In this policy statement we look at how the UK should respond to the challenges to full commercialisation that are facing the marine energy industry, and how the industry can fulfil its potential.
The marine energy sector is approaching a make-or-break point. Nowhere else is this truer than in Scotland, which has the potential to be a world leader in commercial marine energy generation.
To meet our target of sourcing 15% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020, more than a third of UK electricity generation is likely to come from renewable sources by then. Recognising Scotland’s potential for renewable energy, the Scottish government has set itself a target of 50% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2050 and 31% by 2011.
Marine energy can contribute significantly to meeting the 2050 target. Derived from wave and tidal power, marine energy technology has developed to the point that the first machines are producing electricity.
As yet, marine energy has not delivered on its potential. This is because it faces a number of challenges which it must overcome.
Views on the maturity of technology vary across the industry, but there is a consensus that the technology still presents significant risk. In some cases the price of raw materials, including steel and subsea components, has been prohibitive.
Consultation with the industry suggests that a funding gap exists between applied research & development and pre-commercial deployment. Extra capital funding is required to ensure that a sufficient range of well-engineered technology can be tested.
The UK has little experience of installation, operation and recovery in high-energy tidal waters. Our North Sea oil and gas experience could, however, help us to address the technical risks of deploying devices at sea. Attracting as much of this skills base as possible to the marine energy industry will be vital to its collective success.
In areas of significant potential for marine energy this is limited. Unless this is solved, developers may be forced to move to countries where grid barriers do not exist.
- Scotland should lead the way through strong, courageous and consistent political leadership
- Develop a £40 million fund to ensure that a sufficient range of well-engineered wave and tidal energy technology can be tested in the ocean environment
- Scotland and Westminster should work together to find grid infrastructure solutions that will allow marine energy in Scotland to play its part in meeting the UK’s renewable energy targets