Wave and tidal power need support, say MPs

Artist's impression of proposed Skerries Tidal Stream Array Schemes such as the Skerries Tidal Stream Array off Anglesey give the UK "a global lead"

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The government should increase support for wave and tidal power to preserve the UK's global leadership, say MPs.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee says the UK had in the past lost its early lead on wind power through lack of support, and must not make the same mistake again on marine energy.

Its report recommends increasing funding and improving links between UK and Scottish programmes.

The Carbon Trust recently said marine power could create 10,000 jobs by 2020.

By 2050, it said, the global market could be worth £340bn, with the UK claiming about one-fifth of the business.

And with the UK possessing seven out of the eight large-scale prototypes deployed anywhere in the world, it was well-placed to lead the global race, the MPs said.

Start Quote

The government would be mad to miss this boat”

End Quote Nick Molho WWF-UK

"In the 1980s 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," said Tim Yeo MP, the committee's chairman.

"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."

Electricity demand

The committee's report, The Future of Marine Renewables in the UK, included an examination of tidal stream generators, where devices such as big rotors are turned by the incoming and outgoing tides, but excluded barrage technologies such as the mooted Severn Barrage, which tend to be much more expensive and can cause big ecological problems.

It has been estimated that wave and tidal technologies could supply about one-fifth of the UK's current electricity demand, and many other nations are becoming interested, in particular the Nordic countries, South Korea and China.

But currently they are expensive - about five times the price of onshore wind, for example.

As with other new technologies, the government expects costs to fall dramatically once devices and installation become standardised.

La Rance tidal barrage La Rance barrage, opened in 1966, was until recently the world's biggest tidal power facility

But there is little chance of marine power making a major contribution by 2020.

The government recently reduced its estimate of the 2020 contribution from 1-2 gigawatts (GW) to 200-300 MW, and the committee says that should be looked at again, as several industry experts have said the new target can be met easily.

The size of the UK funding pot for marine renewables, at £20m, should also be re-examined, they say. And deployment of that money should be co-ordinated better with the Scottish government, which has a separate £18m budget.

The level of subsidy companies receive up to 2017 is secure, the MPs say - but longer-term clarity is needed in order to give investors confidence.

David Clarke, chief executive of the Energy Technologies Institute, a government-industry collaboration, said time was of the essence.

"The marine renewables industry must demonstrate its ability to be cost-competitive, compared with other low-carbon technologies, in the next 5-8 years if it is to engage commercial investors," he said.

"If it doesn't, other technologies will be built as alternatives; investors will feel more assurance in them and see more opportunity for return."

With projects such as Marine Current Turbines' tidal generator in Strangford Lough showing the technologies can work with no discernible impact on local ecology, the next step will be to build arrays of several connected devices; but each array would cost around £40-50m, the committee heard, meaning current levels of support could be inadequate.

Another recommendation from the committee is that with many of the best sites in remote locations around northern and western Scotland and in the Orkneys and Shetlands, finance for grid connection needs ramping up.

'Fully committed'

Environment groups who have long bemoaned the slow pace of development on wave and tidal power endorsed the committee's recommendations.

"This report is a great reminder of the massive potential of marine renewables in the UK," said Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK.

"Investment certainty holds the key to reducing the costs of marine renewable and creating jobs; the government would be mad to miss this boat."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the government welcomed the report and was studying its recommendations.

"We are fully committed to spurring on the growth of this industry and have already taken great strides to make this happen," she said.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    I think we should look at solar, tidal, wind and any other clean sustainable energy source, but it has to be cost effective and not government subsided. I think wind could benefit more, if we learnt to store energy built up in winder periods and turned off other sources of energy when winds are constant. New clean technology has to be the industry of the future and will balance our economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    To those here that think wind turbines are still the answer - did you know that during virtually EVERY DAY of the recent cold snap, when there was a HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM over the UK and therefore little or NO WIND, the whole of the UK's windfarm system produced just over 1/10th of it's supposed 4025mw MONITORED capacity. How on earth do you support a civilisation with such an unreliable supply?

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    270 Entropic Man High investment cost yes, but excellent long-term economics & minimal pollution of the planet. Carbon nanotube 'beanstalk'/space elevator can address the lift issues, plus we can use the 'stalk to get the power thru our protective atmosphere - the 'anchor' (past geosync orbit) can include solar collectors, support facilities, ore collection and the 'stalk provides access.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    One further thought....
    Surely Britain's main problem is the difficulty of coping with power-demand peaks? Base load is no problem.
    Perhaps what we really need is energy STORAGE - meaning large seasonal reserves of fuel (LNG, coal and oil) and quick-release, guaranteed power output capacity. That removes support for any type of generation that neither meets base load or surge demand!

