Marine energy: Reports call for new approach to funding
Two new reports into the wave and tidal energy sectors have concluded that a unified vision and sustained financial support is needed by UK governments in order to develop fully-commercialised industries.
Renewable UK is supporting calls from the Marine Energy Programme Board (MEPB) for the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments and Northern Ireland Executive to provide a joint vision of the role of marine energy up to 2030 and beyond.
The MEPB report warns that, without a unified approach, there is a risk of duplication of effort and important measures falling between the gaps, leading to the UK losing its global lead in the tidal and wave energy industries.
Although the support provided by the Renewables Obligation and Contracts for Difference (CfD) Schemes has helped create an attractive UK market, it is impossible to secure the level of private funding required for pilot projects to demonstrate the potential of large scale projects to investors, the report adds.
Global market share
It calls for a co-ordinated £300m - the amount of support identified by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult - finance package from public and private sources. The MEPB advises that this could be drawn together by all parts of UK Government and from European funding to grow the sectors over the next five to 10 years.
British companies could potentially capture £76bn of a global market by 2050, adding up to £4bn to UK GDP. Companies surveyed have already spent nearly £450 million in the UK's marine energy supply chain, with £7 of privately sourced money for each £1 of public funding received.
RenewableUK's wave & tidal development manager Dee Nunn said: "The measures being put forward would enable industry to capitalise on the excellent resource and test facilities we already have in the UK to move the technologies to a commercial position.
"It would lead to financial close for at least three pilot tidal arrays on UK waters by 2018, and the first wave arrays at demonstration centres such as WaveHub off the coast of Cornwall and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) off Orkney." Nunn added.
A second report released this week, by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), agrees that without proper funding marine industries are unlikely to become cost effective or play a significant role in the UK's energy mix anytime soon. The ETI states that Tidal Stream energy has the most potential to compete with fossil fuels, but more work needs to be done.
ETI's offshore renewables strategy manager Stuart Bradley said: "The UK leads the world in tidal device development and our tidal energy converter work has shown that array-scale engineering is essential, but from a tidal perspective the innovation needs are known so the focus should be on putting them together rather than any reinvention."
However, the ETI is unsure about wave energy technologies' ability to become cost effective, saying it needs 'aggressive cost reduction and innovation activities', and even then it is 'unlikely to make a significant contribution' in the coming years.
Scottish Renewables' senior policy manager offshore wind and marine Lindsay Leask, said: "It's all too easy to forget the enormous achievements that our industry has made, and that we are now closer than ever to delivering commercially viable marine energy.
"Confidence in the growth of a market of significant scale is absolutely critical to securing further investment into the sector. That is why we are calling for governments across the UK to work with the Marine Energy Programme Board to publish a joint, clear and consistent vision for the role of wave and tidal energy industry out to 2030."
Video: Insights into tidal stream energy