our energy needs.
I conclude by highlighting the vicissitudes that Wales endures from Westminster. Despite Wales having a natural treasure trove of renewable resources, particularly tidal energy, Westminster refuses to let Welsh people benefit from their own environment.
Unlike under any other devolution settlement, under the current Wales Bill, there will be an arbitrary 350 MW cap on what our National Assembly can develop. That means that the lagoon in Swansea, which has already received planning permission, would have been a project decided on by Cardiff Bay, but any of the other larger projects would remain the preserve of Westminster.
My final plea to the Minister is this: allow the people of Wales to control their own natural resources, so they can make the best use—
Order. The hon. Lady will resume her seat.
I am very grateful to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) has painted the golden uplands of tidal power, but while it is of strategic importance the cost is eye-watering. Although 50% of the benefit may go to Wales, it is the poorest consumers who will end up paying the subsidy on this project. I therefore urge the Minister to exercise caution in relation to the project. There are undoubted benefits, should the predictions come true about Swansea bay tidal lagoon power, but there is no guarantee that subsequent projects will be delivered, or that they will secure licensing consents from Natural Resources Wales. Past experience of energy projects at Milford Haven docks shows that there can be substantial delays in obtaining consents from NRW.
It is clear that the pricing for the tidal lagoon is far more expensive than Hinkley Point. It runs over a 90-year contract, whereas the Hinkley Point contract runs only for 35 years. The difference in the contract for difference is that decommissioning costs are included in the Hinkley Point contract. That makes tidal power—or this particular project—look very expensive. When one considers that the initial bid was £168 per megawatt-hour, one can see why a degree of caution needs to be exercised and why there has been movement away from the project. Would unique intellectual property be generated in the UK that would benefit the UK? Clearly, there would be skills advantages. I accept my right hon. Friend’s arguments about the skills benefits that could be gained and the engineering benefits that could come to the UK. However, those are not unique skills. They are very transferable. They can be taken anywhere and there would be no guarantee of their subsequently returning. We would be the first adopter, but there is no guarantee that we would retain the benefits, because of the lack of IP that would accrue to what amounted, in effect, to more than £2 billion-worth of subsidy from the British taxpayer.
I therefore urge the Minister to be cautious. I look forward to reading the Hendry review and seeing the evidence base, which I know has been looked into in great detail. The project has potential, but not at the strike price that is proposed.
It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on securing this important debate. I am here this afternoon to put on record my support for the proposed tidal lagoon developments, particularly the one in west Cumbria, which would be situated on the Solway firth at Maryport in my constituency.
Hon. Members may know that, in west Cumbria, we market ourselves under the name of “Britain’s Energy Coast”. We started with Calder Hall, which is now part of Sellafield. We were home to the world’s first commercial nuclear power station and we now have the proposed nuclear new build at Moorside, which we hope will be given the go-ahead soon, following the welcome announcement about Hinkley Point C.
It has been reported that the west Cumbria tidal lagoon, with its 90 turbines set in the breakwater, could have a generating capacity of 2 GW. If that capacity is added to the 3.4 GW of capacity that would be produced by Moorside, west Cumbria alone would produce around 10% of the UK’s electricity needs.
The Tidal Lagoon Power group states on its website:
“In addition to helping the UK transition to a low carbon future—providing secure and affordable low carbon energy—we believe that a West Cumbrian lagoon could be uniquely positioned to deliver a range of economic, social and environmental benefits which are strongly aligned with local priorities for economic growth, tourism and leisure, flood risk management”—
flood risk management is very important for my constituency—
“coastal erosion, infrastructure improvement and social inclusion.”
Maryport is a beautiful coastal town, but it badly needs a boost and a west Cumbrian tidal lagoon could bring huge economic benefits—thousands of jobs during the construction period, as well as regeneration and investment in the local community. It has also been suggested that there could be a factory to build the turbines near the port of Workington, which would give that area, and the port, a big boost.
The lagoon company has been consulting local people closely, but it is important that it listens to the local fishermen, who have expressed concerns to me. Their livelihood comes from the waters of the Solway. I am glad that the Tidal Lagoon Power group has said that it is setting up a fisheries peer review group to advise on the effects on fish. The group must do everything in its power not to disadvantage the fishermen.
I have been really impressed by Tidal Lagoon Power’s comprehensive strategy for the wider community in Swansea bay. As the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire said, it is seeking to invest in recreation, tourism, sport and the arts, which is exactly what we need in west Cumbria. The Solway firth is beautiful; it is a hidden gem. More people need to know about it, to visit our attractions and to taste our local food, particularly the seafood, so that they know that there is so much more to Cumbria than just the Lake district. If hon. Members have a few moments this afternoon, we are having a Cumbria day in the Attlee suite. I urge them to come along and taste some of the delicacies on offer.
