£6bn Mersey tidal power scheme hangs in balance

£6bn plan to generate power using the Mersey tides hangs in the balance as Whitehall resists pleas from Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram to fund the project. Tony McDonough reports

Power of the Mersey tide could generate electricity for 1m homes. Picture by Tony McDonough


Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is facing a battle with Whitehall to keep his £6bn Mersey tidal power scheme alive.

A barrage or floating lagoon either in the river or further out in Liverpool Bay could provide between 1 to 5 GW of power. This represents around 7% of the UK’s total current generating capacity.

Mr Rotheram claims the facility would provide emissions-free energy (not counting emissions from construction) for 1m homes for 120 years. It could also make a huge contribution to the UK’s net zero carbon plan and create up to 5,000 jobs.

However, he says the Government is judging the project on a 40-year return on investment. With the tidal plant potentially providing power for more than 100 years he claims this methodology is unfair.

He told Sky News: “Of course, the outlay is eye-watering – £6bn. But this project could generate enough energy for a million homes for 120 years. The return over those years more than passes muster.

“Not only would it be great for UK plc, but we could export the technology around the world, creating jobs. The Government doesn’t consider some of these factors. If they did the project more than washes its face.”

And writing for the Politics Home website Mr Rotheram appealed to whoever will become the new Tory leader in September to seriously consider the project. Referring to major infrastructure projects, he said: “There are a host of ‘shovel ready’ initiatives that would make a big difference.

“If I were being cheeky, I would suggest Mersey Tidal Power, a project in my area that would transform our approach to renewable energy should be at the top of the list. It would address the climate challenge, assist in future energy security and provide a greater return on the investment than nuclear options.

“After our experiences with Johnson, the country must now be wary of more warm words from yet another Tory leader. Instead, they need to prove themselves through their actions. Boris Johnson might be gone, but the principles of levelling up must endure.”

The Mersey Estuary has the second-highest tidal range (the difference between the lowest and the highest tides) in the UK. It rises from 4m up to 10m at spring tide and is second only to the River Severn. Water from the high tides would be released through turbines as the tide falls, generating power.


Steve Rotheram
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram faces a battle with Whitehall to secure funding


Officials from the Combined Authority plan to visit the Port of Busan in South Korea, home to the world’s largest tidal power plant. They are seeking ideas for what would be a huge technical challenge, even if the funding was secured.

One of the biggest challenges for the Mersey Tidal Power Project is ensuring minimal interference with busy shipping lanes. The largest container and cargo ships berth at the main port of Liverpool at Seaforth, on the mouth of the estuary.

But a large number of ships come much further up the river. There is a cruise liner terminal close to the city centre welcoming more than 100 vessels a year. Adjacent to this construction is well under way on the £70m Isle of Man ferry terminal.

Across the river at Birkenhead there is the 12 Quays Terminal which accommodates Stena Line ships sailing to and from Belfast. Much further up the river there is Bromborough Dock, the Port of Garston and the Manchester Ship Canal.

In terms of oil tankers alone, there are more than 700 vessels coming in and out of the Mersey every year. Supertankers berth at the Tranmere Oil Terminal next to the Cammell Laird shipyard and around 500 smaller vessels berth at Stanlow at Ellesmere Port.

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