view of Cardiff Bay with reflections of buildings in the water

7 March, 2024

Experts from across the UK are meeting for the first time in Cardiff as part of the new Severn Estuary Commission to re-examine the potential for a world leading tidal energy scheme in the area.

Alongside this, the commission will be publishing a new report from the consultants WSP explaining why there is now a case to re-examine the potential of the estuary to deliver sustainable energy.

The estuary is home to the highest tidal range in Europe and the third highest in the world. The potential for harnessing this tidal power has been the subject of discussion for decades, with some estimates suggesting it can provide up to 7% of the UK’s electricity needs.

With many unsuccessful tidal energy proposals over the last 20 years in and the estuary home to several internationally important wildlife habitats, the report acknowledges that there are still significant challenges. However, it also highlights the emergence of new routes to financing large infrastructure programmes and an increasing pressure to find new sustainable and reliable forms of energy as reasons to explore the issue again.

The meeting took place at the Senedd bringing together the Severn Estuary Commissioners, Welsh and UK Government officials, and local leaders.

Julie James MS, Welsh Minister for Climate Change, said: “We warmly welcome the establishment of the Western Gateway’s Severn Estuary Commission and commitment to exploring the immense energy potential of this important landmark. The Welsh Government has already stated our ambition for Wales to become a World centre for emerging tidal technologies.

“By bringing together national experts from across Wales and England to explore this issue I am confident that the commission will be able to consider the needs of our vital ecosystems, the environment and other sea users alongside the potential for renewable energy. Through our Tidal Lagoon Challenge, I look forward to being able to collaborate to develop the sector’s knowledge base and understand the opportunities presented by our Welsh waters.”
The Severn Estuary Commission was launched by the Western Gateway, the Pan-Regional Partnership for South Wales and Western England, which brings together business, local authorities, universities and governments from both sides of the Severn.

The commission comprises a diverse group of experts from scientific, engineering and environmental backgrounds and their findings will be presented back to the partnership to help shape future Government policy on both sides of the Severn.

Dr Andrew Garrad CBE, Chair of the Severn Estuary Commission and recent recipient of the Queen Elizabeth award for Engineering, said: “The Severn Estuary Commission represents a pivotal moment in the area’s collective pursuit of sustainable energy solutions.

“There is still much which needs to be considered and evidence to be reviewed in order to decide whether there is now a viable option to harness the awesome power of the Severn Estuary. Following considerable past attempts, our mission is to navigate the complexities, balance environmental concerns, and unlock sustainable opportunities that will define the future of energy in the Severn Estuary.”

Cllr Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff Council and Western Gateway Board Member said: “This work has already received support from both UK and Welsh Governments with both acknowledging that the time is right to look again at tidal energy from the Severn. After much work behind the scenes I am glad to see this work get underway. Cardiff is proud to host this launch event, and we look forward to the positive impact the commission’s work will have on the region.”

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