MPs pour cold water on latest Severn barrage scheme

14 June 2013

Plans for a £25 bn hydro-electric barrage in the UK's Severn Estuary should not go ahead in their current form, says a committee of the country's members of parliament.
Hafren Power's proposal involves the installation of 1026 turbines within an 11 mile dam across the Bristol Channel between Brean, near Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, and Lavernock Point, near Cardiff.
But MPs said Hafren had failed to make the case that it would be good for the economy or the environment. The firm responded by calling the MPs' verdict "unhelpful and frustrating", adding that the proposal was incomplete and that the company had more work to do. The committee says the UK government should remain open to considering a project in the Severn but "far more detail and evidence" would be required to make an informed decision about Hafren Power's proposal.
"The report is unhelpful and frustrating - we all know we have a lot more work to do and we will do it" said Tony Prior Hafren Power chief executive. "The government has already told us it is not against the barrage and we are determined to press ministers and officials to engage fully. We have a team of experts, consultants and engineers, ... to discuss how we can provide the correct mitigation for the impact the barrier will have."

In its report, the House of Commons' Energy and Climate Change Committee criticises a "lack of information and a perceived lack of transparency" about the proposal. The case for the barrage is "unproven" and Hafren Power "has yet to provide robust and independently verified evidence of the economic, environmental and technological viability of the project", it says.
The Committee warned about the potential of job losses in nearby ports, and concluded that the scheme is no "knight in shining armour" to meet renewable energy targets, although supporters of the scheme argue the tidal barrage could generate 5% of the UK's electricity. But conservation groups have warned about the impact on the local environment and on wildlife habitats, and these are concerns that the company had "failed to overcome", the report says.
Committee chairman Tim Yeo said: "We think the effects on wildlife could be very damaging. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that these impacts will be very, very hard to alleviate."
In an interview with BBC Radio Wales he said: "The report does acknowledge that there is the potential to generate energy here. Indeed, we suggest that it might be worth exploring a smaller scheme initially where the impact would be less dramatic."
The Bristol Port Company (BPC) welcomed the report, saying MPs had "killed off" the barrage. The firm told the committee that the barrage would be bad for businesses because it would lose about two metres of depth of water, restricting its capacity for deep-sea vessels.


Community investment plan
A £2 million community share offer has been launched to give people in the South West of England and Wales the opportunity to invest in an alternative, a proposed £700m 100 MW marine energy project in the Bristol Channel.

Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay) Plc says it wants to build a tidal lagoon in the Severn which it says would be a 'lower risk, lower impact' construction than the £25billion tidal barrage plans from Hafren Power. It would be located near Swansea on the Welsh side of the water.
CEO Mark Shorrock said: "The share offer is a high risk investment as the proposed funds raised, being £10million in total, will be spent on the development phase. There is no guarantee of securing development consent or securing construction finance thereafter, which is expected to be in the region of £650-750million."

 



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