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CN Briefing: Tidal revolution; Swansea Bay; Chinese investment; Uncertainty ahead

Remember 9 June 2015? It was the day energy secretary Amber Rudd gave the green light to Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon to much fanfare.

The £1.3bn project was expected to pave the way for a fleet of new lagoons to be built across the UK.

A tidal revolution was upon us.

Fast forward twelve months and that tidal revolution seems to be turning into a damp squib.

Today it was revealed that former Balfour Beatty chief Andrew McNaughton had stepped down from his role as Swansea Bay director of construction and engineering.

This was accompanied by the news that China Harbour Engineering Company will no longer be delivering the £300m marine works on the project.

Tidal Lagoon Power claims this will not alter its construction timetable.

But it’s hard to see how the retendering of such a major contract and the loss of the project’s construction head will not impact delivery.

Today’s news was also significant to the wider UK tidal industry.

The deal signed between Tidal Lagoon Power and China Harbour Engineering Company last year was expected to encourage Chinese investment into other UK tidal projects.

So how will CHEC’s exit change this? Will Chinese investors still be interested in other UK tidal projects or does this signal the end of Sino-English tidal partnerships?

More immediately, the burning question is still when will the flagship Swansea scheme be built?

Its fate lies in the hands of the government and the agreement of a strike price with Tidal Lagoon Power.

At the current strike price of £96 per MW hour over a period of 90 years it won’t be cheap, but it may be a small price to pay for the benefits tidal power will bring to the UK’s energy mix and supply chain.

Also in the news

As if being chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission wasn’t enough, Andrew Adonis has been appointed to chair Crossrail 2’s board.

Helical Bar is targeting new London schemes, after posting a record £120m profit for 2015/16.

Got a bit longer

Planning approvals for industrial projects were 29 per cent higher in 2015 than they were in 2014, so is the sector on the road to recovery? Editorial analyst Charlie Schouten’s tells us what contractors need to know about the market.

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