16 Jun 2008

Severn Barrage: not the way to go

Fulljames Plan Rendering

A new report released last week by Frontier Economics has found that the Severn Barrage is “expensive compared to other renewables and that the government could use cheaper green technologies in its attempt to meet its renewables targets.” All this adds to the growing evidence that a barrage is not the way to go.

Photos: two different concepts for the Severn, a century and a half apart. Thomas Fulljames' idea (top) and one of several of the more recent I have seen (bottom).As noted here I have been delighted so far by our District Council, who have raised concerns about this project - like the impact it would have on Slimbridge and concerns that alternatives to the barrage like tidal lagoons get properly considered. I have also raised the issue re the way the study is being dne for the Shoots barrage (see here).

Tidal Power More Expensive Than Other Renewables
Anyhow this study released last week, was commissioned by the Royal Society for 10 environmental groups including the Protection of Birds, the National Trust and WWF-UK. It found that the £15 billion project would be far better spent on more proven technologies such as wind, hydro or solar. Matthew Bell, the report's author is quoted saying: “Even using the most conservative estimates of costs, the barrage is one of the most expensive options for clean energy there is.”

What’s more, the report came to its conclusions without even considering the environmental impact on the sensitive local ecology. According to David Mussbaum of WWF-UK “Financial support for an expensive, inflexible and highly damaging technology like the proposed Severn barrage would not be a good use of taxpayer’s money.”

Let us now hope that options like Tidal Lagoons will get their fair share of attention: they seem to offer a less ecologically damaging way forward.

Plans to Harness the Severn Have Long History
Proposals for harnessing the power of the Severn estuary go back a long way - in 1849 Thomas Fulljames suggested damming the river to build a shipping harbor and for flood control! Since then at least a dozen proposals or studies have looked into the feasibility of generating electricity from the Severn. The most recent is the 10-mile long barrage from Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare which would generate 8.6 GW of 'clean' power and meet around 5% of Britain’s power needs. Although some 5m tonnes of CO2 will be emitted during construction and another 5m tonnes emitted during transport of the materials.

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