The Secretary of State for Energy, Chris Huhne announced on Monday that the government will abandon its plans to invest in the controversial Cardiff-Weston Barrage project, in a bid to save between £10-30 billion of taxpayers money. If the project were to go ahead, the barrage would stretch nearly 10 miles from Lavernock Point, west of Cardiff, to near Brean Down in Somerset. The plans have been ditched in favour of investment for 8 nuclear power stations, and technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), which are considered to be more “financially viable” and have greater possibilities for development and export to rapidly growing nations. In a press release from DECC , Mr Huhne said:
“The Severn Tidal Power feasibility study clearly shows that there is no strategic case at this time for public funding of a scheme to generate energy in the Severn estuary. Other low carbon options represent a better deal for taxpayers and consumers.”.
” We urgently need investment in new and diverse energy sources to power the UK”.
“We’ll need renewables, new nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage, and the cables to hook them all up to the grid as a large slice of our current generating capacity shuts down.”
Wildlife campaigners from the RSPB, Friends of The Earth Cymru and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, which have consistently opposed the barrage plans on the grounds of potential environmental destruction, are said to be delighted.
However, supporters of the tidal project claim that it could have met up to 5% of the UK’s electricity needs, but has been thrown off course by “environmental fundamentalism”. Senior welsh officials have spoken out on believe that scrapping the project- which could potentially provide thousands of ‘quality green jobs’- will have an equally devastating effect economically.
Some environmental groups have reacted harshly to the news, on the grounds that it jeopardizes the likelyhood of the government’s energy strategy meeting commitments to supply thousands of green jobs, and tackle future climate change. Jim Footner, senior energy campaigner for Greenpeace , added that: The economics just don’t add up. Nuclear power is hugely expensive, and there’s no way any more reactors will be built in the UK without a taxpayer hand-out.”.
However, the DECC report also indicates that the project could become financially viable in future, and as such could not be ruled out indefinitely.