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Swansea tidal lagoon project faces job cuts and downsizing

April 2, 2018

By Paul Homewood

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From the Guardian:

 

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The £1.3bn Swansea tidal lagoon faces a major blow as the company behind the scheme braces for significant job cuts if UK and Welsh government talks on the project fail to yield a breakthrough.

Tidal Lagoon Power has waited for 15 months since an independent review backed the scheme as a “no regrets” source of clean and reliable energy.

In December, the Welsh government offered equity or a loan if Whitehall would support the plan with a subsidy. UK–Wales talks have since intensified, but are yet to yield a result.

The financial stress of waiting for government funding means the company may be forced to lay off staff within weeks, substantially reducing the size of its operations this month.

A source at Tidal Lagoon Power said: “It [the company] is being put in a difficult situation by the UK and Welsh governments.” They said it was crunch time for the project, and the headcount of 50 staff would have to be reduced if support from Whitehall does not materialise.

Running down to a skeleton operation would make it harder to later resuscitate the scheme by 2020, when planning permissions expire.

More than 50 Conservative MPs, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green party and unions have urged the business secretary, Greg Clark, to back the project in principle.

But Clark has told Carwyn Jones, the Welsh first minister, that any public subsidy for the lagoon would have to protect consumers from high energy bills and consider the falling costs of alternatives.

In a letter to Jones in January, Clark described tidal lagoons as “an untried technology with high capital costs and significant uncertainties”.

Richard Graham, the Conservative MP in whose Gloucestershire constituency Tidal Lagoon Power is based, said last week that the company was looking at a subsidy deal no more expensive than the one awarded to EDF Energy for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. “It’s a clone of that contract,” he said.

However, the price the government has guaranteed to buy power from developers building offshore windfarms in the early 2020s has already undercut Hinkley by 38%. Similarly, nuclear developers have been told they must come in well under the Hinkley price for future atomic power stations.

The Swansea tidal scheme would harness the ebb and flow of tides in Swansea Bay, providing a predictable and low-carbon source of power for 120,000 homes. It is intended to be the first of six lagoons at sites on Britain’s west coast, including Cardiff.

Tidal Lagoon Power has spent more than £53m developing the lagoons. But the government has yet to issue a response to the review by the former energy minister Charles Hendry, which warmly backed the Swansea project in January 2017.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/apr/02/swansea-tidal-lagoon-project-faces-job-cuts-and-downsizing

 

Hinkley Point has an index linked contract, currently worth £97.14/MWh and guaranteed for 35 years.

Originally, Tidal Lagoon Power wanted much more. Recently they have been in negotiations with the Welsh Government, with a view to a cheap loan or equity funding, which they hope will reduce the strike price they need.

 

The Welsh Government and some MPs are getting excited about the number of jobs this £1.3bn project will support.

But we need to bear in mind that, with a capacity of 320 MW, Swansea Bay will only intermittently produce about 400 GWh a year. This is just 0.1% of UK generation, and is worth only £18 million at wholesale electricity prices.

It seems that matters may be coming to a head.

44 Comments
  1. spetzer86 permalink
    April 2, 2018 4:40 pm

    “Predictable and low carbon”. huh, well, it’ll be predictably intermittent, so there’s that. Wonder if low carbon includes all the CO2 generated making the thing in the first place and all the CO2 generated maintaining it?

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      April 2, 2018 6:36 pm

      The “advantage” of tidal power — always assuming that it works, of course — is that it is at least more predictable than wind but that is about all that can be said for it. And the total lifetime costs to produce enough power for 120,000 homes mean that the entire concept makes no economic sense at all.

      And probably no ecological sense either. But then sense from the enviro-lobby has always been at a premium.

    • April 3, 2018 9:33 pm

      providing a predictable and low-carbon source of power for 120,000 homes.

      Assuming they don’t mind doing without power during the hours when the tide is turning, or switching to some other more reliable sources at such times – which they could have been using all the time anyway, at far lower cost.

      • April 3, 2018 10:06 pm

        @oldbrew

        – that’s where disconnection capable smart meters come into their own.

        The Piety Power Company™ will provide guaranteed virtuous electrons only when the tariff specified source(s) is(are) operational and has(have) sufficient capacity to supply. The power supplied will be charged at the cost of production + distribution + a small admin fee without subsidy.

        At other times the high tech Smart Meter will disconnect from the distribution system so that your pollution footprint will be minimised – as will your guilt about harming the planet.

