'Worrying lack of support' puts Britain's marine energy potential at risk
Without a sufficient level of support from the Government, Britain risks surrendering its world lead in marine energy, according to a report released today by RenewableUK.
Entitled Conquering Challenges, Generating Growth, the report warns that while the Government's electricity market reforms could act as a springboard for the growth of wave and tidal energy, they could also undermine investor confidence in marine power at a crucial stage in its development.
So far Britain leads the world in pioneering marine energy. There are 12 full-scale single devices with a capacity of 9 megawatts deployed in UK waters - more than the rest of the world combined.
RenewableUK has calculated that wave and tidal energy could be worth £6.1bn to the UK by 2035, generate up to 20% of the UK's electricity needs and create nearly 20,000 jobs.
In addition, the report notes that commercialisation of the sector is close to fruition, with the deployment of the first arrays (multiple devices) beginning in 2014, and an expected increase to 100-200MW of wave and tidal installed by 2020.
Major engineering firms such as Siemens and Alstom are helping to develop marine power and the Crown Estate has awarded leases at nearly 40 sites in UK waters which could support up to 1.8 gigawatts of capacity in the future.
However, RenewableUK argues it is imperative that the Government provides extensive funding to get this relatively new technology off the ground.
The report highlights a number of challenges the sector faces such as delays in getting grid connections for wave and tidal projects, and the high cost of transmission charges.
It also criticised the Green Investment Bank, claiming it had failed to identify wave and tidal energy as a priority sector.
According to the report, in order to attract investment and lower subsidy prices for the second generation of arrays in 2018, tidal arrays should be set at £280 to £300/MWh hour while the initial price of wave technology should be £300 to £320/MWh.
RenewableUK's wave and tidal manager, David Krohn said: "It's time to get real about the potential risks so that we can work with Government and others to find the solutions as early as possible.
"Wave technology in particular will need tailored capital support in the coming years if we are to maintain pole position in this promising and strategically important sector. It is essential that Electricity Market Reform provides a level of support that will allow the most cost effective projects to be taken forward."
WWF Scotland director, Lang Banks said the report highlighted a "worrying" lack of UK Government support and argued that in its obsession to revive the failed nuclear power industry, the UK government was jeopardising marine power progress.
"We urge politicians to intervene now to ensure wave and tidal power is able to play a role in helping to decarbonise the country's power sector. Government support right now for these young industries will give confidence to investors, get full-scale devices in the water, and help reduce costs over time," he said.