Save Severn Tidal Energy
So the greenest government ever has bottled out of the Severn Barrage, potentially the UK’s biggest renewable project. What a negative way to announce this. The big Cardiff to Weston Barrage may not be the best option and too expensive but we must find a way to harness the power of the Severn tides. And we can’t delay in exploring all the options.
Lots of work has been done in starting to figure out the impact on the birds and marine life, the sediment, the port and the economy. Trade unions have their concerns about a bloody big dam but the work has drawn out alternative ways to generate power from the second highest tidal range in the world. This should not be put on hold for the next decade while we build new nuclear and gas stations.
Any of the ideas would create thousands of jobs in construction and some seem to offer less damage to the estuary environment.
As the previous Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy commented:
The tides of the Severn Estuary (up to 14 metres) are among the highest in the world. The potential of Severn tidal power is being investigated through the cross-Government Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study. The study is considering a number of possible scheme options to generate electricity from the tides of the Estuary, ranging from a £21 billion barrage between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare that could produce 5% of UK electricity, to a £2.3 billion 625 MW option supplying around 1% of electricity.
Yet the new government has not even bothered to summon the wide range of partners in Wales and the South West who have been meeting to consider the ideas. Business groups in South Wales have described the Government’s decision to axe plans for a tidal barrage in the Severn Estuary as a huge blow to the economy.
Without such coordination and broad support how can we give confidence to potential investors and developers? How will we coordinate the other renewable energy initiatives in the Bristol Channel such as the Atlantic Array wind farm that needs new port facilities if local jobs are to be created or the wave hub who’s main sponsor (the South West RDA is being abolished).
Perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much that the Local Enterprise Partnerships that will partly replace RDAs won’t have a statutory obligation to promote sustainable development as RDAs do. The process of setting them up is such a mess and most of the Severn Estuary looks set to be a LEP-free zone. Let’s not lecture the Chinese over their need to develop low carbon energy when we fail to make the most of our own natural power sources.