Severn Barrage Faces Barrage of Criticism

27 June 2008

An ambitious project to place a barrage across the Severn river, which potentially could generate 5% of the UK's electricity, has come under sustained criticism in a report published of 12 th June by consultancy Frontier Economics for a coalition of green groups.

The project was expected to take 14 years and cost £15 bn, accroding to government figures, with the barrage running North-South from near Cardiff to close to Weston-super-Mare.

The independent report, for 10 environmental groups including RSPB, The National Trust, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, WWF-UK, says that the barrage will be more expensive than planned, damage the environment, and destroy important wetlands, which would have to be restored elsewhere. It also concludes that the money would be better spent on existing alternative energy projects, which would be less damaging, and less likely to have large cost-overruns than a state sector project.

Frontier assessed the justification for public funding of a large Severn barrage and compared its cost with the cost of generating the same amount of energy in the UK using other renewable technologies.

Variable carbon trading prices, the youth of tidal technology, the high cost of a barrage and the risks to private investors, were not sufficient grounds for state involvement in a large barrage, the study found.

The report shows the barrage to be expensive compared to other renewables and that the government's renewables target could probably be met using cheaper green technologies. 'Considerable new evidence would be needed to make a large barrage in the Severn estuary an attractive option,' Frontier say.

Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB, said: 'There are good reasons for trying to harness the energy potential of the Severn estuary. But the estuary is truly exceptional for its ecological value. The Sustainable Development Commission has already confirmed that a barrage would fundamentally change the nature of the Severn Estuary. Frontier's report shows that this exorbitantly expensive and massively damaging proposal cannot be justified on economic grounds - there are simply too many cheaper options for clean energy generation.'


Analysis of the Severn Barrage


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