Abstract In recent years, there have been growing international challenges relating to climate change and global warming, with a conflict developing between the need to create a low-carbon economy and rapid depleting reserves of fossil fuels. In addition to these challenges there continues to be the added complexity of a significant global increase in energy demand. Marine renewable energy from tidal barrages is carbon-free and has the potential to make a significant contribution to energy supplies now and in the future. Therefore, it is appropriate to evaluate the total energy that can be extracted from such barrages. In this study two different methods are proposed to estimate the total annual energy output from a barrage, including a theoretical estimation based on the principle associated with tidal hydrodynamics, and a numerical estimation based on the solutions obtained from a 2D hydrodynamic model. The proposed Severn Barrage in the UK was taken as a case study, and these two methods were applied to estimate the potential annual energy output from the barrage. The predicted results obtained using the two methods indicate that the magnitude of the annual energy output would range from 13 to 16TWh, which is similar to the value of 15.6TWh reported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in the UK. Further investigations show that the total annual energy output would increase by about 15% if a higher discharge coefficient were to be adopted for the sluice gates, or if the turbine performance were to be improved. However, the estimated annual energy output could exceed the value of 16TWh if future technological advances in both sluice gate construction and turbine performance are included.