In conclusion, I absolutely support the pathfinder tidal lagoon project in Swansea bay. I am pleased to hear that Charles Hendry’s report appears to be imminent and I urge the Minister to let us know when it will be published, so that we can all take a look at it. If we can get this first project off the ground, areas such as the one I represent will be able to benefit greatly from this huge investment in our future, which will also help to bridge the national energy gap and ensure that we meet our international climate change commitments.
Thank you very much, Mr Paisley, for calling me to speak. It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on securing the debate.
My constituency of Aberavon, along with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), a neighbouring constituency, would be the home of the Swansea bay tidal lagoon project, which would be the first such project in the world. Tidal lagoon power is an idea whose time has come. The Swansea bay tidal lagoon would produce enough energy to power 150,000 Welsh homes for 120 years, meeting 11% of Welsh energy needs with clean, green, reliable and sustainable energy, saving almost a quarter of a million tonnes of carbon during each year of operations. It would directly sustain over 2,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in Wales, and support as many as 311 UK industrial and manufacturing businesses along the supply chain. Crucially for my Aberavon constituency, the project will require more than 100,000 tonnes of steel, much of which will come through the Port Talbot steelworks. Tidal Lagoon Power has committed to procuring as much steel as possible from UK suppliers and it should be commended for making that pledge and held to it.
As the project will be the first of its kind in the world, it is estimated that, in its first year, 200,000 people will visit the lagoon to see the national boating centre and other facilities. That will mean £8 million in tourism revenue, including £2 million from the oyster-shaped visitor centre, £500,000 from the national boating centre and almost £1 million from the elite performance sports centre. The project has the support of almost 90% of local stakeholders and it was included in the manifesto upon which every major party stood at the last general election. In sum, the Government are fast running out of excuses for delaying a positive decision.
A final decision will, of course, be made following consideration of the Hendry review. That was supposed to have been received before the autumn statement, but we understand that the Government asked for the report to be delayed, in the light of the possible ramifications of other announcements. Can the Minister please inform us what impact, if any, the autumn statement has had on the review?
We now understand that the review is expected to be submitted to the Secretary of State this afternoon. Can the Minister please inform the House whether the review has already been submitted? If not, when will it be submitted? Will he commit to his Department publishing the Hendry review publicly?
Members of this House, our constituents and local businesses should see the review and the case presented by Hendry either for or against tidal lagoon power. There are live investment decisions that need to be made or at least planned imminently. For the decisions to go forward, investors need at the very least a clear sense of the decision-making and implementation process. Will the Minister please make clear what the formal decision-making process will be and when we can expect a public decision? Will we have to wait until the Budget? Will the Secretary of State make a statement in the coming months either as a separate stand alone statement or as part of his national industrial strategy statement? Will the Government also make it clear what the timescale and process will be for implementation of any decision following the Hendry review? Investors, business and our communities need an end to the uncertainty. All major parties made clear manifesto commitments to tidal lagoons and in particular to the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. It is about time we fulfilled those commitments and delivered jobs, energy and opportunity to the Swansea bay region.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Paisley. It is good to have a colleague in the Chair. I also thank the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) for presenting such a good case.
Strangford lough in my constituency is one of the most beautiful loughs in the whole world. I defy any Member of this House to come and have a coffee and a delicious scone in Harrisons of Greyabbey, sit on the veranda looking over the lough and argue that the view could be beaten. I would argue that the view could never, ever be beaten. Not only is Strangford lough the most beautiful, but it has the potential for so much energy production. Indeed, we were proud to trial the world’s first tidal current energy turbine, the SeaGen. Tidal power is an important part of any renewable energy plan as it is a guaranteed source of power and, unlike wind power, can be relied on every day. Generating electricity from two massive underwater propellers, the SeaGen was lowered into place in 2008 and bolted to the seabed in one of the world’s fastest tidal currents.
Strangford lough is one of Europe’s most protected areas, providing unique habitats for marine and bird life. It is a Ramsar area and also an area of special scientific interest. The location was chosen for the turbine project because it offered sheltered waters close to shore, but still exposed the generating device to the full rigours of the tides. The pull of the waters of the Narrows in Portaferry and Strangford is significant and in the early stages some of the blades were damaged. SeaGen generated 1.2 MW: enough power for around 1,500 homes.
There were of course environmental aspects and questions. A study of the environmental impact of SeaGen will, I hope, open the door for other such projects. There had been fears that large marine mammals such as seals would be hit by the propellers. We have a good colony of seals in Strangford lough. The environmental monitoring report that gave the all-clear stated:
“There have been no changes in abundance of either seals or porpoises detected which can be attributed to SeaGen; seals and porpoises are continuing to swim past SeaGen, demonstrating a lack of any concern or hindrance.”
Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union, it is essential that we get the energy strategy correct across the whole of the United Kingdom, so that we can offer companies a competitive spirit for business?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. As a businessman, he focuses on the issues that we want the debate to focus on. The Minister will, I hope, respond to that.
