New initiative to look at potential for Severn Estuary tidal scheme

Experts from across the UK have met for the first time as part of the new Severn Estuary Commission to re-examine the potential for a world leading tidal energy scheme.

The commission has also published a new report from the consultants WSP explaining why there is now a case to re-examine the potential of the estuary to deliver sustainable energy.

The estuary is home to the highest tidal range in Europe and the third highest in the world.

The potential for harnessing this tidal power has been the subject of discussion for decades, with some estimates suggesting it can provide up to 7% of the UK’s electricity needs.

With many unsuccessful proposals in the last 25 years and areas of international importance for wildlife, the report acknowledges that there are still significant challenges.  However, it also highlights the emergence of new routes to financing large infrastructure programmes and an increasing pressure to find new sustainable and reliable forms of energy as reasons to explore the issue again.

The meeting took place at the Senedd brought together the Severn Estuary Commissioners, Welsh and UK Government officials, and local leaders.

Andrew Bowie MP, UK Minister for Nuclear and Renewables, said: “It is great to see the Western Gateway partnership launching this new commission to explore the potential of the Severn Estuary. The government has already laid out our commitment to seeing tidal power become a key part of the UK’s next generation of renewable energy projects and provide secure reliable sources of energy for the UK.”

The Severn Estuary Commission was launched by the Western Gateway, the Pan-Regional Partnership for South Wales and Western England, which brings together business, local authorities, universities and governments from both sides of the Severn.

The commission comprises a diverse group of experts from scientific, engineering and environmental backgrounds and their findings will be presented back to the partnership to help shape future Government policy on both sides of the Severn.

Dr Andrew Garrad, chair of the Severn Estuary Commission and recent recipient of the Queen Elizabeth award for Engineering, said: “The Severn Estuary Commission represents a pivotal moment in the area’s collective pursuit of sustainable energy solutions.

“There is still much which needs to be considered and evidence to be reviewed in order to decide whether there is now a viable option to harness the awesome power of the Severn Estuary. Following considerable past attempts, our mission is to navigate the complexities, balance environmental concerns, and unlock sustainable opportunities that will define the future of energy in the Severn Estuary.”

Cllr Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff Council and Western Gateway Board Member said: “This work has already received support from both UK and Welsh Governments with both acknowledging that the time is right to look again at tidal energy from the Severn. After much work behind the scenes I am glad to see this work get underway. Cardiff is proud to host this launch event, and we look forward to the positive impact the commission’s work will have on the region.”