Following the UK Government's recent approval of a new feasibility study into the Severn Barrage tidal project, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) - the government's independent advisory body - has said the scheme must meet tough conditions if it is to go ahead.

In its report ‘Tidal Power in the UK’ released today, the SDC says the conditions it would need to meet in order to considered sustainable include public leadership and ownership of the project, and full compliance with environmental legislation protecting the estuary. The Commission also outlined how a commitment to creating compensatory habitats should be seen as an environmental opportunity, combining climate change adaptation with coastal realignment plans to deal with increased risk of flooding.

The Commission’s report draws on extensive research and public and stakeholder engagement to reach the conclusion that, the UK’s outstanding tidal resources could provide at least 10% of the country’s electricity through a combination of technologies. A Severn barrage alone could potentially supply just under 5%.

The SDC conditions for a Severn Barrage outlined in the report are:

* The project must be publicly led as a project and publicly owned as an asset to avoid short-termist decisions and ensure the long-term public interest.

* Full compliance with European Directives on habitats is vital, as is a long-term commitment to creating compensatory habitats on an unprecedented scale

* Development of a Severn Barrage must not divert Government attention away from much wider action on climate change

The report also highlights the fact that the lower rate of interest available to a Government-led project would provide the only realistic way of financing a large-scale compensatory habitat package, as well as providing electricity to consumers at a competitive price.

‘The Sustainable Development Commission is issuing a challenge to Government to embrace a new way of managing this major project,’ said Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the SDC. ‘We are excited about the contribution a Severn Barrage could make to a more sustainable future, but not at any cost.

‘It is vitally important that all parts of Government – including the Welsh Assembly Government and the South West Regional Development Agency – are actively involved in the project, to ensure that work is fully integrated into regional economic and development plans.’

The Commission warns that the development of major tidal power resources should not be seen as a licence to ignore the need for dramatic reductions in our energy consumption, increased energy efficiency, and the wider decarbonisation of our energy supplies.

A barrage would be only one part of a major long-term sustainable energy strategy for reducing carbon emissions. Reviewing the different types of tidal technology, the report asserts that the way is open for the UK to exploit all some or all of its rich tidal resources for tidal barrages, tidal lagoons or tidal stream devices.

To view a fully copy of the report, visit or click on the link below.

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External weblinks

Tidal Power in the UK report – Sustainable Development Commission