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Marine energy introduction

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.

More than just a drop in the ocean?

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 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.

Wave and tidal energy prototypes are being deployed and tested in the ocean for the first time, many of them in Scotland. There are key challenges to successful commercialisation:

  • Technology - installing wave and tidal devices in energetic seas is challenging
  • Funding - capital support to design, manufacture and install first generation prototypes in the real ocean environment
  • Skills - transferring subsea and marine experience from the North Sea oil and gas industry
  • Grid capacity - delivering grid capacity in regions of marine energy potential

Our report: Marine energy in Scotland

The Institution’s Marine Energy report addresses these challenges and makes the following recommendations for the Scottish Government and other stakeholders:

  1. Political leadership. Marine energy enjoys cross-party support, and strong, consistent political leadership mitigates perceived political risk amongst investors
  2. Funding. A £40M fund would ensure that a sufficient range of well-engineered wave and tidal energy technology can be tested in the ocean environment
  3. Infrastructure. Grid infrastructure solutions are required to allow marine energy in Scotland to play its part in meeting the UK’s renewable energy targets

Scottish marine energy would create sustainable wealth from technology, manufacturing and engineering support, and contribute to climate change targets. Scotland is uniquely placed to exploit natural advantages to achieve this. Its waters could potentially produce 25% of Europe’s tidal power and 10% of its wave power.

The North Sea oil and gas industry guarantees a pre-existing a concentration of subsea and marine engineering skills and infrastructure, while Scottish academic institutions and technology developers are at the vanguard of research in marine energy.

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.

Read the full report (PDF, 4Mb)

Learn more about marine energy sources

Tidal Power

Tidal power, sometimes called tidal energy, is a form of renewable energy that converts the energy of tides into electricity or other useful forms of power. Although not yet widely used, tidal power has potential for future electricity generation.

Wave Power

Wave power refers to the energy of ocean surface waves and the capture of that energy to produce electricity.


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Engineering Policy Unit 

Our Engineering Policy Unit works closely with members to raise the profile of engineers and engineering potential, to generate discussion and provide thought leadership.

Read our policy-related Themes and reports