Offshore renewables: Political uncertainty jeopardises UK's global lead
The UK offshore renewable sector is at risk of losing its leading global position due to a lack of funding and Government policy, a new survey of industry experts has revealed.
More than two thirds (69%) of respondents to the survey carried out by Invest in February, believe that the UK is not currently doing enough to maintain its position in wind and tidal energy, with 74% believing France to be the UK's biggest rival.
Respondents cited funding to be the main challenge to the sector over the next five years, mainly access to public funds (42%), but also nearing a third (29%) saying private funds.
Government policy was also singled out by a fifth (22%) of respondents as being the biggest challenge to the burgeoning industry.
Labour instead pledged to "work to make Britain a world leader in low carbon technologies over the next decade" and "end the current uncertainty for investors" by giving the Green Investment bank additional powers. The Conservatives simply promise to "back good-value green energy; and push for more new investment in UK energy sources."
However, the Liberal Democrats have provided the offshore sector with some policy certainty going forward, saying they would "increase research and development and commercialisation support in four key low-carbon technologies where Britain could lead the world: tidal power, carbon capture and storage, energy storage and ultra-low emission vehicles."
"As the international market for offshore renewable energy grows it is imperative that the UK maintains its leadership position for innovation and technology development," Johnny Gowdy, director of Regen SW and programme manager at South West Marine Energy Park, said.
"We would therefore encourage the Government to support the industry within the UK by creating a clear route to market for wave and tidal energy technologies and providing funding support to enable the deployment of demonstration and pilot projects."
The research also revealed that experts believe working together to form a unified UK offshore renewables offering would ensure that the UK maintains its global standing.
Nearly two thirds (61%) of respondents believed that the deployment of an array would help build market confidence in the sector, with almost 20% wanting to see a significant electrical generation onto a grid network.
"The consensus amongst industry experts appears to be that the UK wave and tidal energy is far too fragmented to be able to maintain the current position," Stuart Farmer, ORDP programme manager, Cornwall Council, said: "The lack of a cohesive strategy across all national projects is creating a barrier to success. By working under a single UK banner the industry would be able to maximise investment, accelerate technological advances and reduce overall risk."