Sustainable Development Commission report finds that tidal scheme could generate 4.4% of Uk electricity supply

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has announced its findings on an evaluation of proposals for the Severn Barrage. It states that a barrage in the Severn Estuary could supply 4.4% of UK electricity supply (17TWh), generating power for over 120 years.

The SDC has laid down a series of conditions that any Severn Barrage would have to meet in order to be considered sustainable. These state that any proposed project must be publicly-led and owned to avoid ‘short-termist’ decisions and ensure the long-term public interest.

Full compliance with European Directives on habitats and birds is also vital, as is a long-term commitment to creating compensatory habitats and further investigation of the environmental opportunities that might exist for combining climate change mitigation with a habitat creation package that responds over the long term.

The Severn Estuary is the second greatest tidal range resource in the world and developing a Severn Barrage would result in significant climate change and energy security benefits. However, the barrage would have a major impact on the local environment, with the loss of up to 75% of the existing internationally protected inter-tidal habitat.

There would also potentially be impacts on local communities and the regional economy, as well as a high risk that unsustainable ancillary development alongside any barrage project.

The SDC’s recommendations come as part of a larger report investigating the UK’s options for tidal energy generation. Within the report, eight potential schemes for the Severn are considered, ranging from the largest Cardiff Weston Scheme, stretching between Cardiff and Weston-Super-Mare, to a much narrower barrage often called the English Stones or Shoots Scheme, situated near to the Severn Crossings. Cost, environmental and energy production implications vary dramatically depending on the scheme built.