Private funding challenge for £20m marine scheme
RenewableUK and the Renewable Energy Association (REA), both critical of the Government's low level investment in wave and tidal a year ago, have adopted a thoroughly optimistic stance to the unveiling of DECC's £20m Marine Energy Array Demonstrator scheme.
"It will help kick-start the industry," said RenewableUK's wave and tidal development manager David Krohn.
REA's head of marine Dr Stephanie Merry added: "The scheme is brilliant. It directs the funding exactly where it needs to go."
The big question now, of course, is whether or not such positive thinking will translate into the actual delivery of commercial funding to match DECC's 'kick-start' investment. RenewableUK's much-quoted view is that £120m is needed to achieve genuine wave and tidal development progress. So, how does that figure stack up against the £20m now being made available for the Array scheme.
"The sector has known for almost a year that it would be getting a £20m injection of funding from the UK Government, plus £18m from the Scottish Government's Marine Array Commercialisation Fund," said a spokesman for RenewableUK. "What we've got now, however, and what has changed from before, is that we have clarity in terms of how this money is to be used, namely in a very practical Array scheme which is seen as a good basis for moving forward."
He then added: "We also believe that for every £1 of Government support for wave and tidal, we can generate £6 of private investment. It does multiply up reasonably well, therefore.
"Admittedly, £20m is not a great amount in the grand scheme of things but we believe it will encourage developers to come forward to build the UK's first wave and tidal arrays. We're going to see these in the water and working for the first time and that's a significant step which will create real momentum for the sector."
REA's Dr Merry agrees. "Now that a number of single devices have been deployed," she said, "this support (DECC's £20m) is needed to attract private investment which will take the marine energy industry to the next stage; the demonstration of arrays of devices."
She also identified the scheme as the product of close cooperation between DECC and industry stakeholders.
"DECC listened carefully to the REA's input, particularly into formulating the criteria for awards," she said. "A number of developers are now in a position to apply for the fund, and it is up to industry to deliver."
With the £20m designed to support a maximum of two pre-commercial projects, demonstrating the operation of wave and/or tidal devices in array formation, and with the successful projects needing to be 'energised' by March 31 2016, the main list of contenders is already pretty clear.
"To meet the competition deadline, a developer would need to have an agreement for the lease of a marine energy site already in place from the Crown Estate and have started site surveys and background monitoring," said AEA.
Applicants meeting that criteria on the tidal front, they say, are Siemens / MCT with developments in both Kyle Rhea and Anglesey and Scottish Power Renewables in the Sound of Islay. Wave project contenders are Pelamis Wave Power, with devices in Shetland, and Aquamarine Power with devices off the west coast of Lewis.