Wave and tidal energy are not able to compete in the UK renewables sector, according to the Marine Energy Council.
The full potential of marine energy as a renewable energy source is not being realised and more needs to be done to encourage production. This is according to a report from the Marine Energy Council and Scottish Renewables, who have proposed methods to be introduced that they believe will help to support the technology.
The report calls for the introduction of an innovation power purchase agreement (iPPA) and innovation Contracts for Difference (iCfD) as a means to provide more incentives for the sector to compete. Currently, the cost of producing wave or tidal power in the UK is higher than that for other renewable energy sources, such as offshore wind power.
“If any developer wants to go into the CfD round they will be competing with the likes of offshore fixed wind, where we’ve seen prices much lower than marine technology can achieve at the moment,” said Sue Barr, chairwoman of the Marine Energy Council. “Both tidal stream and wave power are effectively locked out of the UK energy market by a system which means they must compete with proven technologies, such as fixed offshore wind, which have achieved significant cost reductions having been granted a market mechanism by government.
“If we as a country really want to reap the benefits of building these sectors in the UK, now is the time to act. The industry has to come together to deliver these recommendations to government, offering a sensible plan to scale-up the development of both tidal stream and wave power in the UK, and we look forward to working with them on these proposals over the coming months.”
At the moment, the marine energy sector needs to compete with other renewable energy projects to get investment, and they are often seen as a much less attractive option financially. Ms Barr has called for a separate auction to be held for emerging technologies such as marine power in order for them to compete and attract investment.
She also believes there is a higher potential for job creation in wave and tidal power compared with offshore wind power. While there are currently around 1,700 people in the UK employed in the marine energy industry, this figure is set to rise to over 22,000 by 2040.
“For the government, it’s also worth looking at the economic benefits, where are the jobs created?”, asked Barr. “Currently, we don’t manufacture offshore wind turbines in the UK but the leading wave and tidal developers are based here. We think it’s important that we secure those benefits for the regions, such as Orkney and the Highlands and Islands.”
Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Getting the development pathway right means being able to increase the benefits the sector delivers, help balance our energy system and export more of our knowledge abroad – as well as cutting the costs of these innovative technologies.”