Britain re-emerges for massive tidal power plan amid Ukraine crisis

An aerial view of the Severn Estuary from 2010.

Jimmy Cooper | Sspl | Getty Images

An independent UK commission will review the possibility of using the estuary of the River Severn, a large body of water between England and Wales, to harness tidal energy.

The commission will be formed by the Western Gateway Regional Comprehensive Partnership, which covers West England and South Wales.

“It’s time to look again at what could be an incredible source of clean, green energy on our doorstep,” Jane Mudd, vice president of partnership and president of the Newport City Council, said in a statement Tuesday.

Maud added that the commission would have “the expertise and independence it needs to explore whether the use of the Severn estuary to create sustainable energy is feasible and viable.”

Catherine Bennett, president of the West Gate Partnership, said it has been known for some time that Severn has “enormous potential to create clean renewable energy.”

According to a research published by the Institute of Civil Engineers in 2016, The output from the Severn tidal range could be around 25 TWh per year, or “about 7% of UK energy needs.”

While there is enthusiasm about the prospects for tidal power, the latest offering is in its very early stages and any project would require significant levels of investment.

“No decisions have been made about what a potential Severn power solution might look like or whether any development will be developed,” Western Gateway Partnership said.

The idea of ​​harnessing the tides at the Severn Estuary for power generation has been mooted for many years. This is because the tidal range – a term referring to Elevation difference between tides – It is one of the largest in the world, reaching a height of 14 meters.

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Despite this huge resource, the projects never started. Back in 2010, the UK government said it “does not see a strategic case to introduce the Severn tidal power scheme in the near term”.

The government added that “the costs and risks for the taxpayer and energy consumer would be prohibitive compared to other low-carbon energy options.”

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The creation of the new commission comes at a time when concerns about Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas have come into sharp focus in the wake of last month’s invasion of Ukraine.

Huw Thomas, a member of the Western Gateway board of directors, acknowledged that previous tidal power schemes had not received support from the UK government “because of the perceived requirements for high levels of public investment and concerns about the environmental impact on certain areas of the Severn Estuary.”

“However, the changing landscape of the climate emergency, energy insecurity, rising costs, and rapid technological improvements suggest that many of these policies, cost and environmental barriers may not be as important,” Thomas, who is also Cardiff City Council leader, told the council.

In comments published by the Guardian on Tuesday, Michael Gove, British Foreign Secretary for Settlement, Housing and Communities, gave his support to the committee.

“The Russian invasion has heightened concerns about energy security and costs,” Gove was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

“Sustainable forms of energy cannot come soon enough. The launch of an independent commission on tidal energy for Severn is very welcome news.”

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Tidal power has been around for decades – EDF’s The history of the 240MW La Rance tidal power plant in France dates back to the 1960s – but recent years have seen a number of new projects emerge.

In July 2021, a tidal turbine weighing 680 metric tons Grid power generation started At the European Center for Offshore Energy in Orkney, an archipelago just north of mainland Scotland.

In October, it planned a £1.7 billion (about $2.24 billion) project in the UK that would include technologies Including underwater turbines It has been announced.

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