REA: EU policy ‘detrimental’ to UK wave and tidal sector

Britain's wave and tidal energy sector is shackled by "detrimental" regulatory burdens that continue to inhibit industry growth, the Renewable Energy Association's (REA) Ocean Energy Group has claimed.

Speaking at an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the prosperity of environmental objectives and policies, the head of REA’s Ocean Energy Group Stephanie Merry warned that EU directives are detrimental to marine energy projects in regards to time, cost and human resource implications for smaller companies.

Merry said: “One of the things we would like to happen is for the regulatory burden of these environmental directives to be proportionate to the size of the project.

“We would like to see the positive impacts of marine projects included in the environmental impact assessment because marine renewable energy is trying to do positive things for the environment. At the moment it’s all about the negative impacts.

“This disincentivises investment and is disproportionate and detrimental to marine energy, particularly when a company may only have one small demonstration project.”

As examples, Merry cited a 30MW project off the coast of the Isle of Wight – which had to submit an environmental impact assessment at the cost of more than £1m – and the MCT turbine project in Strangford Lough, which had to fork out £2m for environmental monitoring.

Changing tides

Reports have already suggested that large-scale wave energy is comparatively more reliable, consistent and potentially cheaper than other forms of energy generation, including wind power. Despite the complex policy environment, funding for wave and tidal projects in the UK and Ireland is continuing to grow.

Wave Energy Scotland – funded by the Scottish Government – allocated £7m in 2015 to 16 different wave energy developers in order to help them commercialise their technologies. Projects that received funding included feasibility studies for adapting technology from the wind and automobile sectors, and finding more efficient ways of converting wave energy into electricity.

Technology giant Apple is also branching out to the wave and tidal sector, after it launched a new £1m R&D fund to support a wave energy project off the coast of Ireland at the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site. Any initiatives that receive funding through this scheme will be eligible to test their ocean energy prototypes at the state-of-the-art facility, which enables the testing of wave energy technologies at a quarter scale.

Wave energy is one of the nine innovations that edie has marked for acceleration in 2016 as part of our green innovation watch list.

Earlier today (11 January), edie reported that RenewableUK – the national trade association for Britain’s wind, wave and tidal power industries – has recruited DECC’s Director of Change Hugh McNeil as its new chief executive.

Matt Mace

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