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Never say Never

‘We’re not paying’ is the main message from the government to the energy industry in today’s announcement by the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne.

Though on close inspection, a section boldly entitled ‘no subsidy for new nuclear power’ does in fact leave some wriggle room.

“To be clear, this means that there will be no levy, direct payment or market support for electricity supplied or capacity provided by a private sector new nuclear operator”, states the Energy Secretary, before adding “unless similar support is also made available more widely to other types of generation”.

New nuclear power, he explains, will “benefit from any general measures that are in place or may be introduced as part of wider reform of the electricity market to encourage investment in low-carbon generation”.

Plans for a Severn Barrage could be overtaken by new technology.

Wylfa on Anglesey is confirmed as one of eight sites still in the running for a new nuclear power station to be built by 2025. Any thought of starting work on a Severn Barrage is postponed until at least 2015.

An expert report, commissioned by the last government, is published today.

It concludes that of the various schemes put forward, either a £34.3 billion barrage from Lavernock Point near Penarth to Weston-super-Mare or a £7 billion barrage close to the Second Severn Crossing would be feasible, as would a £17.7 billion scheme to enclose Bridgwater Bay.

Plans for a barrage near the Severn Bridge at Chepstow or for a lagoon off the Gwent coast are rejected as too expensive for the electricity they would produce.

The experts wisely introduced a ‘correction for optimism’ when working out the costs of the different proposals.

The best value for money would be the big Lavernock-Weston barrage. It would produce the most electricity though it would also have the biggest impact on the environment. Birds and fish would suffer and there would also be problems for shipping using the ports of Cardiff, Newport and Avonmouth. The overall conclusion is that it’s better to wait.

Two so-called ‘immature technologies’ seem to have some potential. An underwater tidal bar could work. So might a series of ‘marine energy converters’ stretching across the estuary. The cost should be lower and the environmental impact less. But they must wait for further scientific progress.


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