Renew On Line (UK) number 71

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 171 Jan/Feb 2008
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Brown: 'More Renewables’ -  new policies?

2. Smart Green Tory Growth -Competitive REFIT

3. Ducking the EU 20% target- OFGEM on RO

4. Marine Energy Race - Tidal and wave power

5. Tidal Barrage reactions- FoE challenge SDC

6. Britannia to rule wind- lots of projects

7. Climate Change Bill, ETF, HIPs & EPCs, Green Retail  

8. Worldwide developments: 74GW of wind, marine projects

9. EU Developments :EU-ETS caps Biofuels debate, REFIT

10. Nuclear Developments: UK plans, Japan’s nuclear shake up

5. Tidal Barrage reactions 

The conditional support given by the Sustainable Development Commission to the Severn Tidal Barrage (see Renew 170) led to a lot of objections. Some were on basic environmental lines, but some also pointed to what they saw as better alternatives.

The RSPB said that its construction ‘will cause the emission of 10m tonnes of carbon. Greenhouse gas savings will be substantial in the long run, but those savings could be too late to avert the damage of climate change. It would be far better to spend the £15bn to £20bn the barrage will cost on measures that will cut emissions more quickly. The Severn estuary is an irreplaceable refuge for wildlife.’

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), whose Slimbridge Wetland Centre is on the banks of the Severn, said: ‘WWT fully backs a shift toward low-carbon energy sources and recognises the potential benefits of harnessing the power of the massive movement of water in and out of the Severn Estuary each day. However the construction of a huge dam across the estuary could have a massive environmental impact on this delicate ecosystem and the wildlife that depends on it. There are alternative methods of harnessing that tidal power and WWT is calling for fair and balanced assessment of all the options and implications for the estuary’s international conservation importance so the best deal can be struck for people and wildlife.’

Friends of the Earth also came out noisily against (seebelow), and Plaid Cymru has also opposed it- something which caused some  confusion since it’s Labour's coalition partner in the Welsh Assembly.

Jonathon Porritt, SDC chair, writing in the Guardian (3/10/07), was  more sanguine, although he was aware that views were fiercely polarised. On one hand there were the engineers and enthusiasts, on the other eco-NGO’s and statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency, who argued that it would breach EU directives.  Steering through these positions, he said the SDC took a ‘conditions-led’ approach and asked: ‘Is it feasible in engineering terms? We believe it is. Is it feasible in financial terms? We believe it is, though not without big strings attached. And can it be done in a way that is completely compatible with those EU directives? We believe it can, even though there will be significant environmental impacts.’  

The SDC’s final condition was that ‘the government should not proceed with a Severn barrage proposal unless it accepts upfront that this is going to be publicly led as a project, and publicly owned as an asset. Crucially, this would also enable the use of the kind of very low discount rate that Sir Nicholas Stern recommended in his climate change report earlier in the year, which would in turn deliver not only a highly-competitive cost of electricity from the barrage, but enough financial resource to fund the compensation package, which needs to be built into the capital cost right from the start.’  

But there was no hint on where the money should come from- some sort of PFI ?  

Porritt said he saw tidal current turbines as ‘very different from tidal barrages, but equally significant in scale. We reckon another 5% of the total UK electricity demand could be met by tidal stream, though getting it into the grid from off the north coast of Scotland is going to be quite a challenge.’  But, on tidal lagoons he said ‘unfortunately, there is little evidence to indicate just how big a contribution lagoons might make and we have recommended that a pilot scheme should be undertaken’.

Emission savings? Only 0.92% 

The SDC’s report says that, overall, tidal schemes might supply up to 10% of UK electricity, about 5% from barrages and 5% from tidal current turbines. That’s worth having. But, when looked at in detail, its analysis of the Severn barrage is not quite so positive at it seems at first glance. For example, it admits that, given the variable cyclic pattern of tides, its average ‘capacity value’  would  only be  ‘around 20-23%’ and it calculates that, assuming it displaces new gas fired CCGT which would otherwise produce 90tC/GWh, it would avoid the emission of 1.5 mtC p.a., which as a percentage reduction in carbon emissions is only 0.92%  compared to 1990 levels. Not a lot for £15bn.  The case for lagoons and tidal current turbines as better alternatives was made regularly during the SDC’s consultation exercises- we will review that process in Renew 172 and the full SDC report in Renew 173.

On economics, the SDC report says that at an 8% discount rate, the barrages ‘lie at the  higher end in comparison to other low carbon technologies; at 15%, they are well above the costs of all other technologies except wave power, but using low discount rates of 2 or 3.5% a barrage becomes highly cost-competitive’. But surely the others would be even more so then?

See:  http://baconbutty.

The SDC report is at

FoE challenge SDC’s Severn Barrage proposals 

Friends of the Earth said it was ‘alarmed at the pro-Severn Barrage recommendations published by the Sustainable Development Commission’. FoE expressed ‘disappointment that the Commission proposes a scheme that would be publicly funded. Due to its high generating cost of 9.2p per kWh the Barrage would be nearly three times the cost of large tidal lagoons.’

Instead FoE is calling for a comprehensive study of tidal lagoons and a smaller barrage on the Severn (Shoots barrage), and rejected the SDC’s recommendation that a feasibility study should be focused on the Severn Barrage- only looking at alternatives if the barrage failed key tests. FOE has identified six main reasons why tidal lagoons would be a better option than a Severn Barrage, as set out in a comprehensive report:  

* Lagoons are far more efficient- they could produce up to 60% more energy than the Severn barrage 

* Lagoons are much cheaper- they would generate electricity at about half the cost of the barrage (3 p/kWh versus 6 p/kWh) 

* Lagoons would not impede navigation- unlike the Severn barrage, which could significantly reduce freight trade entering the UK via the Severn ports, Avonmouth and Portbury. This would have adverse knock-on effects on Bristol, and strain capacity and transport links at other UK ports 

* Lagoons  would  not  destroy  an  internationally important habitat- unlike the Severn barrage, which would destroy the feeding grounds of tens of thousands of birds and damage the legally protected Severn Estuary

* Lagoons would integrate well with other renewable energy schemes- unlike the Severn barrage, which would need expensive stand-by capacity to cope with the huge twice daily pulses of power that would not synchronise with the daily variations in grid demand 

* Lagoons would be compatible with a Shoots barrage near the Second Severn Crossing, which could provide flood defence and a strategic rail link from London to south Wales, avoiding the aging Severn tunnel 

Neil Crumpton, FoE Energy Campaigner and author of the group's Severn Barrage Report, said: ‘The Sustainable Development Commission is saying that the Severn Barrage would be a flagship project- leading the UK’s investment in renewable energy. Yet to seriously damage an internationally important wildlife site in order to generate less than one percent of the UK’s energy consumption is not the way to lead the world in sustainable development. We urgently need to promote renewable energy initiatives but they need to be the right ones. A combination of large offshore tidal lagoons, possibly in combination with a Shoots barrage or barrier, could produce more energy with more flexibility at much less cost and environmental damage. That’s why we propose that such schemes are considered in any further Severn studies, as an alternative to the Severn barrage.’

For FoE’s Barrage report summary, and the full FoE report, go 

*We hear that a 4.6 sq mile tidal lagoon scheme is being considered in Canada in a 17 meter tidal range.

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