Ever since I was in school (a long while ago!) it seems that people have talked about the potential of tidal energy in the Severn Estuary. It was incredibly disappointing to hear that government had kicked the proposed tidal energy lagoon in Swansea into touch. A decision rounded upon by local politicians of all colours. A massive missed opportunity. Unlike the Tories’ deal with the DUP it would have been £1 billion well spent. Contrast with the £30bn EDF Hinkley nuclear project is also instructive.
The fact it came in a week where public health and environmental concerns were summarily dismissed in the Heathrow decision is doubly depressing.
My friend Chris Grocock has penned the following piece explaining why we should have gone ahead with the lagoon.
With this decision the Conservative Party has backed an outdated potentially dangerous technology where the expertise, ownership and engineering skills sit with foreign state owned companies (China and France) and which, like fossil fuels, still relies on importing an unstable finite fuel supply (Uranium) from the global marketplace.
The Prime Minister and Secretary of State have turned down a world-first opportunity to build a sustainable renewable power source extracted from our national waters, invest in jobs and skills, regenerate local communities, reduce carbon emissions, reinvigorate British industry and develop an entirely new sector of the UK economy.
The false idea that this decision has anything to do with the market is a nonsense. It is a purely political decision based on the unwillingness of the Tories to show any imagination or oppose the vast power of vested interests in the energy sector.
Yet serious public investment in the technological and industrial development of renewable energy would be truly transformative – environmentally, economically, socially and politically.
Over time it would eventually lead to an oversupply of inexhaustible electricity causing the price to plummet and ushering in an era of inexpensive, clean energy. How can renewables not be cheaper when the fuel source is infinite, abundant and doesn’t require expensive extraction from increasingly inaccessible locations? All that’s missing is the investment in technology and infrastructure to create economies of scale. The spin off benefits would be incredible.
And this is how Labour’s proposed national investment bank and regional development banks can and will most fundamentally transform Britain and set an example to the wider world.
It’s not principally about being green although the environmental impact would see us lead the way in the fight against climate change.
Nor is it about foreign policy although it would be great for Britain not to compromise with corrupt authoritarian regimes or feel the need to invade countries to secure our energy supply.
It’s not even about economic development although it would be amazing to cultivate new cutting edge industries, create thousands of jobs and improve the productivity of the UK workforce.
It’s ultimately about demonstrating a belief that sustained investment and innovation can make energy so cheap, even free at the point of use, that it is available to everyone entirely on the basis of need no matter their wealth, status or position.
I don’t know if anybody can truly conceive what that would look like in its entirety – for health, transport, education, housing, for information technology, industry, construction and agriculture – but it has to be one of the great missions of 21st century socialism.
For today, for tomorrow, and the future of our country.