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Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 11:13 UK
Future of renewable energy in Somerset
Severn Estuary
The Severn Estuary has a tidal range of 15m, the second highest in the world

The coalition government has released its Annual Energy Statement which gives a rough outline of where it is heading with energy policy.

It could affect a number of projects like proposals for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, the Severn Barrage and wind farms on the levels.

Energy minister, Charles Hendry has indicated they want to develop a mix of fossil and renewable energies.

More details on Hinkley and the pylons connecting to it are due in Autumn.

Somerset's landscape could look very different in the future - there could be wind farms on the Somerset Levels, two new reactors at Hinkley Point, and a barrage, or a series of lagoons to harness the water power in the Severn estuary.

Nuclear Power at Hinkley

Two new reactors are planned for Hinkley by the energy company EDF. The plans also involve building high voltage pylons to link Hinkley with Avonmouth, if approved, this will be built by the National Grid, which recently carried out a public consultation which ended on Friday, 23 July.

Currently, information evenings about Hinkley have been organised by West Somerset and Sedgemoor district councils and recently a conference was held by EDF which show the scope of business opportunities for local suppliers needed for the planned power station.

Energy Minister, Charles Hendry, said: "We've had very good discussions with EDF about their plans and aspirations. We want to remove barriers and obstacles towards investment in a new nuclear plant.

"There are certain legal processes we have to go through, in terms of regulatory justification which enables this process to happen, there's other aspects we've still got to reach agreement with industry to make sure they are fully responsible for the costs of decommissioning and the waste disposal, we want that to go ahead with greater urgency."

Wind farms on the Somerset Levels

Energy firm EDF has applied for planning permission to build nine turbines on the Somerset levels at Withy Farm, which the energy company said will be enough to power 10,000 homes, saving at least 17,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Public exhibitions are being held about these plans and the public consultation runs until 20 August 2010.

When it comes to projects like wind farms, which are often controversial, Mr Hendry said: "We believe in most cases, these should be decided by local councils and local communities.

"One of our concerns have been in many of our areas are asked to accept a wind farm facility but they can't see what's in it for them and we're looking at a different approach there."

They are now exploring various sweeteners in order to foster more support.

"Business rates, at the moment are collected and taken up to London and redistributed around the country, could they be kept local, so they'll see a real benefit coming through? Can we encourage new partnership agreements so that the community directly benefits from the income which is generated by the facility?"

Severn Barrage/Tidal lagoons in the Severn Estuary

The tidal range in the Severn Barrage is 14m, the second highest in the world.

If the ten-mile dam running from Lavernack Point to Brean Down is built, it could generate up to 5 percent of the UK's electricity, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

So far, a number of reviews have been carried out looking into the feasibility of the barrage, or tidal lagoons - this work has been picked by the coalition government, which is due to make an announcement in Autumn of the next step in the process.

"The government before us, put in place a review to look at the different technologies and different opportunities in the Severn Estuary, we are reviewing those findings and we will make a decision in due course about the right way forward," said Charles.

"It's quite clear that a Severn Barrage would provide an enormous amount of electricity, it will also be extremely expensive and we would have to make a decision about whether the amount of money involved is appropriate for the amount of electricity which will be generated."

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