The SeaGen project ended and was dismantled in January this year. The years of operation have opened the door for other such tests. There has been consideration of similar projects on a larger scale in other coastal areas, so the SeaGen project in Strangford lough has given the necessary information to the Department to use for further projects. Perhaps the Minister will give us some idea of how the SeaGen project can be used for the furtherment of other projects.
My opinion is clear: the less dependent we are on crude oil and its supply from other countries, and the more we can get from our own renewable resources, the better. I support such projects for that reason.
The levy control framework, established by the former Department of Energy and Climate Change and Her Majesty’s Treasury, set a cap for the forecast costs of certain policies funded through levies on energy companies and ultimately to be paid for by consumers. Since November 2012, the framework has covered three schemes to support investment in low-carbon energy generation: the renewables obligation, feed-in tariffs and contracts for difference. It sets annual caps on costs for each year to 2020-21, with a cap of £7.6 billion in 2020-21, in 2011-12 prices. According to the latest forecast, the schemes are expected to exceed the cap and will cost £8.7 billion by 2020-21. That is equivalent to £110—around 11%—on the typical household fuel energy bill in 2020. That is £17 more than if the schemes stayed within the cap.
I will conclude shortly. I understand other Members want to speak, so I will not take extra time. We need to do more, and projects such as SeaGen at Strangford lough are possibly the way to go as they also seek to address the environmental impact duty that we must stick by. The environmental reasons for renewable energy are clear and compelling. Although I am not someone who would ban the use of fossil fuel or nuclear reactors as needed, I do feel we should make the most of the great resources that we have in our tidal energy provision. I am anxious to see how we can develop that in Strangford lough and throughout the Province—indeed, across this great nation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—so that we rely less on fossil fuels and other energy sources that are not on our doorstep.
It is great to have you in the Chair, Mr Paisley. I have been a supporter of tidal lagoons since I was elected in 2010. At that time, I asked searching questions about flood mismanagement, possible contamination and suchlike. Those have been looked at and, essentially, this project is good for jobs, for the environment and for the economy, so we should go forward. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) shakes her heard. I should mention what she said about nuclear power.
Nuclear power is good, but if we look at global uranium supplies, at the current rate of consumption, which is 2.5% of global consumption, we will run out in 50 years. If that goes up to 12.5%, we will run out within 10 years. So we need a diverse portfolio that does not exclusively rely on nuclear.
As I mentioned earlier, 75% of fossil fuels cannot be exploited, so we need to look carefully at the tidal lagoon project. There is no excuse for further delay. The previous Chancellor came to Swansea with the former Prime Minister and in the autumn statement of 2013 mentioned the Swansea bay lagoon, but we are still waiting. We now have the Hendry review, which has found that the project is technically sound, is value for money and will deliver economies of scale and falling marginal costs as the portfolio is spread around. So, as hon. Members have said, let us get on with it and let us have a target date. Let us say by June next year. I do not think by Christmas is realistic, but let us have a target date and let us get on with it.
The only thing that has dragged on is the issue of cost. As I have mentioned already, the oil cost is not a proper indicator, because we cannot exploit all the oil and, also, we cannot really go down the road of fracking. People may have read the recent Council of Europe report on hydraulic fracturing. It concluded that, given that methane is 86 times worse for global warming than carbon dioxide and fracking has fugitive emissions of 5%, fracking is twice as bad as coal for global warming, so we need to have very tight controls on fracking. Perhaps the Minister will respond to that. Will he undertake to ensure that fugitive emissions are below 1% for the whole process and below 0.1% at the well head? If we can get that out of the way, it opens the door for Swansea bay lagoon and other lagoons like it as pathfinders. We should not mess around when we know that strategically other options are not open to us.
It looks as though we will be heading towards the disaster called “Brexit”. Let us assume for a moment that the Government do not delay triggering article 50 beyond the French and German elections and do not give the people a final say on the deal, in which case they would reject it. Let us assume we go for Brexit. Obviously, fuel prices will be much higher because sterling will be devalued owing to a lack of confidence in the economy outside the European market, with tariffs. That makes the Swansea bay lagoon better value for money. In the short term, of course, some of the component parts to build it will increase in price. However, overall, it is a great project. We have been waiting long enough. Let us get on with it. In the interests of the environment, of the economy and of Britain, let us do it.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. The lagoon is located in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock). Since I was elected the people of Swansea East have made it abundantly clear that the tidal lagoon is one of the issues that matters most to them. It matters for jobs, for investment, for business and for industry.
The hon. Lady is talking about investment in jobs, and there will be an impact in my constituency, where GE will build the 16 generators, involving £18 million of investment in the plant at Rugby and the creation of 100 additional skilled design, installation, service and maintenance roles. Is not that a compelling reason to proceed?
