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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 15th July 2013

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

Energy and Climate Change Common's Select Committee Second Report - A Severn Barrage?

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             The purpose of this report is to advise Cabinet of the outcome of the Energy and Climate Change Commons Select Committee's public consultation into the potential for a privately financed Severn Barrage.

Recommendations

1.             That the contents of the report be noted.

2.             That the report be referred to Planning Committee and Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee for information.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To advise Cabinet of the Commons Select Committee Severn Barrage consultation.

2.             To advise Planning Committee and the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee of the recent public consultation.

Background

2.             Cabinet may recall my report of the 12th November 2012 which endorsed a response to the Energy and Climate Change Common's Select Committee to their public consultation into the provision of a privately financed Cardiff to Weston Barrage, the Severn Barrage.

3.             That report outlined the recent chronology in respect of obtaining tidal power from the Severn Estuary including the UK Governments finding of the feasibility study (October 2010) and consultation into Severn tidal power, which concluded that of all the schemes investigated despite its high capital cost of approximately £34 billion the Cardiff to Weston barrage scheme offered the best value for money.

4.             The Government however concluded that while there was not a strategic case for public investment of the scale required to facilitate a tidal barrage across the Severn at that time it did not preclude a privately financed initiative coming forward.

5.             In response to privately financed proposals being promoted by a consortium called Corlan Hafren, the UK Government established the Commons Select Committee to investigate the proposals and to examine the potential for the project to deliver low-carbon electricity to the UK and the likely cost to consumers as well as the potential impacts on wildlife and local employment. At the time of launching the inquiry there were no details of the new proposals in the public domain however the Consortium, which has since dissolved and reformed as Hafren Power Ltd, suggested that private financing for a Severn Barrage may be available but only if it is supported by the proposed Contracts for Difference Mechanism i.e. long-term instruments that provide stable and predictable incentives for companies to invest in low-carbon energy generation schemes.

6.             Hafren Power's proposal was for an 18km fixed tidal barrage between Brean in England and Lavernock Point in Wales. The barrage would consist of 1,026 Very-Low-Head (VLH) bi-directional turbines, generating approximately 16.5 TWh/year on both ebb and flood tides which would allow for a closer replication of the natural tide system in the Severn, together with a turbine design which Hafren Power suggested will optimise "fish-friendly" characteristics, which together constitute the primary differences to the 2010 Cardiff-Weston proposal and which form the basis for claims about environmental mitigation. Hafren Power claimed that the £25 billion required to fund the project would come entirely from private sources. However in practice, Government support would be required over a 30-year period through Contracts for Difference (CfD) or a similar mechanism.

7.             The Committee invited written evidence from interested parties and my report of the 12th November 2012 which outlined the concerns of the Vale of Glamorgan in relation to the development of a Severn Barrage was submitted as evidence to the Select Committee. A copy of the 12th November 2012 report is attached at Appendix 1.

8.             The Energy and Climate Change Committee published its final report 'A Severn Barrage?' (HC 194) on Monday 10 June 2013 and the summary, conclusions and recommendations of the report have been reproduced at Appendix 2. The full report is available at  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmenergy/194/19402.htm

Relevant Issues and Options

9.             In summary, the Select Committee concluded that the evidence presented to it left the case for the Hafren Power barrage proposal unproven and that Hafren Power had yet to provide robust and independently verified evidence of the economic, environmental and technological viability of the project. The overall socio-economic impact of the scheme remains uncertain and in its current form, Hafren Power's proposal failed to address environmental and commercial concerns in enough detail to allay the concerns of stakeholders and the wider public. Crucially, Hafren Power had failed to demonstrate that the project could offer value for money for the consumer in line with other low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear and off-shore wind.

10.        Nonetheless, the Select Committee concluded that the Government should remain open to considering any marine project in the Severn which is able to comply with the requirements of the relevant EU and UK legislation - including a potential barrage scheme. While recognising that a project that would deliver renewable energy on the scale that Hafren Power's proposal aspires to could be the 'knight in shining armour' that the UK energy mix needs and that harnessing the energy of the Severn would offer significant decarbonisation and energy security benefits, the Select Committee considered that far more detail and evidence about Hafren Power's proposal would be required before an informed decision could be made. In its present form, with a very wide range of uncertainties remaining, the Select Committee could not recommend its approval. The Select Committee also concluded that smaller-scale projects may face fewer legislative barriers, while still contributing to energy and climate change objectives and to the development of the marine renewables industry.

11.        Therefore, while the current likelihood of a privately financed Severn Barrage proposal has been discounted, a future proposal in the Severn Estuary which safeguards the environment provides low carbon energy and complies with all relevant EU and UK legislation remains an option.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

12.        There are no resource implications to the Council as a result of the publication of the Energy and Climate Change Commons Select Committee report on the Severn Barrage Consultation.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

13.        There are no immediate Sustainability and Climate Change implications as a result of the publication of the Energy and Climate Change Commons Select Committee report on the Severn Barrage Consultation however future proposals for the winning of low carbon energy from the tidal range of the Severn Estuary should be monitored and reported to cabinet where appropriate.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.        None arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

15.        None arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

16.        None arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

17.        None arising from this report.

Policy Framework and Budget

18.        This report is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        All ward members have been consulted on this report. In addition all Town and Community Councils have been advised of the publication of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee Report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

20.        Economy and Environment

Background Papers

Severn Estuary Tidal Power Feasibility Study

Contact Officer

John Marks: Tel 01446 704629

 

All Heads of Service

Operational Manager Legal - Committee Reports

Senior Accountant

Operational Manager Development and Building Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services

 

 

 

 

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