Memorandum submitted by the Institute
1. The Institute of Biology is the independent
and charitable body charged by Royal Charter to further the interests
of UK biology and biologists. With some 15,000 individual members
and 75 affiliated specialist biological societies, it is well
placed to respond to bio-science consultations. We are grateful
to have received informal comments from two Affiliated Societies,
the Marine Biological Association and the Scottish Association
for Marine Science that, together with other evidence received,
helped shape this response.
2. This response's principal points include:
(i) all energy exploitation has its differing
costs and benefits. Wave and tidal power have large up-front costs
so necessitating a long-term view (that might be facilitated by
all-party co-operation) to reap the maximum benefit
(ii) UK investment in renewables is extremely
(iii) the UK does not have a meaningful energy,
or renewable energy, strategy and little Governmental R&D
(iv) shore-based wave power currently has
minimal impact but extensive exploitation would have a major impact
on an important UK habitat
(v) open sea-based wave power has minimal
impact on marine life
(vi) tidal barrages could, if deployed insensitively,
have a major impact on some international bird populations, affect
salt marshes, land drainage and estuarine pollutant removal
(vii) there may the possibility that as estuaries
will change due to sea level rise that barrages might pay for
ameliorative conservation, but research is required.
The Institute has already compiled a body
of evidence on energy and the environment.
3. The Institute, and on occasions jointly
with a number of its Affiliated Societies, has previously responded
to the Select Committee, the Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution, and the Department of the Environment, Transport and
Regions (see www.iob.org) stressing the need for the UK to obtain
far more of its energy from non-carbon, or fossil fuel, sources.
Indeed, it considers this issue to be one of those of such importance
that it actively shares its concerns with its cousin Royal Chartered
bodies, the Institute of Physics and Royal Society of Chemistry.
Wave and tidal power are two non-carbon energy sources and as
such their potential for the UK needs to be assessed and investment
made in an R&D programme.
This response's main focuses are on the biological
4. This enquiry is broad. This response
concentrates primarily on those questions that have some bioscience
All energy exploitation has environmental
impacts so necessitating comparisons.
5. It must be understood that the exploitation
of all types of energy sources incurs environmental impact. Should
the UK seek to devise an energy strategy, these various energy
sources and their respective impacts (as well as other costs and
benefits) will need to be comparatively assessed.
Costs and benefits also vary with time: wave
and tidal have large up-front costs.
6. As the exploitation of different energy
sources incurs different impacts, they also incur different costs
and cost profiles with time. Though wave and tidal power schemes
may be cost effective in a commercial sense over their respective
lifetimes, strikingly much of the costs are up-front and concerned
with construction. This initial high cost is probably one of the
critical factors as to why these schemes have not yet been pursued
to any great degree. However, their potential to contribute significantly
to the UK energy supply mix is considerable.
The long-term view is required and would
be encouraged by all-party support.
7. There is therefore the need to take the
long-term view to reap the greatest benefits. We suggest that
one potential option would be for all the major political parties
to sign up to a long-term energy-climate strategy. This would
help shield such long-term goals from day-to-day political brinkmanship.
Renewables strategy: what role should wave and
tidal energy have? Should they have a higher priority in the UK
The UK does not have a meaningful energy,
or renewable energy, strategy.
8. The UK does not have a meaningful energy
strategy let alone a meaningful renewable energy strategy. It
no longer even has a Department of Energy.
Research and Development. How much funding is
available and is national funding being well co-ordinated?
UK investment in renewables is extremely
9. As was pointed out at a Royal Society
of Chemistry workshop (15 May 2000) as a precursor to that year's
Parliamentary Links day, support for research into renewables
is extremely limited. We understand that the Royal Society of
Chemistry has separately expressed these concerns in other policy
Departmental R&D is requiredthe
Institute, its Affiliated Societies and the Select Committee,
have previously identified the need for further Departmental R&D.
10. One principal mainstay of such R&D
investment should have come from the Department of Trade and Industry
(DTI) as that Department took over the responsibilities of the
former Department of Energy. Departments are responsible for policy-driven
research, and the various Governments in the 1990s have all stated
a clear overall policy goal of lowering UK dependence on fossil
fuels. As this Institute together with 16 of its Affiliated Societies
have previously reported to the Select Committee in its 1999-2000
enquiry into Government Expenditure on R&D, Departmental
investment in research has in real terms declined markedly since
the mid-1980s and throughout the 1990s. DTI research has been
involved in this decline. We note, from the Select Committee's
welcome conclusions to that investigation, that it was aware of
this. The Select Committee might now consider that the lack of
investment in renewable research is symptomatic of the problems
it previously identified.
Environmental aspects. What are the environmental
impacts of wave and tidal energy?
Current shore-based wave environmental impact
is minimal, but extensive exploitation would threaten a UK habitat
of ecological significance.
