High water

Just before Parliament broke up, we had the Annual Energy Statement in the Commons from Chris Huhne, which was mostly dominated by discussion of nuclear power and quite how he’d manage to square being in charge of implementing a pro-nuclear energy policy whilst still being against it. I was called right at the end, and asked about the curious omission of any mention of the Severn Barrage. I must admit I misheard the SoS’s answer: I thought he said they were ‘committed’ to the Feasibility Study, which I thought was a strange choice of words. But he said they’re ‘considering it’ and a written answer from his junior Minister confirms that an announcement is expected to be made soon. (See below for both).

I’ll be writing to Chris Huhne on Tuesday, urging him not abandon the project. I’ll also be tabling a parliamentary question, asking when we can expect an announcement. (I hope, if it’s bad news, it’s not sneaked out when Parliament isn’t sitting). Yes, there are environmental concerns about the building of the barrage and also economic concerns from the port authority, but these can be overcome (e.g. by looking at lagoons instead).

If the new Government is serious about renewable energy – and it’s cited by the Libs as one of the things that they’ve put firmly on the Government agenda, whenever they try to justify being in bed with the Tories – then they ought to be serious about tidal power in the Severn estuary too.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East, Labour)

I was somewhat disappointed that although the Secretary of State made fleeting reference to marine energy, he had nothing to say about tidal power in particular and the potential to exploit it in the Severn estuary. Can he confirm his commitment to the Severn barrage feasibility study, and can anything be done to accelerate it so that we can have an answer sooner rather than later on whether it can go ahead?

Christopher Huhne (Secretary of State, Energy and Climate Change; Eastleigh, Liberal Democrat)

The hon. Lady can rest assured that we are considering the Severn barrage feasibility study and will make an announcement in due course with our response.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what progress has been made on the Severn Barrage Feasibility Study.

Charles Hendry (Minister of State (Renewable Energy), Energy and Climate Change; Wealden, Conservative)

We are currently considering the recommendations from the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study and expect to report our conclusions shortly.

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