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Hendry cool on new plans for Severn Barrage energy scheme

Energy minister Charles Hendry this week said he was unconvinced by private plans to develop the Severn Barrage scheme.

Hendry: “Too much subsidy needed”

Hendry said the barrage would need too much government subsidy and so could not be part of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) plans.

Hendry told NCE that the latest proposals for the scheme would still require £5bn of government funding through subsidies and that there were cheaper ways for the UK to achieve its renewable energy targets.

Decc dropped plans for a Severn Barrage last year after concluding it would rely too heavily on public funds and that it was too risky given that there was no guarantee that the scheme would get planning permission.

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Decc said the fact that the cost of the Cardiff to Western-super-Mare scheme had spiralled from £15bn to £34bn in just two years was a major reason for pulling its funding.

But many engineers remain convinced that building the Severn Barrage is one of the best ways to help the UK to meet its carbon reduction commitments. They cited its predictable tidal flows and its close proximity to the national grid.

Consultant Halcrow submitted a revised proposal to Decc last week claiming that it would need no public funding.

Halcrow’s scheme has been developed with consultant Arup and accountant KPMG through private firm Corlan Hafron. It is claimed that it will be financially viable if given the same level of subsidy as the Thanet offshore wind farm near Kent.

Consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff is also developing plans for a Severn Barrage. The firm conducted the government study into building a Severn Barrage scheme.

The government is not expected to revisit any Severn Barrage proposals before 2015, after the next general election. “We’re happy to see other people develop it,” Hendry told NCE. “But we can meet our [carbon reduction targets] without it.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • The Mersey Barrage is another barrage scheme crying out to be built. Far more efficient and durable than the wind farms. Just give the barrage schemes the same subsidy as wind gets and private finance will follow.

    I attended a talk this week about recent moves to get a Mersey scheme moving and the proponents have reached exactly the same conclusion as the previous study 20 years ago - highly buildable but can't progress because the government wont support it.

    A sad indictment on all the politicians who pretend to support our indiginous industies but actually go for the easy option and throw our money abroad at every turn.

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  • Surely even the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee is sufficiently capable of asking the obvious questions and comparing the obvious benefits?

    1. What subsidy is needed for the Barrage to provide the same unit power generated total cost over say 50-100 years comparable to the similar unit power cost from Offshore Wind Farms including for all O&M and Replacement Works, Cabling from Turbine to the Grid, Gas Turbine Standbys for no/low wind condition constraints, and increased Gas Turbine powewr costs for varying inefficient matching of outputs with Wind Turbine.
    2. What hidden benefits are provided by the Barrage in terms of reduced overall UK unit power costs by having the Barrage as a reliable base load power generator with no added standby's needed due to its manageable and forecastable power output provided from know future tides.
    3. What additional benefits are possible, even now, from the Barrage - for instance by providing an additional Severn Rooad or even Rail Crossing at relatively little additional cost - something that 40- 50 years ago would have avoided the need for the two very expensive Severn Bridges?

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