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U.K. $39 Billion Tidal Barrage Plan Not Economic: Report

A plan to build a 25 billion-pound ($39 billion) tidal dam-like structure to generate as much as 5 percent of the U.K.’s power doesn’t provide value for money and may pose a risk to the environment, a government report found.

Hafren Power Ltd. failed to show the economic, environmental and technological credentials of the proposed 18-kilometer (11-mile) barrage across the Severn estuary, Tim Yeo, chairman of Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee, said today in an e-mailed statement. The committee “cannot recommend” the project as it stands, he said.

“While a tidal barrage could offer decarbonization and energy-security benefits, the Hafren Power project in its current form has not demonstrated sufficient value as a low-carbon energy source to override local business and environmental concerns,” Yeo said. The impact on jobs is unclear and the company failed to answer environmental concerns sufficiently about the project near Bristol, he said.

While the facility would be funded privately, it would still require government support for about 30 years through guaranteed payments for the electricity it produces. Its ability to compete with other forms of renewable energy is “questionable,” according to the statement.

A smaller tidal project to boost understanding and provide evidence before ramping up to a larger facility like this plan from Cardiff in South Wales to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset should instead be considered, Yeo said.

Hafren ‘Determined’

Hafren Power is “determined to press ministers” to engage fully, Tony Pryor, its chief executive officer, said in an e-mailed statement. “The report is unhelpful and frustrating --- we all know we have a lot more work to do and we will do it.”

The environmental and economic issues can be solved with everyone working together, he also said.

“Unlike smaller schemes, only a barrage can harness the full power potential of the estuary and do it economically,” Pryor said. “It will also be much cheaper and last much longer than offshore wind farms, which have high levels of public subsidy.”

An earlier proposal for a Severn barrage was axed in 2010 because of its cost to public finances. The government said in May 2011 that the Severn was open to private projects as Britain strives to get 15 percent of its power from renewables by 2020 from about 9.4 percent now.

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