Local authorities agree deal to expand Severn Estuary renewable energy projects

Representatives from local government on both sides of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary have signed an agreement to work together to promote, explore and enable the strategic and sustainable development of the region’s vast offshore renewable energy resources.

Whilst the region has the potential to contribute as much as 14GW of low carbon energy to the UK’s energy mix, the estuary represents a complex and unique mix of valuable environmental and economic assets, activities and stakeholders.

These must be protected and, where possible, enhanced as energy projects are introduced. Local government will need to play an increasing role working with Government, project developers and other stakeholders to achieve this.

The respective councils of Bristol, Cardiff, Devon, Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Newport, North Devon, North Somerset, Sedgemoor and West Somerset have formed the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary Energy Group to oversee their strategic cooperation.

It will promote a holistic and incremental approach to developing projects, as described in the Bristol Channel Energy – A Balanced Technology Approach paper, commissioned by Bristol City Council in 2012.

Membership is however open to any local authority that has an interest in the sustainable development of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary, and other local authorities are expected to join the Energy Group in the future.

The group will meet this week at the Sustainable Severn roundtable with environmental and economic stakeholders, including industry, project developers, academia, and regulatory bodies. The resulting guiding principles will integrate with strategic work carried out in related initiatives such as the Severn Estuary Partnership stakeholder group.

Bill Edrich, Energy Service Director at Bristol City Council, said: “Local authorities are facing pressure to decarbonise and to make their constituencies increasingly resilient. These have been principal drivers for Bristol in its year as European Green Capital 2015, and will continue to be so.

“Developing offshore renewables locally will not only help us to reduce carbon emissions, but with the operational lifetime of tidal lagoons potentially exceeding 100 years, it will also create long-term economic growth and expertise in the region.

“We have long recognised the energy potential of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary, and are closer than ever to harnessing it. It makes sense for local authorities play a role in driving these offshore developments sensibly and in ensuring the long-term sustainability of this unique resource. The establishment of the Energy Group will help us to achieve that.”

Cllr John Richards, Newport City Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Investment and Housing, said: “Newport City Council welcomes the opportunity to participate in this innovative project that will benefit from the collaborative involvement of the Great Western Cities on both sides of the water.

“This scheme proposes to treat the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary as an holistic energy system. We look forward to seeing how multiple technologies could be deployed over time to harness the range of energy resources throughout these waterways, in a way which generates significant energy and economic benefits for the region, and is in-balance with the environment and other marine users.”

Cllr Brian Allinson, Chair of South Gloucestershire Council’s Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment Committee, said: “We look forward to working with our partner authorities on this innovative collaboration where we will share resources and information, and support the development of sustainable energy projects in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel.

“In addition to tidal range technology, the wider Bristol Channel and Celtic Sea area also has significant potential for tidal stream, wave energy and offshore wind technologies, which could help us lower carbon emissions and make a significant contribution to the UK’s clean energy requirements.”

Tara King, City of Cardiff Council Assistant Director City Operations, said: “Here in Cardiff our strategic priorities for the future include moving towards a zero carbon approach to development, including the continued roll out of major renewable schemes on city and coastal sites.

“The work Cardiff Council has undertaken through its Energy Prospectus is ground-breaking and it is important we maintain this momentum. We are looking at a range of energy projects for future development.

“ These include looking at tapping into Cardiff’s geothermal and other sources of heat, river hydroelectric generation and investigating with authorities of future tidal power that we can collectively benefit from by harnessing from the Severn Estuary.

“Together, the Energy Group can continue to explore offshore renewable energy options.”