Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has scrapped a multi-billion pound scheme for a barrage stretching from Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset to Cardiff which would have generated enough electricity for 5% of the UK’s homes.
The barrage – a similar construction to a dam – would have cost more than £30bn and has been talked about for decades.
Wildlife campaigners will welcome the scrapping of the scheme, but it is a further blow to those advocating further use of renewable energy. Two renewable energy quangos were abolished last week and a £60m initiative to upgrade ports in the north east to cope with wind turbine cargoes is also hanging in the balance of Wednesday’s Spending Review.
A case study on the barrage found that there was no strategic case for major public sector investment in a large-scale energy project in the Severn estuary. It found it would be very costly to deliver and very challenging to attract the necessary investment from the private sector alone.
The Severn Tidal Power feasibility study showed that a tidal power scheme in the estuary could cost in excess of £30bn, making it high cost and high risk in comparison to other ways of generating electricity. The report did recommend that a Severn tidal project should not be ruled out as a longer term option if market conditions change, but noted significant uncertainty over complying with regulation and that a scheme would fundamentally change the natural environment of the estuary.
Mr Huhne said: “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.”