IF fracking is not the answer to Britain’s energy crisis, either on environmental or economic grounds, alternative sources of power will need to be procured – the country is too reliant on imports after successive governments neglected the need to formulate a long-term plan.
Yet, given Britain is an island nation rightly proud of its seafaring past, it’s surprising that the potential of tidal power is only now being harnessed after former energy minister Charles Hendry conducted a review. Though it’s too early to see whether this will be feasible, or practical, for the Humber estuary, Mr Hendry made two profound points after his study endorsed plans to create a pioneering tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay at a cost of £1.3bn.
First, a practical Mr Hendry suggested the benefits of this scheme be studied closely before further projects are given the green light. He was clearly mindful of the decision to approve onshore wind farms prior to their effectiveness being appraised – even more pertinent with the current cold snap coinciding with more benign weather.
Second, the former Minister says a longer-term view needs to be applied to any cost-benefit analysis. He believes this could be the most financially efficient source of power if the cost of subsidies is spread over 120 years – the expected lifetime of any tidal barrage.
This pragmatism is key to turning the tide when it comes to energy policy. Britain can’t afford any more expensive follies like those wind turbines which don’t function at times of peak demand. Equally doing nothing is not an option if the nation’s lights are to continue burning.