Marine energy: More than just a drop in the ocean?

In this report we focus on barriers for commercialising the marine energy market in Scotland along with the current and future funding of marine energy projects.

Abundant natural resources, innovative funding proposals, political consensus, and world-class engineers mean that there is enormous potential for Scotland to pioneer commercial marine energy and become a global leader in this emerging source of renewable energy.

Marine energy has a part to play in society’s energy challenge, especially given concerns about climate change and the security, sustainability and cost of oil and gas supplies. The UK has agreed to source 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, with a commitment to target an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). Westminster is proposing that approximately a third of the UK’s electricity is generated from renewable sources by 2020. Holyrood has more ambitious targets of 31% by 2011 and 50% by 2020.

Scotland has always led the UK in renewable energy; its hydro-electric power stations have been producing ~10% of Scotland’s electricity for decades. New technologies will be required to meet the 2020 target of 50% of electricity to be sourced from renewable technologies, and marine energy has the potential to provide 10% of Scotland’s electricity by 2020.

Key recommendations

  1. Political leadership
    Maintain sector momentum through strong, courageous and consistent political leadership. Marine energy enjoys cross-party support and continually emphasising this reduces the perception of political risk amongst potential investors.
  2. Funding
    To provide a solution to these challenges, we are proposing the formation of 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. Such a scheme would invite applications for projects that included:

    - Both technology demonstration via a first generation prototype and a subsequent first commercial array
    - A combination of skills in marine energy technology, marine and subsea manufacture and installation, and electrical power engineering
    - A single lead contractor

    Such a scheme would be complementary to existing capital support mechanisms. The proposed scheme would complement the Saltire Prize by providing predictable support and playing to the strengths of Scotland’s existing enterprise, whilst the Saltire Prize would act to advocate these strengths on the global stage.
  3. Infrastructure
    Work with Westminster to find grid infrastructure solutions that will allow marine energy in Scotland to play its part in meeting the UK’s renewable energy targets.

    The potential prize is the positioning of Scotland at the forefront of the marine energy sector, creating sustainable wealth from technology, manufacturing and engineering support, and contributing to climate change targets. The resources are abundant. Scotland’s waters could potentially produce 25% of Europe’s tidal power and 10% of its wave power. Furthermore, the North Sea oil and gas industry means that there is a pre-existing concentration of subsea and marine engineering skills and infrastructure in place, while Scottish academic institutions are at the vanguard of research in marine energy. Finally, there is a significant cluster of technology developers based in Scotland.

    To secure the prize, Scotland must act now to ensure that a sufficient range of well-engineered wave and tidal energy technology is tested in the ocean environment.


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