        Our billing system can accomodate customers who wish to combine different renewable sources and changes to the mix can be made electronically no less than 72 hours ahead.

        Piety Power are fully committed to 100% renewable power at an honest price so that you can be at ease with Gaia.

        Does anybody think I’ll get any customers?

  2. April 2, 2018 4:45 pm

    You do wonder why such non-economic schemes get backed by supposedly sensible people and get so far.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      April 3, 2018 3:55 pm

      -Possibly because they aren’t particularly sensible?

  3. Ian Magness permalink
    April 2, 2018 4:50 pm

    In a letter to Jones in January, Clark described tidal lagoons as “an untried technology with high capital costs and significant uncertainties”.
    As opposed to wind and solar, which are fledgling technologies with high capital costs, significant uncertainties, huge government/taxpayer subsidies, and no way of storing the excess power when the systems finally do actually work. What’s not to like?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 6, 2018 9:13 pm

      Of course, Clark is wrong. The project at La Rance has been operating since the mid 1960s, and even managed to produce power at not too unreasonable a price/cost. That is why we can say that Swansea Bay is a white elephant: La Rance needed just a 750m barrage, of which a good portion was taken up by the power station (and a lock), and effectively provided a bridge at the mouth of the river, generating real value from that as well. Swansea Bay needs over 12 times as much in sea wall – which is where most of the cost arises.

  4. Bloke down the pub permalink
    April 2, 2018 5:04 pm

    a “no regrets” source of clean and reliable energy.

    Tell that to all the wildlife that will lose its habitat.

  5. Bradley Stoker permalink
    April 2, 2018 5:08 pm

    Despite an utterly brilliant marketing campaign, which I very much admire, the penny has finally dropped that this project was flawed from the outset.
    As an urban regeneration scheme it had merit, but it falls far short of providing base load power, or any worthwhile power at all for that matter.

    A kick in the teeth for the subsidy miners, who will no doubt move on and come up with some other “worthwhile” proposal.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 6, 2018 9:19 pm

      I can’t see it doing anything for urban regeneration: why not give them say £200m to rebuild their high street and the least attractive council estate, or to set up a theme park instead? The building of this project would all be contracted out, and would involve minimal labour. Once the project is built there will be a handful of maintenance jobs locally, but any major maintenance is likely to entail crews shipped in specially. Operations would doubtless be controlled elsewhere, such as the plush Tidal Lagoon offices in Gloucester.

  6. April 2, 2018 5:16 pm

    I don’t believe that there has ever been a wave/tidal energy generation project anywhere in the world which could be called successful. Another massive white elephant, and a potential ecological disaster for the Severn Estuary. Pure pie in the sky!

    • John Palmer permalink
      April 2, 2018 6:16 pm

      @Derek Wood…”I don’t believe that there has ever been a wave/tidal energy generation project anywhere in the world which could be called successful. Another massive white elephant, and a potential ecological disaster for the Severn Estuary. Pure pie in the sky!”

      So that’s it then, our beyond-stupid Govt will therefor back it!

  7. Gwynne James permalink
    April 2, 2018 5:45 pm

    I’m wondering if anyone has considered the huge amounts of soft mud that the Severn Estuary has in it and is literally everywhere!
    I use to live in a place called Clevedon,Somerset and the Council had an outside swimming pool along side the Seven Beach and every year this pool had to be drained and the huge amounts of mud cleared-and I’m talking about mud over 6 feet high in places!
    I cannot imagine how they intend keeping this mud from building up and blocking everything within the lagoon!
    They have thaught about this surely!

    • Paddy permalink
      April 3, 2018 6:13 am

      I suspect that the on going dredging costs will be huge. I don’t believe they have been factored in.

      • dave permalink
        April 3, 2018 7:54 am

        Density being the same, the diameter of the transportable particle varies as the sixth power of the velocity of a current. So if you halve the velocity, by interfering with a natural system, a current which could formerly scour out particles the size of your fist will be suddenly be incapable of lifting a grain of sand one sixteenth of an inch in diameter.

      • April 3, 2018 6:47 pm

        Dredging costs not factored in?

        The clowns trying it on with the scheme haven’t as far as I know done the arithmetic.

