Severn tidal scheme abandoned over cost and risk

The Government has dropped plans for a major tidal scheme in the Severn estuary after a feasibility study warned it would be costly and require public sector investment.

Tidal projects could also damage wildlife and affect flood defences and local industries such as fishing and ports, the study into five potential schemes showed.

The key conclusions of the report were that a renewable scheme in the estuary, which has the second-largest tidal range in the world, could cost as much as £34 billion, and was "high cost and high risk" in comparison to other ways of generating low-carbon electricity. Such a scheme was unlikely to attract the necessary private investment in the current financial climate and would require significant input from the public sector.

Over the whole of an estimated 120-year lifetime, a Severn tidal power scheme could be a cost-effective way of meeting long term energy targets, but in most cases renewables such as wind, and nuclear power, represented better value. And a scheme in the Severn could not be constructed in time to contribute to the UK's target to generate 15 per cent of all energy from renewables by 2020.

The report estimated construction times would be between four and nine years depending on the project, after getting planning consent, while time would have to be spent creating new habitat to address the environmental impacts of a scheme. The study warned such impacts would be "unprecedented" in an environmentally sensitive area, which is protected under EU and UK designations.

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