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Britain resurfaces huge tidal energy plan amid Ukraine crisis


Aerial view of the Severn Estuary taken in 2010

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The U.K. has established an independent commission to examine the possibility of harnessing tide energy by using the Severn Estuary. It is a body of water that lies between England & Wales.

Pan-regional Western Gateway Partnership will establish the commission, which includes western England and southern Wales.

Jane Mudd is Vice Chair of the Partnership and leads Newport City Council. She stated Tuesday, “The time is right for us to look back at what could be an unbelievable source of clean, eco-friendly energy onour doorstep.”

Mudd stated that the commission “would have the independence and expertise it requires to investigate whether using the Severn Estuary for sustainable power generation is feasible and possible.”

Katherine Bennett is the chair of Western Gateway Partnership. She stated that for a while it had been obvious that the Severn was “hugely potential for producing clean renewable energie.”

According to a paper published by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 2016,The output of the Severn’s Tidal Range could reach approximately 25 Terawatt Hours per year or about 7% of UK energy requirements.

There is much excitement over the prospects of tidal powers, but this new proposal is only in its early stages. Investments are required for any project.

According to the Western Gateway Partnership, “No decisions have yet been made regarding what a solution might look like for powering from the Severn or whether development will happen.”

Since many years, there has been talk of harnessing Severn Estuary tides for power generation. This is because the tidal range — a term which refers to the height difference between low and high tide — is one of the world’s largest, at up to 14 meters.

These projects never got off the ground despite this enormous resource. The U.K. government declared in 2010 that there was no strategic reason to propose a Severn-tidal power plan in the near term.

The government stated that “the costs and risks to the taxpayers and the energy consumers would be excessive in comparison with other low-carbon options.”

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It is a timely decision to establish the commission at a time where concerns regarding Europe’s dependence on Russia oil and gas are being raised following the recent invasion of Ukraine.

Huw Thomas is a member of the Western Gateway board. He acknowledged that previous tidal energy schemes did not receive support from the U.K. government due to concerns about the impact on the environment in designated areas within the Severn Estuary and a perceived need for large levels of public investments.

Thomas is the chief of Cardiff City Council. He said, “However the changing landscapes of the climate emergency and energy insecurity rising costs and rapid technological advancements indicate that many of those policy, cost, and environmental barriers may not longer be as important.”

In comments published by the Guardian on Tuesday,Michael Gove, U.K. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, supported the commission.

The Guardian quoted Gove saying that Russia’s invasion had served to raise concerns over energy security and cost.

Sustainable forms of renewable energy must be available soon. We are very pleased to announce the launch of an independent commission regarding tidal power for Severn.

Tidal power has been around for decades — EDF’s 240 MW La Rance tidal power plant in France dates back to the 1960s — but recent years have seen a number of new projects take shape.

In July 2021, a tidal turbine weighing 680 metric tons started grid-connected power generationAt the European Marine Energy Centre (Orkney), an archipelago north of mainland Scotland.

And in October, plans for a £1.7 billion (around $2.24 billion) project in the U.K. incorporating technologies including underwater turbinesThey were officially announced.