Britain could “rule the waves” with marine energy, but the Government needs a more visionary approach to ensure the UK continues to lead the sector, MPs said today.

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A report by the Energy and Climate Change select committee suggested that energy generated from waves and the movement of tides could supply a fifth of the UK’s power.

The MPs said the UK could lead on developing the technology, which would boost manufacturing and jobs and allow Britain to export equipment and skills to other countries looking to make use of marine resources for power.

The industry could directly provide 10,000 jobs by the end of the decade and as many as 68,000 by mid-century, when the sector could be worth £76 billion in the UK alone.

The UK is currently the leader on wave and tidal stream power, which are more reliable than some other renewables such as wind, and seven of the eight prototype devices installed around the world are in British waters.

But the report from the MPs warned that an “overly cautious approach may allow other countries to steal the UK’s lead”, highlighting that the UK was once a leader in wind turbines but failed to establish a domestic manufacturing industry.

They urged the Government to simplify funding for supporting development of the marine renewable technologies.

And while the proposed increase in subsidies for electricity from wave and tidal stream power would encourage investors, there was a lack of certainty about what would happen after 2017 when the current subsidy regime finishes.

The technologies are unlikely to contribute much in the way of green energy before 2020 because of their high costs, so the focus should be on reducing those costs, the MPs added.

The committee’s chairman, Tim Yeo, said: “Britannia really could rule the waves when it comes to marine renewable energy.

“We are extremely well placed to lead the world in wave and tidal technologies, which could potentially bring significant benefits in manufacturing and jobs, as well as an abundant supply of reliable low-carbon electricity.

“A more visionary approach from the Department of Energy and Climate Change could help boost confidence and drive the pace of development.”

The report said that although it was still “early days” for marine renewables, the longer-term benefits of a thriving wave and tidal industry in the UK were significant.

Investor confidence, certainty over policy, sharing of risks between private and public sector, better grid connections and a workforce with the right skills are all needed to maintain the UK’s lead in the sector, the MPs added.

Mr Yeo said: “In the ‘80s, the UK squandered the lead it had in wind power development and now Denmark has a large share of the worldwide market in turbine manufacturing.

“It should be a priority for the Government to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of developments in this technology and does not allow our lead to slip.”

Responding to the report, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Paul Steedman said: “The right support for this pioneering industry would create tens of thousands of new jobs and provide a home-grown source of clean energy.

“The Government must make it easier for marine power developers to transform our broken energy system and shift us off our dangerous reliance on coal and gas.”

The Renewable Energy Association’s head of marine, Dr Stephanie Merry, said: “We are particularly keen to see the Government avoid repeating the mistakes it made with wind in the 1980s, when it missed out on the chance to seize a huge manufacturing opportunity which eventually went to Denmark.

“The report rightfully recognises the need to expand our skills base at the university level to unlock the huge potential for green jobs and growth in marine renewables.”

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We are fully committed to spurring on the growth of this industry and have already taken great strides to make this happen.

“Last month Climate Change Minister Greg Barker launched the South West Marine Energy Park and there are plans to create similar parks in Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

1 comment

  • Now let's see! Waves are variable so therefore power output must be too. And of course you can't predict how high the waves will be. Tides flow in both directions and when it turns there is no flow. This power is also said to need large subsidies. Sounds a bit like wind power as it will also need to be backed up 100% by conventional power stations. Sounds like another sure fire white elephant scheme that drinks taxes to me.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

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