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Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Tuesday 6 May 2008 09:00

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform  (National)

Severn tidal power feasibility study: BERR appoints contractors

Work to determine the potential of a tidal energy generator in the Severn Estuary is continuing with the appointment of a consortium led by consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff who will manage the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

The SEA is a major part of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study. It will provide analysis of how the environment around the estuary will be affected if a tidal range power project goes ahead.

The Secretary of State for Energy, John Hutton, announced the start of the two year long feasibility study in January. The tidal energy resource in the Severn Estuary provides the largest potential of all the UK's estuaries for renewable electricity generation.

John Hutton said:

"A Severn tidal power project could be larger in size, output and cost than any other energy project in this country.

"It has the potential to generate up to 5% of the UK's electricity demand and contribute significantly to the proposed EU renewable energy targets.

"It's therefore vitally important we undertake the most thorough and exhaustive study and contract the right companies to take this work forward".

Minister for the Environment at the Welsh Assembly Government, Jane Davidson said:

"The Welsh Assembly Government is committed to increasing the amount of energy generated from renewable sources so as to help address the serious issue of climate change. We must, therefore, consider carefully the opportunity to harness tidal power in the Severn Estuary.

I am very much aware of the estuary's environmental importance and the environmental protection legislation that, quite rightly, will need to be taken fully into account.

There is a great deal at stake and our assessments during the feasibility study must be rigorous and based on sound science."

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been appointed to advise BERR on how such a project could be financed and ownership options. Consideration will be given to the full range of possibilities, including the need for any government support.

Notes to editors:

1. The Parsons Brinckerhoff led consortium, which also includes Black & Veatch, The Environment Council, Environ, ABPmer, HR Wallingford, Hartley Anderson and George Corderoy, won the contract following an Invitation to Tender under the Office for Government Commerce 'Catalist' Environmental Advice, Support and Delivery Services Framework Agreement. The contract will run for two years.

2. PricewaterhouseCoopers has been appointed by BERR following a competitive tender process run through the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) Multi-Disciplinary Consultancy Framework Agreement. It's expected its report will be concluded later this year.

3. One of the first actions of the SEA Contractor will be to issue a Call for Evidence, probably in the next week. This will comprise two parts:

* A call for proposals for tidal power schemes in the Severn Estuary using tidal range technology

* A request for any information (e.g. environmental, technical, commercial, social) that currently exists or is under development that could potentially contribute to the evidence base for the assessment of schemes and the subsequent Strategic Environmental Assessment
The Call for Proposals will be open for submissions for approximately one month, and the wider Call for Evidence/Information for two months. Details will be available through BERR's website.

4. A Steering Group of independent stakeholders, possibly including expert panels in specific areas, will provide independent advice and act as a peer review group.

5. The start of the feasibility study was announced in January. It will consider all tidal range technologies, but not tidal stream technologies. Tidal range is the vertical difference between the highest high tide and the lowest low tide (up to 14 metres- 42 feet - in the Severn Estuary). Electricity is generated by impounding a large volume of water on the high tide and then passing this water through turbines once a height difference is created.

6. There are two main tidal range technologies - barrages and lagoons. A Severn Barrage would be a barrier from the English to the Welsh coast over the Severn estuary. There are several proposed locations for such a barrage including between Cardiff and Weston, as recommended by studies in the 1980s, which would have a capacity of 8640 Mega Watts and an estimated output of 17 Tera Watt Hours a year - providing around 5% of current UK electricity demand. A tidal lagoon is an artificial impoundment that would be constructed in shallow water areas with a high tidal range.

7. Further information on the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study can be found on the BERR website http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/severntidalpower .

8. The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform helps UK business succeed in an increasingly competitive world. It promotes business growth and a strong enterprise economy, leads the better regulation agenda and champions free and fair markets. It is the shareholder in a number of Government-owned assets and it works to secure, clean and competitively priced energy supplies.

Client ref 2008/88

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