U.K. Urged to Approve $40 Billion Severn Tidal Power Plans

The U.K. should push ahead with a 25 billion-pound ($40 billion) plan for a barrage generating electricity across the Severn Estuary, a lawmaker said.

The project may be able to generate 5 percent of the U.K.’s power for more than a century and create as many as 50,000 jobs, said Peter Hain, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party whose constituency in Wales would be near the facility.

An earlier blueprint for the development was axed in 2010 because of its cost to public finances. The government said May 2011 the Severn was open to private projects as Britain chases a goal of getting 15 percent of its power from renewables by 2020.

New proposals to build a barrage by Hafren Power Ltd. wouldn’t require any money from the U.K. Treasury, Hain said.

“This is natural power which in the long term will produce incredibly cheap electricity for the U.K. and has many other benefits like flood protection,” Hain told a hearing of the Energy and Climate Change Committee today in Parliament in London. “This has been studied to death. We can carry on researching to our hearts content for decades to come. You’ve got to think big, act big and grasp this opportunity,” he said.

The Hafren plans, put to Prime Minister David Cameron in July, involve an 11-mile (18 kilometer) barrage from Cardiff in South Wales to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset. Its 1,026 turbines would generate power on tides as the sea rises and falls.

Barrage Plans

Earlier plans garnered criticism from environmental groups including The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for encroaching on mudflat and saltmarsh habitats. The latest plans would be less disruptive by using turbines that would be more “fish friendly” than previous plans, according to Hain.

Power output may match that of three or four nuclear power stations or 3,000 wind turbines, said Hain, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet to campaign for the project. The lawmaker said today he had no commercial relationship with Hafren Power.

The plans may also spur about 20,000 construction and 30,000 manufacturing and service jobs in nine years, as well as saving billions of pounds in flood protection, he said. The proposals would be able to obtain approval in a year with government authorization through a so-called Hybrid Bill.

Hafren Power will seek a subsidy, ultimately levied on consumer bills, in line with that awarded to offshore wind projects, Hain said. Hafren couldn’t immediately be contacted for comment. The company said in August that it would seek investors for 20 percent to 25 percent of the project.

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