Tidal power to reduce emissions and boost UK economy by £1.4bn by 2030, report finds

The UK's tidal stream could deliver £1.4bn to the UK economy by 2030, with wider marine technologies helping to reduce national carbon emissions by up to four million metric tonnes a decade later.

Those are the key findings of a new report published by The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, which explores the potential of the UK’s emerging tidal stream sector alongside the less-developed wave energy sector.

According to the report, tidal stream technology could generate £1.4bn in benefits to the nation’s economy by 2030, while wave energy could add an extra £4bn and around 8,100 jobs by 2040.

“The findings of our research are encouraging, with the potential for significant economic benefits to be realised from the UK marine energy resources,” ORE Catapult’s research and innovation director Dr Stephen Wyatt said.

“We will now continue our work with the tidal stream and wave energy industries, as well as relevant government departments, to discuss these findings and establish the best way forward for future support that will enable the UK to capture such advantage, in terms of growing our economy, creating jobs and exporting goods and services all over the world.”

The report assumes that annual deployment of 100MW of tidal stream capacity from 2021 will generate vast economic sums for the UK, with wave energy eventually reaching similar levels of commercialisation following a 10-year lag.

As for carbon emission reductions, the report predicts that marine energy has the potential to displace natural gas generation on the grid by permanently reducing annual CO2 emissions by a minimum of 1Mt after 2030, rising to 4Mt after 2040 – a higher figure than for biomass and advanced conversion technologies, the report notes.

UK’s global advantage

The research notes that for every kWh of energy, marine power saves 937g CO2 compared to the same power from coal; 394g compared with Combined Cycle Gas Turbines or 120g CO2 compared to biomass. According to the report, this emphasises the UK’s “global advantage” in its position as a world leader in hydropower development and exportation. 

“The UK has led the world in developing tidal stream and wave technologies, and this report shows that marine renewables could follow the UK’s offshore wind industry in achieving significant cost reductions,” commented RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal.

Notably, the research highlights the costs reductions for developing marine technologies, highlighting that improvements to efficiencies could make it cost-competitive with other energy sources.

For tidal stream, for example, costs could eventually fall from £300/MWh to less than £90/MWh, providing capacity can reach 1GW.

The UK is primed to lead Europe's £46bn wave energy market opportunity. Research from Marine Power Systems estimates that estimated global wave resources could potentially reach 4,000TWh annually provided the commercial case for the technology improves.

Fortunately, progress is being made in the UK. Last August, turbines harnessing tidal energy in the Pentland Firth set a then-world record for monthly tidal stream power production, after phase one of the MeyGen marine project produced more than 700 MWh.

Sarah George & Matt Mace


| renewables | technology | tidal energy



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