That was very clever of the hon. Gentleman, and yes, it is a compelling reason.
Most of all, the project matters for the sake of hope, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman’s constituents will now have. It was, and remains, a beacon of hope for a region in transition. Swansea knows a thing or two about making the most of its natural assets, but our once great industries are now in decline and our city has suffered as a result. When the lagoon plan emerged—a modern plan for a new low-carbon era that would once again place Swansea’s natural resources at its core and redeploy a skilled and committed workforce built up over decades—we questioned, probed and challenged. When we were satisfied with the answers we received, we backed it to the hilt. Let me make it abundantly clear: Swansea supports the tidal lagoon, but more importantly, it needs it. It is the foundation stone for our city deal. It is important for the regeneration of our waterfront; for our plans to get people back into work; for retaining the next generation of talent; and for showcasing to the UK and the world a city that I am proud to call home.
I was sceptical about the need for an independent review, but I am delighted to report that those of us who saw the review in action were impressed by its engagement and endeavour. However, it is now finished, and I hope that the Minister will explain what we can expect next. We have heard this afternoon that the review may be lodged today, so we need to know what the next steps are. We have seen the views of the 40-strong all-party group and the more than 100 Back-Bench MPs from across the House who signed a letter to the Government to support the project. Now is the time for the Government to put their money where their mouth is. Now the deed is done, and we need to know where we go from here. We need to know that Swansea will get the tidal lagoon it deserves.
I too congratulate the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on obtaining this timely debate. He mentioned that the Hendry review is with the Government this afternoon, and I share the desire to hear about it from Ministers as soon as possible. The debate is a demonstration of how much cross-party support there is in this place, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) said, for the development of tidal lagoons. That support is pretty unique, and indeed there is also cross-party support in the Welsh Assembly and elsewhere. I should also mention that my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) and for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), who are upstairs in a Bill Committee, want their support for the project to be stated.
We all hope that the Minister will have something to say this afternoon about when he will share the Hendry report with the House, as it was not mentioned in the autumn statement. The delay is frustrating, because we want the Swansea bay tidal lagoon to go ahead—and, as others have said, not just as a one-off or a stand-alone project, but as a pathfinder for yet more tidal lagoons across Wales and beyond, including in Newport, as set out in Tidal Lagoon Power’s plans. A couple of streets away from my home there are the most beautiful views of the expanse of the Severn estuary. From my constituency office on the banks of the Usk we can watch the dramatic rise and fall of the second highest tidal range in the world every day. It is an amazing natural resource on our doorstep, and we are just not using it. At a time when we desperately need clean, secure energy, year-round, entirely predictable energy, tidal lagoon technology is the key to delivering a low-carbon energy future in Wales. We have to grasp that opportunity.
The benefits for Wales and elsewhere have been clearly spelled out in this debate. They include the chance for Wales to be a global leader in the technology, starting in Swansea. More than 2,000 direct jobs would be created in the manufacturing and construction process, and many more would be created in tourism and the supply chain. There would be a huge boost to the Welsh economy. There would also be the potential for long-term cost reduction as more lagoon technology was built, and, importantly, for exporting the technology. A Newport lagoon further down the line would bring construction jobs and the chance to use Welsh steel, which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) mentioned—it has been an incredibly difficult time for that industry. The Liberty House Group in my constituency supports the project; a lagoon in Newport would be less than a mile from its steel plant, which I visited recently.
The project is not only a matter of renewable energy generation and playing our part in meeting climate change targets. There is also a chance for coastal regeneration and a boost to recreation and tourism. The leader of Newport City Council, Debbie Wilcox, has given it her backing and said it is a “marvellous opportunity for Newport”. There is huge added value in the project—not least from up to 33,000 jobs at the four lagoons in Wales, were they to go ahead. It is an amazing opportunity that we should grasp for Swansea, yes—but also for Newport. I urge the Government to make a timely decision.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. It has been a good debate and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on securing it and on the manner in which he made his case. It is notable that with the honourable exception of the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) everyone who has spoken so far in the debate has been in favour of the project; there were speakers from all the nations and several regions of the UK, and all bar one were in support. Debates such as this bring me out in a bit of a cold sweat, because I may have to brutalise some constituency names that I do not know how to pronounce. I thank all those who mentioned the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman and saved me from pronouncing it as if it might normally follow the word “Elvis”—that is how I would have read it. Such debates are an educational process for many of us, and this one has certainly been educational for me with respect to learning to pronounce the names of parts of the beautiful country of Wales.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire touched many key points, and these were replicated by many Members who spoke. The project is potentially a key part of the Government’s industrial strategy, and the cross-party support that it enjoys is balanced by its cross-cutting benefits. It is not just an energy project; we have heard that it will boost tourism and support the steel industry. It also ticks a number of the boxes on which the Government are trying to deliver with their nascent industrial strategy. It links business with energy; it provides a low-carbon technology; it has the potential to spread the economic benefit and boost economic growth outwith London and the south-east of England; and it has the potential to develop a sizeable and exportable technology. Those are all things that, I think, we would like.
