The United Kingdom could become a leading exporter of wave and tidal technology, according to a new report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee. But the report also warns the UK is at risk of repeating mistakes which allowed the country to lose its early lead in the developing wind power industry.
The UK is already world leader in the development of wave and tidal energy technologies, it is home to seven of the eight full-scale prototype devices installed worldwide. This success is the result of a number of factors; an abundant natural resource, a long history of academic research, world-class testing facilities and a strong skills base in other maritime industries, says the report. The Carbon Trust recently said marine power could create 10,000 jobs by 2020. The UK has the largest wave and tidal resources in Europe and the report suggests that 20% of its electricity could be generated from marine renewables. But the government is targeting 200 to 300 megawatts (MW) of marine capacity by 2020, 1-2 gigawatts (GW) less than its forecasts in 2010.
The report warns that an overly cautious approach to deployment may allow other less risk-averse countries to steal the UK’s lead. Comittee member Tim Yeo adds: “In the 80s 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. 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.” The UK should focus on reducing costs and setting ambitious deployment targets beyond 2020, according to the report.
Potential obstacles that could hinder the development of a wave and tidal industry in the UK include: investor confidence, policy certainty, public-private risk sharing, improved grid connections and a workforce with the necessary engineering skills.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change issued a statement welcoming the report and said that it is now studying the recommendations.