Energy white paper – tidal barrage

Tidal barrage proposal
Image: BBC

UPDATE: 5pm –

The following has been taken from a BBC summary of this afternoon’s ‘energy statement’ from the Mr Darling ;

*He said tidal power was “in its infancy” but the government wanted to encourage its development.

*He said there had not been enough research done on the benefits of reducing carbon emissions using tidal power, with all the emphasis placed on the negative impact on the immediate environment on the River Severn and other areas where wave power could be harnessed.

Full BBC summary of Energy Statement here.

Original post: 7am

Today a statement by trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling in the Commons will outline plans for the future of UK energy. It is widely expected that this will include the construction of up to 15 new nuclear power stations, mainly on old nuclear power station sites. Even more interesting is a motion to look at the potential for building a £14bn barrage that would harness the tidal energy of the Severn Estuary.

Stretching from the coast near Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, the barrage could supply 5% of the UK’s electricity, according to supporters. But some environmentalists fear the 10 mile (16km) barrage would have an impact on wildlife and their habitats.

The idea of a barrage has been mooted in different forms since it was first proposed in 1849. In 1981, the first major study of the environmental impact of such a scheme was carried out with further research in 1989. Last week, 24 MPs signed an early day motion calling on the Government to urgently reappraise the idea.


*The barrage would be 16km (10m) long
*It would power more than 200 turbines
*Planners say it could create 35,000 construction jobs and
between 10,000 – 40,000 permanent jobs
*The barrage could be generating electricity within 11 years, say planners

Read more.

This would seem a sensible and workable proposal and possibly worth the environmental impacts, which include local ecosystems and aggregate supply.

This entry was posted in Climate change, Energy, Nature & Conservation, Nuclear, Politics, Pollution, Sustainablity, Technology, Water, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Energy white paper – tidal barrage

  1. Dave On Fire says:

    … possibly worth the environmental impacts …

    Yeah, possibly. These impacts won’t be taken as serious as the economic side of things, though. With global warming and peak oil, there will be a move away from fossil fuels – but the need for eternal growth in consumption is still hardcoded into our economic system. As such, we will see huge growth in renewables that aren’t necessarily any more environmentally friendly than the old coal plants. Hydroelectric dams and wave farms are particularly suss, as they essentially destroy what are some of the most biodiversity-rich habitats. A tidal barrage is probably okay, but we should certainly not take it for granted that enough scrutiny is being applied to environmental impact.

  2. Stephan says:

    The environmental impact of such a scheme would, I believe, be too high.

  3. matt says:

    Even compared to other energy options? Wonder if anyone has done a comparison.

  4. Pete Smith says:

    Comparisons might be difficult. The Severn estuary is a unique site, not just within the UK but internationally. Of course, its 15 meter tidal range (highest in the world? Someone will correct me no doubt) is what makes it so attractive as an energy source. The huge area affected by the proposed scheme makes it impossible to avoid environmental impacts. The mud flats have European Environmental protection status, while long stretches of coast on both sides are important breeding and feeding grounds for birds.

    Back to comparisons: how do you compare a 10 mile barrier blocking a West Country river estuary with a nuclear power plant on a shingle beach in Kent?

  5. earthpal says:

    The barrage proposals are being looked at, so I believe, by the Sustainable Development Commission who will publish their report later this year. The energy potential is said to be massive and would be the equivalent to three nuclear power stations.

    The Green party held a Working Group on this issue and has voted against it.

    Devil. Deep Blue Sea. There’s always a price to pay.

  6. matt says:

    The Green Party; they would rather everyone powered their houses by cycling madly in their living rooms connected to a dynamo ….

    I’ll check out the SDC.

    Absolutely there’s always a price to pay. A huge concrete barrier, effectively a dam visually, wouldn’t be pretty. Maybe we could commission some art by Banksy. 🙂

  7. earthpal says:

    yes, Banksy would make it worth looking at. I’d rather look at a dam than a dirty, great big, steaming nuclear plant.

    The Green party….are any of the main three parties offering anything better?

  8. matt says:

    Regards comparisons, if 3 nuclear power stations equivalent is correct then that’s a start but, comparing a renewable to nuclear is complex. What’s the variable? Carbon? Cash? Waste issues? EIA?

    Any thoughts!

  9. Pete Smith says:

    The original point about comparison was to do with environmental impacts, which are virtually impossible to compare like-for-like because each site is different.
    Criteria such as emissions have to calculated over the entire life-cycle of the project. There’s so much scope for creative accounting, for example ignoring the emissions generated in mining and refining nuclear fuel, and in transporting wastes to disposal points. Wiould the barrage have a road link over it? If so, there may be transport emissions savings from shortened journeys.
    All these centralised projects are so massive and costly, they have to last for decades, making future cost comparisons very tricky. After all, it’s only the recent hikes in electricity prices that have made the Severn project a viable proposition on cost grounds, although it’s been on the back burner for years.
    Although it’s interesting that increasingly the government uses the discourse of “security of energy supply” to justify its actions, rather than “climate change” or “the environment”. Pushing the blame onto foreign energy suppliers makes it easier to justify costs.

  10. Pete Smith says:

    Having mulled this over a bit, I think the barrage v nuke comparison is a bit of a herring rouge. It’s probably inevitable that the Severn tidal energy will be exploited sometime somehow, so we should be concentrating on the wide range of options available for that site and picking the ‘best’.

  11. matt says:

    I think you’re correct in line of thought Pete. Not sure government and other groups will look at this way though. (Must look up SDC but no time just now.)

  12. Pete Smith says:

    There’s an interesting document at This is a transcript of an SDC Tidal Power Stakeholder Workshop held in Cardiff at the end of March 2007. Lots of costs/benefits of the barrage and the other solutions such as tidal lagoons, from a wide range of interested parties. Makes you realise just how complex this kind of project is.

  13. matt says:

    Thanks Pete,

    From your document link;

    Contact for discussion on any points in the document-

    Name: Winsome Grigor
    Direct Line: 0207 632 0108

    Outline agenda
    – Welcome and introductions
    – Overview of today
    – Meeting other stakeholders
    – Presentation on tidal technologies
    – SD aspects of different technologies
    – Government roles in supporting tidal power
    – Presentation on concepts for the Severn
    – Stakeholder views on concepts for the Severn
    – Conditions for acceptability for tidal power
    – Overview of the day and evaluation
    – Closing remarks from SDC

    Stakeholder list is all inclusive. From FOE and Fisheries & Angling Conservation Trust through to Defra, Cardiff University & Institute of Civil Engineers and all other interested parties in between.

    Seems a sensible approach to decision making and brain storming such a massive project.

  14. matt says:

    And we need a name for this new barrage of endless energy.

    I hereby name this barrage QUEEN ELIZABETH I 🙂

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