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.
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.”