It’s got a lot going for it in that respect.
There are big questions over its impact on the ecology of the Severn Estuary, serious questions. These need balancing I think with the bigger ecological impacts of not doing enough to combat climate change.
But put that all aside for a minute and assume the Barrage is on balance a good thing to build.
At the same time the government spends £3 Billion per year on cash grants to pensioners and the fuel poor – people defined as spending 10% or more of their income on fuel. The electricity industry spends another £0.7 Billion, under pressure from the government of course.
At roughly £4 Billion – it’s a huge sum of money to spend each year. Especially to fight a losing battle, because energy costs are rising faster than standards of living – and there’s no end to that in sight.
Indeed as world energy prices rise, the amount that needs to be spent rises – just to stand still. And on two fronts – grant costs go up as energy bills go up and the number of qualifying homes goes up too.
It’s a thoroughly unsustainable situation.
And worse still (IMO) the current £3 Billion of public money goes straight into the pockets of the big six energy companies and from there to shareholders and global energy speculators. This annual £3 Billion achieves nothing but short term alleviation of a problem that just won’t go away, and won’t even stand still.
There’s a far better way to handle this – by building the Severn Barrage using public money!
And each year instead of giving cash grants – give fuel to the fuel poor.
The numbers more than stack up.
Almost £4 Billion per year saved at today’s energy prices – that’s about twice what the annual repayments of a £15 Billion loan would be if repaid over a pretty rapid 15 year period.
So we (the country) would be quids in on day one, about £2 Billion of them.
Fifteen years later, with the debt paid off – £4 Billion quids in – and that’s at today’s energy prices..! If energy prices only double in 15 years (a conservative scenario since they doubled this year..!) the surplus in year fifteen of this plan would be £8 Billion. But that’s not all:
The surplus energy, not given to the fuel poor – would be worth about £30 Million at today’s prices and the Barrage would generate a huge ROC income – some £850 Million per year. Plus LECs and REGOS, making a grand total further cash generation of £1 Billion, give or take. And all at today’s prices.
That’s £3 Billion annual cash surplus on day one – a conservative £9 or 10 Billion some fifteen years later – and that’s per year every year.
But that’s still not all:
The Barrage could power 5 million homes, that’s enough for all the UK’s ‘fuel poor’ the official and unofficial estimates – and some spare. And we’re not talking partial grants here, we’re talking total electricity needs met. A bigger help to the fuel poor than today’s ‘system’ – roughly twice as much help.
So the Barrage would wipe out fuel poverty, a long-standing government aspiration, do so in a way that is insulated from future fuel price rises, and generate a large revenue surplus to spend on other infrastructural projects – District heating for example.
Not to mention contribute 4% to the 40% national green electricity target (so 10% of the target) and save a shed load of CO2 into the bargain.
The only losers in this will be the Big Six, boo hoo… 🙂
The failure of the banking system, for that read capitalism and ‘free markets’, opens the door to a new possibility – government intervention once more in issues that are of vital strategic (societal) importance. Like Energy.
The Government should become an energy generator (once again), stop paying huge sums to the big six each year (in cash grants), insulate itself, us and the fuel poor from future fuel price rises, take a massive step towards our national CO2 targets, end fuel poverty completely and permanently – and generate a shed load of money for other infrastructure and sustainable development into the bargain – year in year out.
What are we waiting for? I’ll get my bucket and spade…
More info on the Severn Barrage
- The Sustainable Development Commission report on tidal energy, “Turning the Tide” is a great starting place. The report examines in-depth the proposition for a Severn Barrage and also the possible application of tidal range, tidal stream and tidal lagoon technologies at other sites around the UK.
- BERR’s F.A.Q. about Severn Tidal Power. This covers plans for the government’s feasibility study and various systems such as tidal barrages and lagoons, plus answers most questions. Everything from how much it will generate to flood protection. The only problem with this site is that it is all text and could do with a few pictures!
- The Wikipedia Severn Barrage article is a good springboard in various directions (including negative aspects), but like all Wiki articles you just have to remember that anyone could have written this stuff. On the up side, it does have some pictures which is a bonus.
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