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The Severn Barrage Report

Posted in Generation,Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the June 12th, 2008

Conservation groups in the UK have been delighted today by a report that they commissioned from Frontier Economics proving that a barrage across the Severn Estuary is one of the least economic ways of helping the UK meet its targets for renewable generation. The report is available online, so we took a look to see what numbers Frontier had come up with.

The following table shows Frontier’s estimated production costs for different technologies in 2010 money and using a discount rate of 7%. The general results are robust at higher and lower discount rates.

Technology Cost £/MWh
Wind Onshore 55.93
Wind Offshore 52.04
Solar PV 359.14
Small Hydro 54.47
Medium hydro 56.92
Combustible renewable 21.85
CHP 55.92
Small barrage 64.51
Large barrage 107.86

The “Small barrage” refers to a modest £1.5bn, 1GW scheme for a dam on the river upstream of Bristol. The “Large barrage” is a much more ambitious plan for a £15bn, 8.6GW scheme across the estuary from Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare.

A chart shows the cost for nuclear as being just below that of the small barrage. This does not appear to include decommissioning. The costs for the barrages are current estimates which, Frontier notes, are likely to be optimistic as that is always the way with large-scale public works that are liable to fall foul of all sorts of environmental legislation.

The Frontier report acknowledges that for alternatives to be viable there has to be a possibility for those alternatives to generate the 17 TWh/year of energy that the large barrage is expected to produce, and states that this does appear to be the case. The attraction of the barrage scheme for the UK government is that the barrage would solve their renewables problem “at a stroke”, and with only one public inquiry. In contrast trying to build wind farms is proving to be an experience of death by a thousand protests.

One Response to 'The Severn Barrage Report'

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  1. on June 18th, 2008 at 7:38 am

    […] of the USA by 2015. That contrasts starkly with the figures used by Frontier Economics in their recent study of the proposed Severn Barrage, which shows solar power still massively uncompetitive. So how, other than the obvious optimism of […]