Today's Energy Select Committee Report on the Severn Barrage is disappointing. The Committee are clear that they would support the creation of the Barrage on the Severn estuary subject to the fulfilment of certain environmental, social and economic criteria.
Following the publication of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee report questioning the case for a Severn barrage, Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath and long standing campaigner for the barrage, gives his response.
Today’s Energy Select Committee Report on the Severn Barrage is disappointing.
The Committee are clear that they would support the creation of the Barrage on the Severn estuary subject to the fulfilment of certain environmental, social and economic criteria. And indeed the need to meet these criteria is acknowledged in the 140 page business plan submitted by those behind the project, Hafren Power.
For the truth is this project has now come as far as it can without government backing. The outline plans are in place, the massive £25 billion from private investors – the biggest by far of any private investment in Britain – is on standby but won’t be around forever.
The government now need to take the lead if they are serious about wanting the Barrage to succeed. Positive noises, and ‘no in principle objections’ aren’t enough any longer.
The Severn Barrage doesn’t require any government funding. But any project of this scale does require intervention and genuine interest from ministers. I have always said such a major infrastructure project, so critical to our future energy supply and economy, cannot be managed entirely by private sector, even if that is the sole funding source.
Sadly the government have yet to show the same enthusiasm for the Barrage as they do for new nuclear power. No environmental impact assessments or other costly reports were produced before the government expressed in principle support for new nuclear, even before sites were chosen.
Indeed, EDF Energy’s environmental impact assessment for the new nuclear build at Hinckley was only produced – at enormous cost, some £800 million – after the government had backed it. Otherwise EDF would never have committed these huge funds. Why should the government treat the Barrage any differently? Unless it has an agenda to favour nuclear and shale gas over renewables.
This is an incredibly important project – promising 50,000 jobs to build the biggest ever clean green energy supply in Europe, capable of supplying fully five per cent of UK electricity.
It has all manner of benefits: jobs and investment to depressed areas of South Wales and the South West; increased energy security; a flood protection barrier against storm surges; over its 150-plus year lifespan, cheaper electricity half-to-three-quarters cheaper than gas, oil, coal or wind.
And it is the only project capable of harnessing the awesome power of the Severn: other forms of tidal energy could deliver only a fraction of the barrage’s energy.
I have today asked the secretary of state for energy to take a lead on this project within government. Ed Davey needs to work with Hafren Power to satisfy the select committee’s concerns as I am fully confident it can do.
Unless he does so soon, this project is going nowhere. I have spent the past year trying to persuade the government to make a decision. The ball is now in its court.
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