Should we build the Severn Barrage? – Surely a no brainer!

[Update: this project has been refined and the Swansea Tidal Lagoon has now been given the go-ahead. Read more here.]

Some disappointing news today, after it emerged that a Governmental Select Committee rejected the plans for a £25bn barrage on the Severn Estuary.

The Energy Issue Facing the UK

In the UK, we have an impending energy crisis, with much of our electricity generating capacity due to go off line within the next 5-10 years (mainly coal and nuclear). Unfortunately demand is not going to drop off in the same way, in fact, despite increased energy efficiency via schemes like the Green Deal, new energy efficient appliances and even more efficient modes of transport, demand is expected to rise ever so slightly over the coming years.

The result not enough power to meet demand.

How the Severn Barrage could help

The Severn barrage would take advantage of the tidal stream on the River Severn to produce 5% of our energy requirements. That is not just 5% of our renewable requirements – that is 5% of our total energy requirements (equivalent to 3 or 4 nuclear reactors). That is an enormous contribution to our energy cause, but that is not the best part.

Since we are running out of North Sea gas at a rate of knots and shale gas is going to produce a fraction of the gas requirements that our Government would lead you to believe, it appears that importing fuel to power our country will be the only way to keep the lights on.

Unfortunately, in this position we are very much bent over a barrel, since we will become so reliant on these imports we will have to pay whatever the exporters deem necessary.

If we were to go ahead and build the Severn Barrage, then we would be producing from just one structure, fuel free, dependable electricity. Unlike other renewables that are intermittent (like solar only producing power when the sun is out), tidal is different. The tides are very predictable – they can be predicted many years into the future and Hafren Power have estimated that this particular barrage would be able to produce power for an average 15.25 hours per day and its lifespan would be 120 years or more, therefore it would be ideal to supply baseline power to the grid.

Of course there are environmental things to consider here, birds will need to find new feeding grounds and the designs need to incorporate ways to allow fish to move freely up and down the river still, but the potential to produce all this power must surely be realised.

This doesn’t even consider the number of jobs this has the potential to create – this would be the biggest construction project since the Eurotunnel adding an estimated 20,000 UK jobs. The funding for the barrage will also come from private investors and Sovereign wealth funds, meaning that their will be no additional hit to our public finances.

A boost to the economy, less reliance on importing fuel to power us and a predictable renewable energy source, flying in the face of all those anti-renewable folk who hate seeing a wind turbine not spinning…

So I for one, am incredibly hopeful that in the near future Hafren Power get the go ahead to build the power plant. We have too much to gain from this barrage for it to be consigned to the scrapheap.