Will Labour back £6bn Mersey Tidal Power scheme?

Shadow maritime minister Mike Kane tells LBN a £6bn plan to generate 100 years of clean energy from the tides of the River Mersey is a ‘cracking idea’ – but would Labour fund it? Tony McDonough reports

Steve Rotheram wants to use the power of the Mersey tides to generate clean energy. Picture by HowardLiverpool


Shadow maritime minister Mike Kane says Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s £6bn Mersey Tidal Power project is a “cracking idea”.

Speaking to LBN at a Maritime UK event during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Mr Kane hailed the party’s New Green Deal which he says will see it embark on a net zero transformation of the UK economy within five years.

“I think Sir Keir Starmer’s commitment to energy security by 2030 is going to be pivotal to what we do for our ports, our shipping and our whole maritime sector,” he said.

“So we have seen the development of offshore wind but we want to do that better because we have seen the licences that nobody bid for recently. We warned them that would happen.”

Much of the renewable energy generation strategy will be focused on wind and solar but Mr Rotheram is proposing an ambitious idea that could be an easy, if expensive, win for the strategy if he can demonstrate its feasibility.

His Mersey Tidal Power scheme would use the powerful tides of the Mersey Estuary to generate emissions-free electricity. It is an idea that has been around since 1924 but has been given fresh impetus by the Metro Mayor.

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is looking at two options – either a barrage or a floating lagoon. Both options present significant technical and cost challenges.

At between four and 10 metres, the Mersey Estuary has the second-highest tidal range (the difference between the lowest and the highest tides) in the UK. It is second only to the River Severn.

Water from the high tides would be released through turbines as the tide falls, generating power. Previously Mr Rotheram has said the scheme would generate enough electricity to power one million homes for a century.

It would have a capacity of up to 5GW. Currently the UK’s entire power generating capacity totals around 77GW.

Mr Rotheram has already committed significant money and resources to the project. Earlier in 2022 officials from the CA travelled to South Korea to meet with K-water. It operates the world’s largest tidal power scheme at Sihwa Lake.

In December the Metro Mayor signed a knowledge-sharing agreement with Jeong kyeongyun, vice president of K-water. This will lead to reciprocal visits and information sharing.

However, Mr Rotheram has also spoken of his exasperation with ministers and officials in Whitehall with whom he has made little progress in persuading to back the project.

In September this year he said: “I want whoever is in power to look favourably on this project. We can develop a proper tidal project that will last for 120 years and provide energy for 1m homes.”

Labour is talking big on net zero but is also extremely cautious about making major spending commitments until its manifesto for the next General Election is revealed.

Mr Kane told LBN: “We have seen the innovative technology that is going on in the Orkney Islands and we see they are self-sufficient in energy (via wind and solar).


Mike Kane
Mike Kane, Labour shadow maritime minister. Picture by Tony McDonough
Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is keen to push on with the project


“Using our coastal communities to generate power and making sure we have the infrastructure when it comes to transmission is vital. Many of our ports just don’t have the electricity connections they need.

“I think it (the Mersey Tidal Power Project) is a cracking idea for Merseyside and the use of the estuary. I would like to see more details about it and I will be speaking to Steve (Rotheram) about it.”

One of the biggest challenges 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 will be the new 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 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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