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Energy: Severn Barrage

Volume 707: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Ed Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to the launch of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study in January 2008, I am pleased to inform the House that the Government have today issued a public consultation on the conclusions of the first phase of the study.

The huge, renewable resource of the Severn estuary tides is a means of generating nearly 5 per cent of UK electricity. It can contribute to meeting the UK’s renewable energy targets and the progressive decarbonisation of our electricity supply. But Severn tidal power must be considered in the wider context of alternative options as well as its impact on the environment and the economy. Energy saving, and other low-carbon and renewable sources of supply are all means of achieving our goals. The consultation makes the comparison to these alternatives.

Tidal power development in the Severn estuary has benefits, costs and risks, and the consultation paper sets out a provisional assessment of these in order to promote an open public debate. Studies by external consultants are published today alongside the consultation paper, including technical and engineering assessments, advice on financing and ownership structures, an assessment of regional economic impacts, and initial studies on environmental impacts.

The consultation seeks views on:

the process used to move from a long list of potential schemes (following a call for proposals last summer) to a shortlist of feasible schemes;

the proposed issues for further investigation by the feasibility study, including the scope of strategic environmental assessment; and

the proposed shortlist of

Shoots Barrage—(1.05GW scheme located downstream of the new Severn road crossing with an estimated construction cost of £3.2 billion);

Beachley Barrage—(625MW scheme further upstream of the first Severn road bridge with an estimated cost of construction of £2.3 billion);

Bridgwater Bay lagoon—(1.36GW impoundment on the English side of the estuary with an estimated construction cost of £3.8 billion);

Fleming Lagoon—(1.36GW impoundment on the Welsh bank of the estuary with an estimated construction cost of £4.0 billion); and

Cardiff-Weston (Lavernock Point to Brean Down) Barrage—(8.64GW scheme, commonly known as the Severn Barrage, with an estimated cost of construction of £20.9bn).

The Government are keen to continue to consider other innovative schemes. However some of those that have been submitted to the feasibility study are not sufficiently developed at this point for more detailed evaluation. We hope to see these develop further with the benefit of government financial support and new public funding of £500,000 is being made available (in addition to existing support) to speed their development. The Government will consider their progress alongside shortlisted schemes before taking decisions on Severn tidal power generation.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries and are also available at: http://severntidalpowerconsultation.decc.gov.uk. The consultation period is 26 January to 23 April 2009.

I expect to hold a further public consultation at the end of the feasibility study, probably in 2010, to seek public views on whether government could support a Severn tidal power scheme and if so on what terms. This will include considering the development of alternatives to the shortlisted scheme which are not currently sufficiently technically developed for further evaluation. The option remains open not to proceed with any scheme.

A meeting of the Severn tidal power Parliamentary Forum is being held at 5 pm this afternoon in the Large Ministerial meeting room.