Speaking in Bournemouth at the Labour party conference, Hutton described the barrage as a “truly visionary project”.
Current barrage proposals are led by proposals from the Severn Tidal Power Group. This was formed in 1981 as a joint venture between Balfour Beatty, Taylor Woodrow, Sir Robert McAlpine and Alstom.
The £14bn scheme is expected to supply up to 8.64GW of power - equivalent to two nuclear power stations or 5% of total UK electricity demand.The 10km long structure would harness the estuary’s 20m tidal range to drive turbines and would also carry a road and rail line across the water.
The new government-funded study will examine this scheme and many other electricity generation proposals for the estuary such as the smaller £1.65bn Shoots barrage promoted by Parson Brinckerhoff. It will also assess the viability of tidal power at other sites around the UK and report on the likely cost of schemes and their environmental, social and economic impacts.
Conservative shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said that while she welcomed any study into tidal power, the Government’s approach to renewable energy to date had been too limited.
“This review must also consider the use of tidal lagoons in areas such as North Wales and deliver practical solutions to the problem of climate change,” she said. “Any proposals to harness the energy of the Severn estuary must have public support and take into full account the environment of the area.”