Investment in clean energy has fell in the UK by 10% in 2016 and 56% in 2017. Last year, the UK Treasury announced there would be no new subsidies for clean energy until 2025 at the earliest, with existing subsidies for onshore wind, solar and green homes all now phased out. Therefore, somewhat unsurprisingly, plans for the Swansea Tidal Lagoon were rejected last week by the UK government.

A missed opportunity?

To meet renewable energy targets the European Union predicts 100GW of ocean energy will be installed by 2050. The Swansea Tidal Lagoon was to be the first of its kind in the UK and would have paved the way for the UK’s global domination in wave and tidal power. To this date, nearly £450 million has been invested into the UK marine energy supply chain, mainly from private investment, to drive science, engineering and operations.

Leading developers in the UK have announced this week that the scrapping of the Swansea plan would see Britain throwing away its lead in ocean energy – calling it a ‘huge mistake’ from the UK government. Due to the lack of government support, UK based companies have already started to locate elsewhere, to places such as Canada and France.

What does this mean for the Mersey Tidal Power plan?

It was announced last year by Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham that a new feasibility study was to take place looking into harnessing the power of the River Mersey in the form of a tidal barrage. This feasibility project would build on the previous study which took place in 2011, which was shelved for being too costly. Information on the study is due to be announced in the coming months.

So, if the Swansea Tidal Lagoon has been rejected how do we make LCR’s plan work? From our perspective, to make the Mersey Tidal Power plan a success we need to think laterally about how we can make the scheme feasible. We need to use our region’s strengths to make the scheme practical whilst also looking at how we can optimise the energy that is created from the tidal barrage in the best possible way. We also need to map the supply chain for the tidal scheme early in the project and aim to keep suppliers as local as possible to keep costs low.

Reducing the schemes costs can also be achieved through value engineering. Using value engineering, which is the structural and analytical process that seeks to achieve value for money, will make the scheme more feasible for investors by reducing their overall costs. For example, using the least expensive materials or components that satisfy the scheme’s lifetime projections, rather than any time over this, will have a huge impact on the project’s finances.

Ideas surrounding artificial intelligence may also be considered for the tidal scheme’s plan, as optimising the scheme’s power output utilisation and knowing how this power will interact with the other sources of power generation in the grid will be crucial to the success of the project. The benefit of using artificial intelligence is that it will assist the whole system learn in real time from its variables and data, allowing the grid to make its own smart adjustments.

Our need to decarbonise the transport sector in the UK by 2040 may also be brought into consideration when looking at the feasibility of the plan. For example, if excess power generated by the tidal scheme could be used to charge electric vehicles – with this energy being sold at a higher price – this would therefore make the scheme much more feasible. Linking into the previous paragraph’s thoughts on artificial intelligence, if we can determine how much energy will be created and when – ideas on energy storage, for example in car batteries, can also be explored.

This Thursday, July 5th, LCR Future Energy will be hosting our own open forum at Sci-Tech Daresbury. Ideas such as the ones above will be discussed, whilst we will also be looking into the region’s plans in the low carbon sector and how SMEs in the region can capitalise on the government’s clean energy targets. To book tickets and to find out more information, click here.

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