Renew On Line (UK) 49

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 148 March-April 2004

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Innovation Review- Beyond wind
2. Marine Energy Challenge
3. 35,000 jobs by 2020 ..but UKERC is delayed
4. Security of Supply…BBC turns the lights off
5. Government pushes ahead with renewables and carbon trading
6. Wind costs and benefits
7. ‘No’ to the Severn Barrage
8. Stalling on Micro-CHP and VAT
9. Mini-Hydo project blocked, Biofuels still pushed
10. Europe Roundup: Germany gets it right
11. World Roundup: wave power hits US, 100% renewable Japan
12. Nuclear News: Waste haunts Italy, who will get ITER?

7. No to the Severn Barrage

In January there was a debate on tidal power in the House of Lords.  Lord Hooson kicked off calling for a full study of the feasibility and cost of harnessing the tides in the Severn estuary, since he was not sure we could rely on wind power to meet the UK’s 10% by 2010 renewable energy targets.  He was backed by several other members of the House, although some, like Baroness Miller were more interested in the less invasive options of tidal current turbines and tidal lagoons. But rounding off the debate Earl Attlee argued that  ‘If the Government are so set against exercising the nuclear option, they must look at alternatives.  Very little else offers the energy density or the reliability of the Severn barrage,’

Responding, the Minister, Lord Sainsbury , noted that ‘since 1998 we have committed more than £50 million to research and development on wave and tidal energy devices’ (although later on he is quoted as saying  £15m)  but he  saw wind power as the main immediate option for reaching the UK’s 10% target. Already existing renewables and already consented wind projects should supply 3.7% and ‘the new wind farms announced last month for the second offshore licensing round, if all built, will produce a  further 5.4 to 7.2 gigawatts, which is about 5% of the total electricity generated.’  But the government ‘was also working hard to expand and bring forward wave and tidal-stream technologies. Although those technologies are prospects for the longer term, they have huge potential to supply a significant proportion of the country’s future energy needs and in turn make a significant  contribution to our emissions reduction targets....  The UK is blessed with one of the best marine resources available anywhere in the world. Our immense wave-power resource is alone estimated to be at least 120 gigawatts, which is enough to meet peak electricity demand twice over. In recognition of that potential, the Government have put in place a framework of support to help industry to develop the technologies. Since the Government introduced a wave-energy programme in 1999, great strides have been made in the development of marine systems. We have already seen the deployment of two full-scale tidal-stream prototypes at sites in Lynmouth, Devon and the Shetlands, and we expect in the near future to see the testing of a full-scale wave-energy device at the UK’s marine energy test centre in Orkney. The centre is a further example of  the support provided by the Government in the marine renewable area, and will be invaluable in the commercialisation of marine energy devices.’ He claimed that the governments support had ‘helped the UK become clear world leaders in this field and we intend that this position is maintained. The Energy Bill which is progressing through your Lordships’ House at present will put in place a legal framework to  facilitate wave and tidal projects beyond territorial waters when these technologies are ready to move into commercial development.’

Turning to the Severn barrage he noted that ‘in the energy White Paper, the Government recognise the longer term potential of large scale barrage schemes. But such schemes have a substantial impact on the local and regional environment and are very expensive. We concluded that it was clear that the plans for a Severn barrage would raise strong environmental concerns and would not be fruitful to pursue at this stage. There are, therefore, no plans to set up any further study of the feasibility and costs of a Severn barrage scheme.’  He went on ‘I recognise that that is disappointing to many noble Lords, in particular but not exclusively to those who see the barrage as a great opportunity for Wales and the south west. On the face of it, the Severn barrage has the attraction of having the potential to contribute between 5 and 6% of the UK’s electricity and, therefore, to achieve around a quarter of the Government’s 20 % aspiration for renewables [i.e. by 2020- ed], much more than any other single renewable project. But extensive research, partly funded by the Government, has already evaluated the potential for generating electricity from tidal barrages. The Severn was the largest of the potential projects studied and the total cost of the Severn evaluation programme was over £8m of which the Government contributed £4.8m. This programme ran from 1978 to its completion in 1994. That evaluation concluded that the cost of the Severn barrage was not attractive compared with other energy options. Potential non-energy benefits were seen as relatively small as was the potential for reducing the costs’.  He added ‘The case for a Severn barrage has been re-examined fairly recently and the Government have reached the same conclusion: that the project is not attractive compared with other options.’ 

He was also dismissive of the tidal lagoon option, on the basis of cost.  See  Renew 149 Reviews  section for a full report.

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