There may be issues as to the cost, as the hon. Member for Eddisbury said. However, as I often do when we discuss technology of this kind, I remind the House that we must ask not only the cost of doing something, but the cost of not doing it. It may be difficult to account for that, and it will be interesting to see whether the Hendry review touches on it. However, the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire said that we should aim to emulate the Danes in their development of onshore wind. They have developed an industry and have world-leading technology and exports coming from that. I sought to intervene on the right hon. Gentleman, but my attempt was somewhat lost in the debate. As well as emulating the Danes, we need to make sure we do not emulate ourselves as to what we did in relation to onshore wind technology. The original leaders in that technology were here, and the lead was ceded to the Danes who picked it up and ran with it, and are now in an enviable position. Let us not repeat our mistake over onshore wind with tidal technologies.
Tidal lagoons and technologies are an important aspect of the matter, but not the only one. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who is no longer in his place, mentioned the potential of the tidal scheme—SeaGen—in Strangford lough; and in the Pentland firth between Scotland and the Isles of Orkney there have been world firsts in the deployment of tidal turbines in an area renowned for its tides. That has potential, and I would like to question the Minister about the contracts for difference that were announced last month. We know that they have excluded technologies that are cheaper than offshore wind—onshore wind and solar will not be allowed to bid in—but technologies that are more expensive have also, effectively, been excluded. Essentially, we will have a competitive option process that only one technology will be able to win. That does not seem like fair competition to me—it would mean a broken promise to the tidal industry—and I hope that the Minister can address the matter. That promise of a de minimis amount of electricity through the contract for difference process has seen the development of several stages of proposals that would look to bid in—in particular, MeyGen in the Pentland firth. That could be part of a compelling story of a UK tidal industry, with the tidal lagoons and turbines as compatible—sister—technologies in which we could be a world leader. I wholeheartedly support the deployment of offshore wind, but not its being the only show in town. Because of the Government’s decision—their fixation, it would seem, on that technology—we risk losing one aspect of that story. I really hope that the Government will reconsider their decision and engage with those looking to pursue the schemes to see what can be done to develop them.
I will not take up my full amount of time, but I want to return to tidal lagoons. The scheme ticks many boxes and its development has support across the Chamber and, I think, Parliament as a whole. The lagoon will be a pathfinder in Swansea, the first of its kind. We have a history of developing energy technologies in which numerous firsts of a kind have turned into ones of a kind. I hope that Swansea goes ahead but, if it does, it must be a pathfinder. It must be a scheme that leads to the development of a technology. There is no point in our paying a large amount of money to do this once, then not learning from it, not reaping benefits for future development and, most importantly, not having the technology to export. I fully support the scheme, as does my party.
We have had an excellent debate, with contributions from Members on both sides of the Chamber indicating almost unanimous support for the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. That outcome—the clash of ideas in the white-hot heat of full agreement—should be impressed on the Minister. Even though there was what might be regarded as one dissenting view from the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach), I think that she supports the idea. She made some important points about value of money and about how careful one needs to be to get that right.
We can, I think, say that there is agreement, more or less, about the principle of the Swansea bay tidal lagoon and full agreement, at least by the Opposition, about the practice. Indeed, Opposition turnout and the first-rate contributions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), Swansea West (Geraint Davies), Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), Newport East (Jessica Morden) and Workington (Sue Hayman), and by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), indicate just how full the support is on this side of the House, not just from south Wales Members but across the country. I think that is because we need to make it clear that support for Swansea needs to be based, as Members have emphasised, not just on whether we build that tidal lagoon but on what it means for tidal lagoon technology for the UK’s future and what it means also for the series of lagoons that can come about as a result of the Swansea proving lagoon.
That series of tidal lagoons is not a concept based on thin air; it is not about harnessing an as yet untried technology that might come from the middle of nowhere and save us as far as low-carbon power is concerned. Essentially, it works on a simple principle of proven, well-known technology, of water entering the lagoon subject to its flow through a turbine, both when it is coming in and on its release when the lagoon is full, that allows for the generation of some 14 hours of utterly predictable power. We know that the principle works well because, as the Rance barrage in France has shown, the technology is reliable over many years and, as has been mentioned, it is a power source with a lifetime far in excess of those estimated for wind, gas and even nuclear. It is likely also that the outage time over a long period will be relatively low.
Swansea is not a large lagoon in terms of what is possible. It will have an installed capacity of 350 MW, which is approximately a tenth of the most worked-up second lagoon, in Cardiff bay, which comes in at a capacity close to that of Hinkley Point C power station. However, it is the possibility of Swansea being the proving ground for a number of tidal lagoons that will not only be cheaper to construct and operate than Swansea but will open up the prospect of a large contribution—perhaps 10%—of our electrical power needs that ought to be a condition for supporting it. What we should be investing in as a country is not Swansea, but Swansea and the prospect of all the others as a major component of our future energy make-up.