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    The very idea that we should embark on a new Nuclear program when the current Nuclear stations are awash with waste which will remain toxic for a million years at least, is total insanity and the comments made that there has not been one death from the Nuclear disaster at Fukshima is breath taking to say the least, just visit http://enenews.com/ or http://fukushima-diary.com for daily/hourly updat

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    The main victory in these threads is more and more people are beginning to realise that most of the people we vote for are :

    1. Not in it for our benefit.

    2. Don't know what they are doing, therefore focus on survival more than development.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    @274, Don't forget times have changed, Steptoe & son owned their own home. I have no prospect of ever owning my own house even with a decent job. Adding 30-40 thousand pounds worth of equipment into new houses will only drive the already extortionate prices even higher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Concern about using orbital power stations as weapons?

    That sounds familiar.

    Are we not presently concerned that the same technology used for nuclear power can be used to make nuclear weapons?

    No gain without risk, it would seem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    prudeboy@284 ----- Pumped storage is not the only option. As it happens there are at least 3 other British companies working on non-pumped storage and non-battery energy storage systems. This includes Isentropic which is developing a cheap heat engine system, using argon gas and pebbles at the core of the storage system. It is as cheap and efficient as pumped storage. (Argon is a common gas).

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Many types of 'sustainable' or 'renewable' energy generation are not either. Tidal power has great potential in some locations (e.g the Severn estuary) and wave power could be exploited worldwide. But the first priority must be energy saving at the point of consumption - insulation, reduced fuel consumption, CHP and industrial heat recycling all need government support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    270.Entropic man
    Large space based solar energy installations were investigated in the late 70's Apparently the Pentagon objected on the grounds that they would be viewed as potentially a massive weapon

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Alba Al@269 ------- The Severn Barrage was more like a wall or dam with turbines in it than a typical tidal turbine system that is being developed by many companies in the UK now. Tidal turbines are not placed in a wall, but are scattered in a 'farm'. Marine life is not prevented from moving about and such systems are cheaper than a 'barrage'. They also rotate at a relatively slower rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Could the Energy and Climate Committee MPs please take over the Office for Nuclear Development, close it down and transfer its staff to the other bit of DECC, provided, of course, that these staff don't really believe nuclear power is anything other than a disaster.
    Westminster, Downing Street and Whitehall could then banish all the nuclear lobbyists trying to get taxpayers to fund EDF profits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    272. prudeboy

    The main advantage of Thorium is the much reduced risk of a meltdown - the higher melting point of Th vs U means water isn't required to cool the thorium in the event of an overheat - heat can simply be dissipated through air. The radioactive side products are still produced, so this disadvantage still remains but they should still be cleaner than current U based reactors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    #275 Suboran "what happens when a whale swims into one of those under water blades?"

    The seals in Strangford Lough are visibly aware of the prototype tidal turbine and easily avoid it. Would whales be les aware?

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Yes this renewable energy must not be left to others to gain control of. We lost the wind and solar business. Last chance for our government to back support and develop an industry and technology we can lead. Get on with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    #274. Pete
    "We should have wind turbines for when its windy and solar power stations for when its sunny, plus methods or storage like the pumped storage lakes in wales. All backed up by tidal power."

    We have just had a cold spell where we had no wind. For days on end. How much pumped storage would we need for when at night and the tide turns slack?

    Wales the lake?

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    I think this is something the government has got right. I think we need a backbone of nuclear power, supplemented by smarter energy use and perhaps tidal power. I am dubious, however, that the energy costs to build structures able to withstand the oceans can be recouped over the lifetime of the structure, salt water is incredebly corrosive. Nuclear power, on the other hand, is dependable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    The main problem with almost all the alternative energy strategies, is that they cannot be timetabled to match our demand. We won't be able to make enough use of them until we can store the generated enegy until it is needed. It is in the area of large capacity long period energy storage that we need to be putting our development effort, otherwise we will end up having to buy in the technology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    This the only sensible debate the UK should be having on renewable energy, or in the case of wave and tidal technology: persistent energy.
    Especially the 'bulge wave anaconda' which are much more efficient.
    We're an island. We can also export this energy solution to other countries.
    And wind turbines are useless by comparison.


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