The University of Exeter Big Dilemma Symposium: The Future of Renewable Energy in the UK – Lessons from the Severn Barrage

Posted by Hannah Maben - BSc (Hons) MIEEM on 7/12/2010

Ecosulis attended the above seminar on 3 December 2010, which is the first of many proposed by the University of Exeter’s ‘Big Dilemmas’ project.  The symposium was video conferenced in two locations, Exeter and Tremough, and speakers were present at both locations. 

Keynote Speakers included:

  • Professor Roger A. Falconer, Halcrow Professor of Water Management and Director of the Hydro-environmental Research Centre in the School of Engineering at Cardiff University
  • Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, Professor in Human Geography at the University of Exeter
  • Paul Gompertz, Director of Devon Wildlife Trust

Professor Falconer provided a summary of the proposed Severn Barrage options, (a proposal recently been dropped by the UK Government), but which may now generate the interest of private investment.  His arguments for the scheme were well presented and it is clear that there are strong engineering, renewable energy supply and even some environmental arguments for the scheme to proceed. 

An interesting and thought provoking talk was given by Professor Devine-Wright in respect to the public consultation process, general public opinions on renewable schemes and developer’s perception of public opinions in regard to such schemes.

Without downplaying the importance of considering designated sites, habitats and species that may be impacted by renewable schemes such as the Severn Barrage, Paul Gompertz emphasized the importance to consider the impacts of ‘doing nothing’ and the even greater significant impacts that carbon emissions and global warming is predicted to have on biodiversity in the not too distance future.

To round up the symposium a panel, including Professor Cox (Professor of Climate System Dynamics, University of Exeter), Professor Catherine Mitchell (Professor of Energy Policy, Exeter University), Nick Baker (Naturalist and TV Presenter) and Professor Falconer, took questions from the audience.  The topics raised and discussed largely followed the topics of the previous speeches.  However, in addition there was a strong opinion from some panelists and members of the audience that as well as promoting and supporting renewable energy schemes to increase the percentage of renewables in the energy mix, it is critical that action is taken now to reduce carbon emissions/energy consumption within the home, workplace and from the products and materials we use.

Ecosulis found the symposium very interesting and the range of topics covered by the keynote and other speakers was excellent.  The video-conference worked really well and altogether the event was really well organized; we would like to thank the University of Exeter for the invitation.

Ecosulis has been involved with the complete range of renewable energy schemes; wind, solar photovoltaic, biomass, anaerobic digestion, energy from waste.  Our input ranges from feasibility studies through to detailed studies and Environmental Impact Assessments.  We have also managed stakeholder consultation and engagement exercise and provide expert witnesses at public inquiries.