As Members have mentioned, as far as our country’s overall energy make-up is concerned, power plant is going offline at an alarming rate, with 23 GW of conventional thermal plant being closed or mothballed since 2010, and a further 24 GW—mostly of coal and nuclear—to be closed by 2025. It is unlikely that nuclear will even begin to make up that gap. Hinkley is delayed by longer than seven years and will probably not be on line until 2026-27 and, according to the latest consultation, coal is due to come offline by 2025.
We need replacements for the lost capacity, and a lot of that will come from the aggregation of renewables, but at present the only plan appears to be that gas-fired power stations will be built out at some pace between now and the late 2020s. We know that gas power stations are not, at present, getting built and, indeed, the Government are pursuing expensive capacity market operations—with an auction today or thereabouts possibly costing us £2.5 billion—for capacity over the next period. That is the last chance saloon, one might say, for gas plant procurement under the present arrangements. Swansea, and other lagoons, would certainly serve as a substantial alternative to some of that build, which, if procured, would cost substantial amounts—something that needs to be taken into account where value for money is concerned. All energy, at the moment, is expensive to build. All energy, at the moment, is being subsidised in its build. It is not about considering just what Swansea might cost but about what the alternatives might cost as well. Under those circumstances, Swansea performs, in the long term, very well.
Within a few years, perhaps, a number of those replacement power stations will need replacing anyway. Meanwhile, Swansea and other lagoons would have sailed through the period, producing reliable ultra-low-carbon electricity. By the way, in terms of a larger lagoon strategy, they will be able to supply reliable and known amounts of power pretty much round the clock, for the simple reason that the time of high tide varies considerably along the UK coast. I always like to try to introduce a not very well known fact into my contributions and today it is that, right this minute—this very minute—it is high tide in Morecambe bay. That means that if there were to be a lagoon in Morecambe bay it would produce power for seven hours either side of its high tide.
It is not high tide in Swansea. High tide was at 10.20 am. Power could be produced seven hours either side of that high tide, which would overlap almost exactly with the power produced in Morecambe bay on its high tide. With a series of lagoons, there would be round-the-clock, reliable, known, predictable power that was just as predictable and round-the-clock as any nuclear power station or gas-fired power station that we might care to build in this country.
The benefits of developing Swansea and subsequent lagoons are manifest from a low-carbon energy point of view. As Members have alluded to, there would be considerable other benefits, too. Jobs and supply chains would be created, mostly in the UK. It is estimated that 65% of the pathfinder project spend will go on UK content, which is close to the figure achieved by the North sea oil and gas industry. There would be 200 jobs in Swansea and perhaps 11,000 jobs in Cardiff during construction, and several thousand jobs during operation. Developing Swansea is important for what UK plc should be doing to secure the exportable potential of those technologies in which we are world leaders. We certainly are leading in tidal, tidal stream and wave.
As the hon. Member for Aberdeen South said, we only have to look back a little to see how close we came to securing exportable UK industry in wind before we lost our lead and most of our manufacturing and expertise to others, most notably Denmark, because we did not back the development of our world lead through industrial strategy. Yes, I have mentioned the words “industrial strategy”. It appears in the title of the new Department—the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy—but there is still an absence of anything that looks like an actual industrial strategy from the Government. We were promised a Green Paper on industrial strategy would appear shortly. With lagoons, we have an industrial strategy in the round already, with jobs, a supply chain and exportability. It is running up to us, metaphorically asking us to bite its hand off, and at the moment we are not responding in a positive way.
In all of this, we have to consider the question of value for money, which the hon. Member for Eddisbury mentioned. Comparatively, lagoons provide value for money. Undoubtedly even Swansea will come in as better value for money for electricity-generating purposes than the deal we have concluded with Hinckley C. Comparatively it is in the same league as offshore wind. A series of lagoons would certainly be much better value overall, although we need to cast our minds towards the longer term in thinking about value. Swansea is asking for a CfD for 60 years. That is half the operating life of the lagoon, with payments reducing substantially over that period. Swansea is not asking for a block CfD degressing through future projects; it is asking for a CfD degressing within the project’s lifetime.
I know the Government have not been idle in all this, although on the surface not much has happened since general support for the idea of the Swansea bay lagoon was included in the Conservative party’s 2015 election manifesto. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon said, it was also in the manifestos of all the other major parties. I hoped we would hear something positive about Swansea in the autumn statement, but nothing was announced. We will have to wait until the Hendry review has been examined. That review is headed by an estimable former Energy Minister, the right hon. Charles Hendry. I am confident he will have a positive look at value for money and the bigger picture I have described of the lagoon, but we do not know where that review is. We think it is on its way to Government as we speak, but we have not yet had any confirmation that it has been received, or whether there is a timetable for looking at that review or for action after it has been considered. I join my hon. Friends in calling for early publication of the review so that we can all have sight of what it is about. We also call for an early Government response to that review, even if a final decision about proceeding with the Swansea tidal lagoon has not been made.
