Severn Estuary Barrage Page

Photo of the Severn Crossing, by Jonny Page

Photo Credit: Gwilym Owen

Recent News

With the recent rapid turn of events regarding tidal lagoons in the Severn Estuary, does this finally spell the end for the Severn Barrage?

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News Archive

Uncertainly over the future of the Severn Barrage

‘A Severn Barrage?’ Report Published

A report by MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee has been published stating that the case for Hafren Power’s barrage scheme is unproven.

Boost for Severn Barrage plans as major firms start assessment of project

Severn Barrage proposals called into question

Severn Barrage unlikely to be given the green light before the next general election in 2015

£30bn Severn Barrage plan could progress

The latest news from the Government regarding the Severn Barrage is that it could still be built, despite opposition from some MPs and environmental groups, if the right proposals were submitted.

 Green Energy – The Severn Tidal Barrage Debate

16th October, 2012

The Cardiff School of Planning and Geography Innovation and Engagement opening event of the new academic year hosted a lively debate on the proposed Severn Tidal Barrage.

Morgan Parry (Chairman, Countryside Council for Wales), Professor Roger A. Falconer (Halcrow Professor of Water Management and Director of the Hydro-environmental Research Centre) and Professor Brian Morgan (Professor of Entrepreneurship at Cardiff Met) lead this lively debate on the proposed Severn Tidal Barrage, one of Europe’s biggest renewable energy projects. Chaired by Professor Kevin Morgan of The Cardiff School of Planning and Geography.

 David Cameron instructs the government to look again at plans to build a Severn Barrage

20th August, 2012

The Severn Barrage is again in the media spotlight as the Prime Minister has instructed Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, and Oliver Letwin, the Conservative policy chief, to look in detail at the privately financed scheme by the Corlan Hafren consortium. This represents a change in government attitudes to the barrage since it decided that there was not a strong enough strategic case for it to support a tidal power project in the Severn Estuary, in October 2010.

Selected Articles

Prime Minister agrees to meet Severn barrage consortium

19th May, 2012

Events relating to the Corlen Hafren proposal for the Severn barrage have been moving fast since Peter Hain resigned as Shadow Welsh Secretary last Monday to act as a spokesman for its cause, as David Cameron has now agreed to meet with the consortium for talks regarding its revived Severn barrage plans.

Selected Articles

 Severn Barrage – back on the agenda

7th December, 2011

Corlan Hafren, a private consortium put the Severn Barrage back on the agenda by reviving plans for the ambitious multi-billion-pound barrage scheme across the Severn Estuary with the capability to harness tidal power between south Wales and Weston-super-Mare and could generate up to 5% of the UK’s electricity needs.

These new proposals would be financed privately as the feasibility study by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) had previously rejected plans for a publicly-funded barrage as there was no “strategic case” in the current economic climate as the cost for the leading proposal had risen to £34bn, however it had not ruled out private schemes such as this and is now talking to the group over the plan.

Selected Articles

 Severn Tidal Power – feasibility study conclusions published

18th October, 2010

In January 2008 the Government launched a feasibility study to consider whether it could support a tidal power project in the Severn Estuary and, if so, on what terms. The study conclusions published set out Government’s view that;

  • There is not a strong enough strategic case for Government to proceed with a scheme at this time
  • Given the scale of the energy and climate change challenge and potential risks of other technologies not deploying to time, cost or capacity, the Severn could well play a role in the future – although it is unlikely that Government would consider it again before 2015

Copies of the feasibility study summary report and associated background documents can be accessed via the Seven Tidal Power website

Background to Tidal Power on the Severn Estuary

In July 2008 the Government published a list of ten possible schemes, including barrages, onshore and offshore lagoons, a tidal fence and a tidal reef. They then assessed, in high level terms, the costs, benefits and impact of potential schemes and how they might affect the environment and the region. Following this process Ministers recommended the following schemes for detailed analysis:

  • Shoots Barrage – located near the Severn road crossings, estimated to cost £3.2bn to construct and generate 2.7TWh/year or just under 1% of UK electricity
  • Beachley Barrage – slightly smaller and further upstream than the Shoots Barrage (and upstream of the Wye), estimated to cost £2.3bn and generate 1.6TWh/year
  • Fleming Lagoon – an impoundment on the Welsh shore of the Estuary between Newport and the Severn road crossings, estimated to cost £4bn and generate 2.3TWh/year
  • Bridgwater Bay Lagoon – an impoundment on the English shore of the Estuary between Hinkley Point and Weston Super Mare, estimated to cost £3.8bn and generate 2.6TWh/year
  • Cardiff-Weston Barrage – located between Brean Down and Lavernock Point, estimated to cost £20.9bn and generate 16.8TWh/year or some 4.4% of UK electricity.

 

New Scientist Map of short list
Original long list of options

The five projects selected were those that the government’s engineering consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff, deemed to be based on the most proven technology. Proposals for tidal reefs and tidal fences were not included. The former would involve a series of slow-moving, fish-friendly turbines over a purpose-built causeway in the estuary while the latter would involve building only a partial barrier between Cardiff and Weston-Super-Mare. Both these proposals are acknowledged as having minimal impact on the local environment.

There were allegations that Parsons Brinckerhoff miscalculated the costs of a tidal lagoon project championed by Friends of the Earth. The report sent by the consultants to ministers stating the tidal lagoon option would be eight times more expensive than the barrage scheme and would not generate as much power, claims denied by the designers. David Elliott, of the energy and environment research unit at the Open University, also stated that a single big barrage would be problematic in terms of harnessing energy since it would only provide two short bursts of power every day. He considered that several smaller tidal turbines around the coast, operating at different times, would be a better solution. Likewise the RSPB was disappointed that the Cardiff-Weston barrage option was on the short list, considering that the final scheme must be the one that generates as much clean energy as possible, while minimising harm to the estuary and its wildlife. They considered that the barrage would destroy huge areas of estuary marsh and mudflats used by 69,000 birds each winter and block the migration routes of countless fish.

The Partial Impact Assessment of Severn Tidal Power prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change compares the five projects against the “do nothing” option, which was considered to be the generation of electricity from Combined Cycle Gas Turbines and other options for meeting renewable energy and GHG targets. It also stated that there may be a regional economic cost to ports and to local fishing, additional environmental costs from the loss/damage of habitats and species, reduced ‘ecosystem services’ including negative effects on biodiversity and harm to fish stocks.

Because of these issues and others, the Sustainable Development Commission, the UK Government’s independent watchdog on sustainable development, set out three ‘sustainability tests’ which a Severn tidal power scheme should pass:

  • It must be publicly led as a project and publicly owned as an asset, in order to avoid short-termist decisions and ensure the long-term public interest
  • It must go ahead in full compliance with EU Habitats and Birds Directives, which will require assessment of mitigation and compensation on a scale as yet unseen in Europe
  • Any tidal power scheme must not divert Government attention away from much wider action on climate change

The Severn Tidal Power Consultation phase closed on the 23rd of April 2009. For information on the second phase of the study, please visit the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Severn Tidal Power Feasibility page, or the Welsh Assembly Government’s Severn Tidal Power page.

Note: It is not the intention of the Severn Estuary Partnership to take any position regarding the debate about tidal power in the estuary, merely to provide a resource on the subject. About us. The different groups on the estuary and their various websites are easily viewed from the Severn Estuary Gateway.

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