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Tidal Power (Severn Estuary)

Volume 518: debated on Thursday 11 November 2010

11. What assessment he has made of the effects on local employment levels of his decision not to pursue tidal technologies in the Severn estuary. (23154)

A Severn tidal power scheme could create jobs in Wales and south-west England during construction and operation. However, it could also cause job losses in the Severn estuary’s ports, fishing and aggregate extraction industries. We are talking to interested private sector developers and remain absolutely committed to supporting the growth of a successful UK tidal energy sector.

Is it not extraordinary that the Energy and Climate Change Secretary can go from being anti to pro-nuclear in a matter of days, yet abandon tidal power for Britain? The Severn estuary has the potential to create 5% of our energy needs and create 100,000 jobs. How does that square with the Prime Minister’s promise to put tidal energy at the top of his so-called green agenda?

The right hon. Gentleman put it correctly in his own blog, when he said:

“In an ideal world, we would all like to see the scheme that has the potential to provide the maximum amount of renewable energy and the least environmental impact in other ways”.

But that might not be possible. We have looked at the costs, the environmental consequences, the benefits it would bring, the alternative schemes and the resulting diversion of capital, and we have decided that other tidal mechanisms would be better.

What role did the environmental impact assessment have in the final decision not to proceed, and what lessons can be learned from this process?

It was part of the process, but it was not the whole process. We have also looked very carefully at the costs: the main barrage would cost more than £30 billion. We looked at the amount of subsidy that would require now, and believed that it was not the right way forward.