HC Deb 05 March 1980 vol 980 cc207-8W
Mr. Waldegrave

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what progress has been made by the Severn Barrage committee.

Mr. John Moore

The Severn Barrage committee, formed in August 1978 under the chairmanship of the Department of Energy's chief scientist Sir Herman Bondi, to advise on whether to proceed with a scheme for harnessing the tidal energy of the Severn Estuary has made an interim progress report, and the text of that report has today been placed on the Libraries of both Houses.

Its initial conclusions are that it is technically feasible to build a barrage at a range of positions in the estuary, as far seawards as areas to the west of Minehead. The committee has been able to select two possible alternative barrage lines for single basin ebb generation schemes. The westward scheme, which fully develops the energy potential of the estuary, runs between Minehead and Aberthaw. The easterly scheme, between Weston-super-Mare and Cardiff, may be the most economic possible in the estuary. An assessment of double-basin schemes is continuing. Solutions to some of the potential environmental problems have been identified although much work in this area remains to be done. Opportunities for recreational developments have been noted. The economic calculations of the costs and benefits are subject to large uncertainties, but although it has been shown that the output from a given sized barrage could be sub- stantially greater than was previously thought it still appears unlikely to produce electricity at competitive costs when compared with generation using nuclear reactors, at present day costs. It might, however, be more nearly competitive with electricity generated from fossil fuels if fossil fuel prices continue to rise in real terms.

Further work is needed to complete the pre-feasibility study so as to highlight the main environmental and engineering questions which still need to be answered. It is intended that the main body of this work should be completed in the course of the present year and a further report will then be issued.