        OTOH the dredging companies have – and they’re um… supportive of the scheme 🙂

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        April 6, 2018 10:35 pm

        If you look at the comments at the link given by Philip Bratby, you will see a former master of a 5,000dwt dredger reckoning that they might need such a ship for the task: his burned 11 tonnes of gasoil per day, or 4,000 tonnes a year – which has an energy content of about 12MWh/tonne or therefore 48GWh per year, or about 10% of the turbine output. Then there’s vessel hire and crew to pay for.

  8. April 2, 2018 7:01 pm

    Some readers may recall that I went to a presentation (sales pitch) by SBTL in January 2015 and I reported on it at the time. It was a bad idea then and nothing has changed since. See my report at:
    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2015/6/9/the-proposed-swansea-bay-tidal-lagoon.html

    • Chilli permalink
      April 2, 2018 11:03 pm

      Nice summary. Thanks Phillip.

  9. Coeur de Lion permalink
    April 2, 2018 7:23 pm

    I’m always curious about the effect of marine growth on costs/serviceability

  10. Harry Passfield permalink
    April 2, 2018 7:49 pm

    Oh Dear. Typical negotiation ploy by the Greens. “There is this huge problem that is going to stop the wonderful, free, eco, CO2-free, etc, power station. We shall try to solve it”.

    And, hey presto, we (they) have solved it. It will go ahead as planned.

    This is pure deflection. A common ploy in negotiation. I will bet they get their way. The Greens in Perry’s department will make sure of that because she does not have the strength of character to overcome them.

    We are not ruled by the people we vote for.

    • dave permalink
      April 2, 2018 9:36 pm

      OTT – but not really since the challenge should always be “What problem requires this gambling folly?” – UAH Satellite figures for global anomalies in degrees C, for 2018 so far:

      January + 0.26
      February + 0,20
      March + 0.24

      The (El Nino influenced) high was in February 2016 at + 0.85.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 6, 2018 9:22 pm

      Perry is a greenstander herself. Fortunately the decision appears to be above her pay grade.

  11. Garry Baker permalink
    April 2, 2018 9:50 pm

    Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay has been flawed from the outset by its CEO plans to source the rock from a Cornish AONB, through the Manacles MCZ. Since publishing these plans to the local community more and more challenging environmental data has emerged both in Swansea & Cornwall. If this could happen with environmental data, how sound was the business case? How trustworthy were the numbers? How come the developer decided to drop its pants on the price, so late in the day? No wonder BEIS held their ground. Cameron & Osbourne were like rabbits in headlights. So too were the institutional investors and sadly many private investors.

    • Gray permalink
      April 3, 2018 6:56 pm

      Who owns the quarry?

      • Garry Baker permalink
        April 3, 2018 7:41 pm

        Funny you should ask that. Dean Quarry on the Lizard is owned by Shire Oak Quarries. Their shareholder with significant control is Mark Shorrock, CEO of Tidal Lagoon(s).

  12. Phoenix44 permalink
    April 3, 2018 7:49 am

    So £1.3 billion produces revenue of £18 million a year? Assuming an 80% margin that’s £14 million a year, so you can pay back the capital in 92 years.

    Fossil fuels take all the “renewable” energy from many years – decades, perhaps centuries- and compress it into small bundles for us. How can we ever possibly take a tenth or a hundredth of that and expect it to compete?

    Our politicians either don’t know or don’t understand the underlying economics of our energy system.

    • dave permalink
      April 3, 2018 8:13 am

      It was very odd at school. When we got to proportions, percentages, logarithms, and the like, half the class suddenly disappeared, mentally*. Later, if they stayed on, they were to be found “on the Arts side” of the 6th form. And later still, as various kinds of wafflers rising through the ranks of “the movers and shakers.”

      *I had difficulty. The mathematics teachers did not realize that these were hard concepts for most.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        April 3, 2018 12:54 pm

        Dave, I was OK with those, it was Calculus that did my head in.

      • April 3, 2018 6:17 pm

        #MeToo!

      • dave permalink
        April 4, 2018 8:28 am

        The invention of “Calculus” was the time when mathematicians found that they could get away with “hand-waving” and abuse of notation, whenever they could not explain something even to themselves.

        An honest child rebels at being told even ” white lies, ” but must eventually succumb to the insipid mantra ” Just go on… and faith will soon return.* ”

        The “best” student comforts himself with the fallacy that rigor is a substitute for logic; and when he becomes a teacher will often say “It is all perfectly clear, if you would only pay attention…” The “average” student goes through life with a pious belief that someone, somewhere, knows ” what it really means.** ”

        The “worst” student simply gives up.