I conclude by emphasising that timing is important. We have a worked-up, permitted, committed plan that cannot stand in suspended animation while people spend so long making up their mind. Swansea bay, in case anyone needs reminding, is not an interesting concept that we can cogitate on at our leisure, but a real project that needs to be developed within a reasonable timescale. Otherwise all the money invested in it—£50 million—will start to go stale and the project may fail, possibly never to be revived. We need to get on with it, not just for Swansea’s sake, but for the sake of a real solution that could be producing power by the very early 2020s if it is given the go-ahead now. It would be a solution for our mounting energy gap in the early part of the next decade.
If the Minister can take about 12 minutes, that will give Mr Crabb a minute and a half to wind-up at the end.
Thank you very much, Mr Paisley. Members have already widely noted the honour it is to serve under your chairmanship, and I add my support to that sentiment. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on securing this important debate. It is testimony to him and the importance of the issue that he has generated such cross-party support and so many interesting speeches. The sentiment in the room has been so evident.
My right hon. Friend has long been a proponent of the economic benefits that tidal lagoons could bring to his constituency and to south Wales as a whole. Naturally, he and other Members here today are keen to understand better how the development of a tidal lagoon at Swansea specifically and a fleet of tidal lagoons around the UK coastline—were they to go ahead—would benefit their local economies. However, as he acknowledged, this is a difficult and complex question. The technology is new and untried, and the development warrants due care and consideration before decisions are taken. That is why in May the Government commissioned Charles Hendry to undertake an independent review of the strategic value of tidal lagoons in the UK. Among other things, the review was intended to consider whether and in what circumstances tidal lagoons could play a cost-effective role as part of the UK energy mix, to examine the potential scale of the opportunity, including in the supply chain, and to consider different sizes of projects as the first of a kind.
Contrary to what some Members have said, building a tidal lagoon in Swansea is not a manifesto commitment of the Conservative party, but it is mentioned in the manifesto. There is a commitment to explore the lagoon as a source of affordable energy, and that is exactly what Charles Hendry is being asked to do in his review. We are expecting him to deliver his report to Government very shortly. Colleagues may know better than me how shortly, but whenever that is, this debate is a timely opportunity to discuss the issues. Apparently, drafts have been sent to or discussed with officials—certainly in one case—but it is important to note that the review is not about Swansea as such. Rather, it is a general review of the costs and benefits of tidal energy. As it has not reported, it is irrelevant that the autumn statement has occurred, contrary to what some colleagues have tried to insist. It would be wrong for Government to announce anything while a review we had commissioned was under way. We look forward to receiving it and reading it with great interest.
The question has been raised as to whether, as my right hon. Friend said, there will be a timely and purposeful decision. Members asked when the Hendry review would be published and whether there would be a decision before the end of the year. Colleagues will understand that any decision before the end of the year would be unrealistic at this late stage, and my right hon. Friend acknowledged that. We will give this matter thorough and careful consideration. There will be no dragging of heels.
Is the Minister willing to set a target deadline that he will not go past? Will he say, “By June next year, we will try to do better,” or will he set no deadline at all?
The fairest thing to do is to see what the report says before we come to a view about an appropriate timetable. It would be quite wrong to prejudge the report and its conclusions.
For all the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire for tidal lagoons, I note that he has taken a measured approach, respecting the complex issues that are being raised, for which I thank him. As he said to the House when he was Secretary of State for Wales,
“The Swansea tidal lagoon proposition is very exciting and commands wide support across the business community in Wales, but we also need to recognise that the project is asking for a very significant level of public subsidy and intervention. It is absolutely right that”
“should conduct very robust due diligence in making sure that such projects will deliver value for the taxpayer.”—[Official Report, 13 January 2016; Vol. 604, c. 842.]
That is precisely what we will do. We will take the time necessary to look at the review’s findings in relation to tidal lagoons, particularly in the context of a wider assessment of the nature of the UK’s future energy mix and our plans to reduce carbon emissions.
Last month, the Secretary of State set out his vision for how the energy sector should develop, in the context of our new UK industrial strategy. He recognises that the Government’s role must be to create the right framework for growth, harnessing both existing and new technologies, to deliver more secure, cleaner energy at a lower cost. That is our goal: a reliable, clean and inexpensive energy system.
