Chris Huhne: The Severn barrage will be built

When Chris Huhne, the UK energy secretary, announced last month that he was cancelling public funding for the Severn barrage – the massive tidal power project which was due to provide around 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs – it initially looked like the project was dead in the water.

But the government had left itself some wriggle room. As Sylvia Pfeifer reported at the time (italics mine):

Mr Huhne also confirmed there would be no state funding for the Severn tidal power project, saying the government did not see “a strategic case at this time for public funding”.

Straight away, the government entered into talks with private backers to see if some deal could be done in future over such a project. Energy minister Charles Hendry said:

My officials are talking to private sector consortia about their ideas.

The government recognises that factors which will determine the feasibility of Severn tidal power could change over time.

Those talks appear to have progressed sufficiently for Chris Huhne to say today that he thought the project would go ahead. This is what he told a meeting of energy execs hosted by Climate Change Capital and Norton Rose:

I think the Severn barrage will eventually happen and will provide about 7 per cent of all the electricity in the UK. When it does it will involve a lot of different businesses. But investors will need assurance that the government is behind it.

So not only is it likely to happen, but it will be on the same huge scale as originally intentioned. That is significant.

The only question now – and it is a big question – is when.

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