Severn Barrage: Conservation versus Green Energy - putting the record straight


Professor Woudhuysen’s provocative article deserves a response. When he accuses the ‘Greens’ of having a phobia of major projects, he should consider the real facts regarding the Severn Barrage. Consider why only one significant but small 40 year old barrage has been built in the world – La Rance in France. And in the Bay of Fundy, where the world’s greatest tidal range exists, the Canadian Government has after many years’ study completely rejected the building of a tidal energy barrage on the grounds of unacceptable community damage.

Perhaps he should also study the report by IPA Energy and Water Consulting which analyses the poor efficiency levels and the prodigiously high cost of barrage energy – more than twice that of wind power. The tidal windows are narrow, 5.5 hours out of every 24, so we are provided with electricity on a massive scale at the wrong time to service the grid.

It is not really that difficult to see what a rotten deal a barrage would represent for the 3 million living around the Severn. It is likely to destroy in short order the Maritime Community focused around Bristol and the surrounding ports. DTZ in a report commissioned by the Government, but not yet made public, puts the economic damage at £500 million, with thousands of jobs lost.

Now, as if this were not enough, let us turn the target of Professor Woudhuysen’s attack, the ‘Greens’ as he rather deprecatingly describes the large environmental NGOs, such as the RSPB, National Trust, World Wildlife Fund and the Environment Agency. The Professor makes a mockery out of the claims to protect bird and fish environments.

But we will run out of energy in 2015 not because we needed to or because we put birds and fish before human life, but because hopeless indecision on the part of Governments to build new power stations has left us with too much reliance on gas and coal power stations that have been deliberately run down. The idea that a Severn Barrage will produce what we need when we need it is economic illiteracy. No experts believe that, even if the Barrage won planning assent, it would be open for generating until after 2020.

All the NGOs and the “Stop the Barrage NOW” campaign support renewable energy and the use of technology to harness the tidal energy of the Severn, but not with devastating and irrecoverable environmental damage as a consequence.

So, Professor, take care before you accuse others of “ignorance” in defence of the natural environment. In the case of the Severn Barrage, we do not need any more consultancy studies to tell us that the project fails on social, economic and environmental grounds, unless of course you are in the extreme “save the world”, climate change camp, where our natural environment must be sacrificed to rescue us all.

If you would like to view the article written by Professor Woudhuysen, please click here

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