Saturday, 21 March 2015

Osborne's fantasy tidal lagoon announcement

UK Treasury PR gimmickry entered a new phase last week when George Osborne 'announced' what was, according to the Daily Mail 'the centrepiece of ambitious renewable energy plans'. That is, progress towards the building of a tidal lagoon scheme in Swansea, Wales.

Alas, none of the rest of the press saw through this empty facade, either, although one might expect papers like the Guardian to be a little more questioning of this sort of hype. Nevertheless the announcement had lots of energy analysts scratching their heads as to what exactly the Chancellor was suggesting that was actually well, never mind new, but actually happening about the scheme in terms of Government giving financial incentives. The answer is absolutely nothing (other than the government will talk about things).

The UK Treasury have developed a habit over recent years of announcing big plans for funding energy schemes as part of its PR for public spending reviews and budgets. This trend began under the latter stages of the last Labour Government when it announced premium price levels for offshore wind. It continued with this government with announcements about 'agreements' and loan offers to nuclear power as well as strike prices for renewable energy. There has been a trend, observable already, for such announcements to become ever more wistful. The announcements for Hinkley C look so - more like face saving devices through announcing prices and incentives for Hinkley C that are lower than what is really needed to put the project into practice (and which would be politically unacceptable).

But the announcement about the tidal lagoon project is even worse in terms of its fantasy rating. It does not even get within a hundred miles of providing the tidal lagoon scheme proposal with the means to be implemented - the tidal lagoon project needs not just a good strike price but also loan guarantees like have been offered to Hinkley C. It serves, rather, as a smokescreen to hide the cliff edge of investment cut-off that much of the renewable energy industry faces if the Conservatives regain power in May. See my last post on the Tories preparing a massacre of onshore renewable energy schemes.

So who are the Conservatives kidding? Themselves, maybe, into believing that a fantasy renewable energy programme is a substitute for a real one? Surely nobody else can believe this nonsense. They certainly ought not to do so.

The tidal lagoon technology is highly innovative, the sort of project that the UK should be proud to advance. We need to give it the real support that will make sure it happens, not the fantasy nonsense issuing from the Treasury.
For some project details, see:

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