Being a Wiltshire man by birth and having lived in the area for the first 18 years of my life, I grew up around the controversy that was the Severn Barrage. For as long as I can remember this has been vaunted as the best site for a tidal barrage in the Northern Hemisphere having the second-largest tidal range in the world with 42ft (12.8m) tides. Unfortunately it appears that the current economic woes have finally put paid to it.
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has this week announced that the plans for the £30bn Severn barrage tidal energy project stretching from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset to Cardiff is to be scrapped. He confirmed to Parliament;
“The study clearly shows that there is no strategic case at this time for public funding of a scheme to generate energy in the Severn estuary. Other low-carbon options represent a better deal for taxpayers and consumers.However, with a rich natural marine energy resource, world leading tidal energy companies and universities, and the creation of the innovative Wave Hub facility, the area can play a key role in supporting the UK’s renewable energy future.”
The 10-mile (16km)scheme is to be axed and instead the Government are throwing their support behind a series of new nuclear power stations across the UK.
They are to be at Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool, Tees; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, Gloucestershire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk and Wylfa, in Anglesey.
Supporters of the tidal project, which would link Lavernock Point near Cardiff, to Brean Down near Weston-Super-Mare, claimed it could generate 5% of Britain’s electricity. It would have harnessed water power using a hydro-electric dam, but would be filled by the incoming tide rather than by water flowing downstream.
Environmentalists have always objected to the Severn barrage , including the RSPB and Friends of the Earth Cymru (FoE), who were concerned about the impact on wildlife in the estuary. but Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said scrapping the barrage would be “equally disastrous” for the economy and the environment.
The proposed barrage would have produced 5% of the UK’s energy needs – equivalent to two nuclear power stations.
It is no surprise that this scheme is being axed – it has always been highly controversial. But again we are moving away from clean renewables towards nuclear power, which cannot be a long-term solution. Cost effective in the short-term perhaps – but the long-term costs are likely to be far greater.