Of course, new technologies such as tidal lagoons may have a role to play, but not at any cost. My hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) rightly raised several issues, and we look to the energy review and other discussions to resolve them. She raised not merely the issue of cost, but her concerns about the lack of intellectual property, planning uncertainty and delays. The Government should properly consider those issues as part of a wider decision-making process.
As colleagues know, the contract for difference allocation round, which we announced last month, is under way. Overall, our energy policies and priorities have not changed. It is worth saying, in relation to the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), that it is not true that CfDs do not include tidal stream technologies, although it is true that there is no ring-fenced allocation for them within the auction. That is because our responsibility is to bill payers. Tidal stream, which is not a technology that we are specifically discussing in the context of tidal lagoons—it is a different technology—has a strike price about three times higher than that of offshore wind. Until those prices fall, it may be difficult for it to compete. When they do, it will come within the policy horizon.
In fairness to myself, I do not believe that I said it was excluded; I said it is effectively excluded, which the Minister may have touched upon himself. Ignoring the potential first mover advantage for tidal stream technology, how does he expect its price to come down if it does not have the support to deploy and develop a downward price trajectory?
That is a perfectly reasonable question. Historically, the expectation has always been that technologies have to demonstrate that they are capable of benefiting from support. Given that the distance in the range of cost is so high, a judgment has been made that that technology has not done so at the moment, but other technologies have succeeded in doing so.
Other colleagues raised issues such as the rate at which costs might fall with other lagoons, the degree to which different projects could inspire different learning, and the first mover advantages, all of which should be resolved and discussed in the context of the Hendry review.
In my contribution, I mentioned the SeaGen project in Strangford lough in Northern Ireland—a pilot scheme sponsored by the Government to get results in relation to the environment. Perhaps the Minister is going to tell us what the results of that pilot scheme are so that we have some idea of what we are doing now.
I am sorry to have given up time for that intervention, because I was coming to that point. SeaGen, as the hon. Gentleman recognises, was a research test bed, and it is being decommissioned now. It received a £10 million grant from the Department, and those conclusions are being carefully assessed. It is a project in which there has already been public investment. [Official Report, 14 December 2016, Vol. 618, c. 6MC.]
It is clear that we cannot allocate subsidies to every technology that asks for them. We have said that our focus will be on key technologies that have the potential to scale and deliver long-term cost savings, in which the UK has a comparative advantage and whose costs to consumers are acceptable.
Will the Minister give way?
I am very short of time. I am so sorry. I have taken an awful lot of interventions, and I want to make progress.
I note the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire for the proposed Swansea bay project, but it is the Government’s job to consider the advantages and disadvantages and to scrutinise the evidence to ensure that decisions are taken in the longer-term interests of the UK and consumers. It is worth focusing on the significant uncertainties associated with the project—in particular, the use of a new and untried technology in a marine environment, the length of time over which the commitment would be made, and the planning issues, which have already been mentioned.
Since the debate on the economic impact of tidal lagoons in March, the Department has continued to have discussions with the developer of the Swansea bay lagoon. I cannot comment on those discussions, given their commercial nature, but the most recent proposal put forward by the developer would be a very significant deviation from current Government policy. It would not be impossible, but it would require careful consideration. We have always been clear that we will consider the findings of the independent review of tidal lagoons and all other relevant factors in deciding whether to proceed with negotiating a CfD on this project. The developer is aware of that.
The issue of value for money quite properly remains at the forefront. I mentioned the concerns about consents and leases, decommissioning and the supply chain. I note that the China Harbour Engineering Company is no longer working with the developer. There is also an issue of state aid approval. The point is that, even under ideal circumstances, it will take some time to resolve those issues, and the Government will need to take our time to consider the review and make a judgment in a proper and effective way.
As this important debate draws to a close, let me say that I expect a copy of the review’s report to be on my desk and those of colleagues very soon, and we will give it careful consideration. I assure hon. Members that the Government will strike the right balance between responding in a swift and timely way and taking the time required to consider this complex issue in the detail it deserves.
Mr Crabb, given that the Minister has been generous in giving up a bit of time, you have the opportunity to accept a bouquet and take a bow, but not much more, before I put the Question.
I will do that. First, thank you for your excellent chairmanship, Mr Paisley, which has facilitated this very good debate about not just the Swansea project—it was never about just the Swansea project—but the potential for a tidal lagoon industry for the whole of the United Kingdom. The sheer number of colleagues who participated from all parts of United Kingdom and all parties demonstrates the overwhelming support for the Government to take forward a new tidal lagoon industry. I am reassured by the fact that the Minister said there will be no dragging of heels. He said that the Government will not support this project at any cost, but nobody was asking for them to support it at any cost. We have discussed some very reasonable figures and comparisons between different energy types.
This debate will carry on in other forums over the coming months. I hope we get a full, positive response and a decision from the Government, if not by the end of the year—perhaps it would be unreasonable to expect that—then certainly by the spring or summer.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered tidal lagoons and UK energy strategy.