        * D’Alembert, the French mathematician.

        ** There is an old joke about a London taxi-driver and Bertrand Russell – philosopher, mathematician, and incessant scribbler.

        “I ‘ad that Bertie Russell in me cab today. I says to him “What’s it all about then?” and – d’ya’know what?- the fool had no idea!”

      • dave permalink
        April 4, 2018 8:44 am

        Although I gave a quote of D’Alembert which I did not think contained truth, he was, nevertheless, an acute observer of mathematical perversion, and I do approve of the following stricture on “computer modelling of climate” made two hundred years before it was invented!

        “If it happens that the question which we wish to examine is too complicated for all the elements to be able to enter into the analytic comparison we wish to make, we separate the more inconvenient elements, we substitute others for them, less troublesome but also less real, and we are surprised to arrive, notwithstanding a painful labour, at a result contradicted by Nature; as if after having disguised it, cut it short or altered it, a purely mechanical combination could give it back to us!”

      • A C Osborn permalink
        April 4, 2018 11:08 am

        It didn’t help our class that our teacher was a “genius” type who could not for the life of him understand that we did not instantly understand what he said and wrote as he obviously did.
        So although a brilliant mathematician he was a crap teacher.

      • dave permalink
        April 4, 2018 2:29 pm

        It is a great mistake to teach over the heads of pupils – especially if the teacher is more show-off than genius.

  13. Athelstan permalink
    April 3, 2018 8:21 am

    “In December, the Welsh government offered equity or a loan if Whitehall would support the plan with a subsidy. UK–Wales talks have since intensified, but are yet to yield a result.”

    another chocolate teapot boondoggle, and all it is, haggling over how much public dosh (taxpayers funding) is going to be thrown at it.

    Desperate, stupid, colossal waste – that’s UK politics all over..

    • April 3, 2018 6:51 pm

      Welsh government offered equity or a loan if Whitehall would support the plan with a subsidy

      The numpties in the Welsh “gubbermint” think everybody’s dimmer and more credulous than they are….

      • Athelstan permalink
        April 4, 2018 4:33 pm

        That’s true, it’s a sort of thinking common to the majority of the pols, particularly those who see through a very narrow field, bounded by a very rum meld of nationalistic antagonism married to very imilitant Socialist tendencies.

  14. dave permalink
    April 3, 2018 8:26 am

    BTW, Dr Ryan Maue now keeps his comprehensive updates on tropical cyclone activity here:

    http://wx.graphics/tropical/

    The seasonal offset between the North and South Hemispheres is a little confusing, always.
    Dr Maue is a little slow in updating his graphs.

  15. Richard donne permalink
    April 3, 2018 8:40 am

    If was anywerar else besides Swansea it would have been passed by now Swansea can’t have nothing with this lot in power kick Em out she stoped Swansea having the electric trains she want let Swansea have I she was living here it would be did grant I bet it wouldr

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      April 3, 2018 10:07 am

      Thank you Richard, and what are your views on the educational standards in Swansea?

    • A C Osborn permalink
      April 3, 2018 12:57 pm

      I live in Swansea, the Lagoon is not a bad touristy idea, but for Electrical Generation forget it.
      It is a very expensive white elephant.

  16. Green Sand permalink
    April 3, 2018 12:44 pm

    Through gtitted teeth:-

    ‘Lancashire fracking: Well finished at Preston New Road site’

    “Energy firm Cuadrilla has successfully completed drilling the first well at a site in Lancashire, it has confirmed.

    Work will now begin on drilling a second horizontal exploration well at Preston New Road in Little Plumpton.

    The company said it has planning permission to drill a total of up to four horizontal wells on the site.

    Campaigners have lost appeals against fracking at the site after Court of Appeal judges rejected two legal challenges.

    Cuadrilla said it would apply for permission to start fracking at the completed well in the “very near future” and hopes operations can begin at the second well in the autumn.

    Communities secretary Sajid Javid approved firm’s plans for the site in Little Plumpton in October 2016……”

    https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/uk-england-lancashire-43626945

  17. Gerry, England permalink
    April 3, 2018 2:38 pm

    No Christmas card for Opus. How dare they spill the beans.

    https://www.thegwpf.com/policies-are-to-blame-for-rising-uk-electricity-prices/

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