Select committee report concludes Hafren Power proposal lacks detail and comes with “high risk” of environmental damage

Hafren Power's Severn barrage scheme

MPs have slammed plans for a £25bn Severn Barrage scheme and said “far more detail” is required before the government can support the project.

Developer Hafren Power has claimed the scheme, which is being drawn-up by engineers Mott MacDonald, URS, Bechtel and Arup, would generate 16.5 terawatt hours per year of electricity, enough to meet 5% of the UK’s electricity needs.

But today’s report by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change committee said the case for the scheme was “unproven”.

Conservative MP Tim Yeo, chair of the committee, said it was “no knight in shining armour for UK renewables”.

He said “innovative solutions” were needed to decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply.

But he added: “Tidal and marine projects must demonstrate their economic, environmental and technological credentials and their ability to gain stakeholder support. The Hafren Power proposal failed to achieve this.”

The report concluded the environmental impact of the barrage was “very considerable” and there was “a high risk of unintended and possibly damaging consequences”.

It said there were still “serious questions” to be answered on the ability to provide replacement habitat for wildlife which would lose their habitat is the barrage.

The report also said the cost of the electricity was likely to be “considerably higher” than Hafren Power had estimated. The developer has said it would need to agree with the government a guaranteed price of around £100/MWh for the next 30 years under the government’s reforms of the energy market.

Plus, it said the company’s expectation that a Hybrid Bill for the scheme could be passed within two and a half years was “completely unrealistic”.

It added: “We note that the Hybrid Bill route does not offer an open and fully accountable process for stakeholders and affected parties.”

It also said there were “serious questions remaining” about the impact of the barrage on shipping in the area due to changes in water levels.

The report said the lack of information from Hafren Power had led to “a sense of mistrust on the part of some stakeholders”.

Tony Pryor, chief executive of Hafren Power, said the report was “unhelpful and frustrating”, but that he was aware there was more work to do.  

He added: “The government has already told us it is not against the barrage and we are determined to press ministers and officials to engage fully.  We believe the environmental and economic issues can be solved with everyone working together.”