A proposed power-generating tidal lagoon in Wales plans to source 65% of content from the UK.
In a review former energy minister Charles Hendry backed the establishment of “pathfinder” scheme, adding that the UK had the potential to become a “global leader” in the use of the technology.
A number of sites in Wales have been suggested for tidal lagoons, which generate electricity as the sea moves through turbines, but Hendry said a billion pound scheme in Swansea Bay was “by far the most developed proposal” and pursuing it would be a “no-regrets policy”.
“It would be hard to find a project where there have been such detailed discussions with potential suppliers at this stage in the project’s development, about the finer details of where each component would be produced and to emphasise the need for this to be done in Wales/the UK,” he said.
In a report Hendry said the Swansea Bay lagoon could create more than 2,200 jobs and its 16 turbines would require more than 11,200 tonnes of steel. “Thousands of tonnes of steel would be required, providing an important (some would say vital) boost to the UK steel industry.”
Hendry said it was important that Welsh labour was used in the project. “I think there would be a significant sense of let-down, bordering on betrayal, if the jobs were to go elsewhere.”
He said a collaborative approach would be required to develop the necessary skills to complete the project. “The supply chain, government, industry and related sectors will all also have to work together if tidal lagoons are to be successful in delivering the new business, employment and training opportunities that are possible.”
Hendry warned of the risk of work going abroad. “When faced with tough financial targets, there will often be pressure to source from the most affordable suppliers, even if they are outside the UK. Where this happens, it is sometimes a false economy in the long term as risks to delivery and quality are sometimes higher.”
He added: “The full opportunities for a UK supply chain will only be realised if there is long-term clarity about the number, scale and timing of tidal lagoons to be built in the UK. It is unrealistic to expect large international companies to invest in new manufacturing facilities if they cannot see a full order book for some years ahead.”
Hendry said contracts for future schemes should be allocated by competitive tender and a Tidal Power Authority should be established to oversee the sector.
Hendry was asked by the government to review the technology and a decision on the next steps will be made by the government.
Business, energy and industrial strategy minister Greg Clark said: “The government’s energy planning is focused on ensuring affordable, secure, low-carbon energy. We will now consider recommendations and determine what decision is in the best interests of the UK energy in the long term.”
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