Government launches feasibility study for £14bn tidal barrage in Severn Estuary

Plans for a £14bn tidal barrage in the Severn Estuary have moved a step closer to fruition with the launch of a government feasibility study today.

The study will examine the potential environmental, social and economic advantages of harnessing the tidal power of the Estuary.

The most popular technology to do this would be a 10-mile barrage or hydro-electric dam. The Sustainable Development Commission recently estimated such a dam could generate up to 5% of the UK’s electricity needs for up to 120 years.

In terms of scale, the construction of the barrage would be comparable to the building of Crossrail. Up to 35,000 jobs would be created, and it would take more than five years to build.

The government study will take two years to complete, after which there will be a full public consultation. At the earliest, construction would start in 2010.

The feasibility study has been launched in the same week the UK will be given an official requirement to generate 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The European Commission is set to announce the 20% target for each of its members this week. Meeting the target, it says, will cost around 0.5% of each country’s GDP, which in Britain’s case is £7bn.

The UK currently lags some way behind the rest of the EU, generating just 2% of its energy from renewable sources. The construction of the Severn barrage would go some way towards addressing the balance.