Feasibility Study Conclusions
The Government has concluded that it does not see a strategic case for public investment in a tidal energy scheme in the Severn estuary at this time, but wishes to keep the option open for future consideration. The decision follows consideration by Ministers of the evidence gathered during a 2 year feasibility study to assess whether, and on what terms, Government could support a tidal energy scheme in the Severn estuary.
The decision has been taken in the context of wider climate and energy goals, including consideration of the relative costs, benefits and impacts of a Severn tidal power scheme, as compared to other options for generating low carbon electricity. The outcome of the feasibility study does not preclude a privately financed scheme coming forward in the meantime, and Government is talking to private sector consortia and individual companies about their ideas, and discussing with the Commission how to comply with European environmental legislation.
The decision not to rule out a scheme in the longer term recognises the significant UK resource that the Severn estuary presents. The huge 14-metre tidal range of the Severn estuary - one of the highest in the world - represents a renewable, predictable resource with the potential (through a tidal power scheme) to generate up to 5 percent of the UK’s electricity needs, and so potentially make an important contribution to the UK’s renewable energy targets and wider climate change and energy goals in the future.
The feasibility study report, which summarises the study conclusions, can be downloaded from the links below, together with the main supporting documents.
The Government received a total of 35 responses to the publication of the conclusions and the supporting reports, which can be summarised as follows:
- The early responses were mostly short emails from engineers and others who were critical of the decision not to go ahead with a large Severn barrage, though there were a couple who agreed with the decision and complimented the study team on its transparent and inclusive approach.
- There were half a dozen substantive responses from serious organisations, i.e. the Environment Agency, Countryside Council for Wales, RSPB, WWF, Bristol Port Company and Parsons Brinckerhoff, plus a couple of fairly detailed responses from individual engineers. The EA, CCW and WWF said that work should start now to address the significant uncertainties and data gaps, e.g. flood risk management and modelling of far-field effects; detailed baseline monitoring of distribution of species and habitats; study of fish behaviour and movement in the estuary; and assessment of measures to prevent and reduce possible impacts. CCW, WWF, RSPB and PB all called for Government to provide further support for innovative and environmentally benign technologies.
- The Government welcomes these responses and will keep them on record, but it does not see a case to change the decision announced in October.