11. Currently little space is devoted to
small-scale wave power in the UK. Consequently, the current environmental
impact is not significant. However, such units are located on
rocky shores and globally, this biome is comparatively rare. On
a map of the World, the area of rocky shore would be represented
by a few lines and would be hardly noticeable. Some areas of the
UK coast are predominantly rocky and in some instances small scale,
shore-based installations may be unacceptable. In addition there
would be the environmental impact from the scheme's associated
infrastructure. Therefore, any extensive deployment of shore-based
wave power may have a major environmental impact and be of great,
if local, ecological concern. Meanwhile, current schemes do not
extensively impinge of the total area of UK rocky shore habitat
and they can significantly contribute to small island communities'
Open sea based wave power has little environmental
12. Conversely, open sea based wave power
has little environmental impact other than during its construction
phase. The UK has considerable experience of such impacts due
to current oil and gas exploration and activities in the North
Sea. However, significant reduction of wave energy inshore of
open sea wave power generation may change the biota of present
ecological communities to those more characteristic of sheltered
Barrages impact on estuaries that are of
import to some bird species
13. Tidal barrages' impact is almost entirely
confined to estuarine environments. Britain's estuaries currently
provide a sufficient population of invertebrates to support an
average annual peak (due to migration) of about 1.5 million wading
birds. They are an integral part of many of these wading species'
lives without which many populations would be severely reduced,
including some international populations. Barrages reduce tidal
range and so would reduce exposed mudflats that are important
feeding grounds. Estimates for mudflats loss for the proposed
barrages for the Severn and Mersey are 65 per cent and 45 per
cent respectively. Also the reduced flow may well affect the nature
of the mud flats.
Average numbers (rounded) of principal species
of estuarine waterfowl in Britain (1984-89)
||% of the international population
British estuaries on which an annual average of either 40,000+
waders or 25,000+ wildfowl were recorded during the period 1984-89.
Estuaries where barrages have been proposed up to 1990 are
marked by *.
Those estuaries to be designated Special Areas of Conservation
(SACs) under the 1992 European Habitat Directive are marked by
|Estuary||Average total (rounded) waders
|Inner Moray Firth||19,000
|North Norfolk Marshes||15,000
However it should be noted that some Scottish estuaries emerge
as of great conservation value due to the number of species of
importance present as opposed to the size of the wader and wildfowl
populations. For instance, the inner Solway Firth has 15 internationally
and 26 nationally significant species, the Moray Firth has 15
and 23, and the Firth of Forth has 11 and 19. Furthermore, wader
and wildfowl populations are just one possible criterion for assessing
an estuaries ecological value.
Barrages affect salt marshes.
14. Salt marshes are also of major ecological importance.
The UK has about 440 km2 of these and a good proportion are estuarine
based. While many salt marsh plants are widespread, some are localised.
Several invertebrates, particularly types of moth and spider,
are intimately associated with salt marshes and have a very restricted
distribution. Generally barrages would mean that some estuarine
salt marshes would be inundated less frequently, indeed the upper
marsh zone may become permanently exposed. The ecosystem would
become more terrestrial.
Barrages impede pollutant removal, land drainage, fish
migration and sediment transportation.
15. There would be other factors. For instance estuaries
tend to receive large pollutant loads from industry and in terms
of nutrient matter from agricultural runoff and sewerage. Barrages
would impede pollutant removal. Furthermore the longer duration
of the high water and the removal of the lower half of the tidal
cycle has considerable implications for land drainage. Turbines
in barrages would have an effect on migratory fish. Sediment transport
would be affected and it is possible that sediment movement out
to sea would be impeded. Then there are the environmental impacts
associated with barrages' supporting infrastructure. However,
there is still considerable uncertainty as to barrages' exact
environmental impacts on wildlife.
Barrageless tidal turbines have less impact.
16. Tidal turbines that do not require barrages will
have less environmental impact. Such turbines might operate successfully
in straits and sounds.
It may be possible to take compensatory or ameliorative
17. It may be possible to take compensatory or ameliorative
measures. Some habitat creation may be possible and zones of nature
reserves might be created. Our knowledge of post barrage sedimentation
remains poor and so uncertainties as to the exact impact on wildlife
are, currently, great.
The potential for tidal and wave power needs to be assessed.
Estuaries will change anyway due to sea-level rise, barrages might(?)
pay for some ameliorative conservation.
18. The potential for tidal and wave power to lower the
UK's dependence on fossil fuel (hence dependence on imports),
as well as to help lower greenhouse emissions, should not be ignored.
Of tidal and wave options, should extensive exploitation be considered,
open sea wave power incurs the least environmental impact on aquatic
life. Barrages do incur an environmental impact and, if deployed
insensitively, could seriously impact on some international bird
populations as well as the biology of estuaries (possible adversely
affecting features important to marine natural heritage). However
it is worth considering that the existing sea level rise anticipated
due to global warming is likely to change the nature of some estuaries.
One might therefore contemplate that the imaginative use of barrages
might pay for some ameliorative conservation measures, though
a not inconsiderable research effort would be required to ascertain
whether there was sufficient merit to this.
This response has not benefited from the minimum Cabinet
Office-recommended time for consultations.
19. The following should be noted. The short deadline,
a third of the Cabinet Office recommended minimum, has meant that
the Institute was not able to consult as extensively as it normally
would. Formal co-authoring with some of its valued Affiliated
Societies was not possible.
20. In line with Government policy on openness the Institute
would be pleased for this evidence to be publicly available, and
will shortly be placing a version on www.iob.org.
9 February 2001