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MPs urge UK Government to seize tidal power potential


By Calum MacLeod

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A graphic image of EMEC's O2 tidal turbine.
A graphic image of EMEC's O2 tidal turbine.

A call by MPs for the UK Government to give more support to tidal energy and help it achieve its potential has been welcomed by marine energy pioneer EMEC.

The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee hasconcluded its three month examination of tidal power technologies in the UK by urging government to engage with industry and establish appropriate revenue support for the emerging sector.

In a letter to UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, the committee concluded that the UK has demonstrated world-leading technological development and that if the sector is supported to commercialise it could make a significant contribution the UK’s future energy mix, increase investment in coastal regions supporting the "levelling-up" of the UK economy while also boosting the export potential of UK manufactured tidal turbines and associated supply chain.

Committee chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “Tidal power can offer numerous benefits and potential for the UK, which boasts over 7500 miles of coastline and unrivalled resources to generate reliable power supplies without the vagaries of sunlight or wind.

“While we appreciate the government’s concern about the potential initial cost to the taxpayer to support early-stage tidal stream and tidal range structures, the benefits outweigh the costs. Support for tidal stream is likely to lead to a rapid fall in generating costs similar to, if not steeper than, the fall experienced in offshore wind. Tidal range projects are relatively cheap to maintain once the initial costs are paid off, offering – in the longer term – a potentially affordable contribution to make to the UK’s renewable energy mix.

“It is clear that there is a strong current of interest in tidal power, with clusters set to thrive around the UK, if it is given Government backing. It is imperative that the Government fully considers the benefits of this reliable renewable energy and have constructive discussions with the sector.”

Neil Kermode, the managing director of Orkney-based EMEC (the European Marine Energy Centre, welcomed the committee's findings.

He said: “The evidence provided to the Environmental Audit Committee clearly demonstrates the considerable potential that tidal stream energy offers the UK energy mix, not just in providing a sustainable and predictable low-carbon energy source, but also the economic benefits to the UK of leading the development of tidal energy technologies and the supporting supply chain. We have already evidenced this in Orkney with the demonstration of over 30 prototype technologies in the water resulting in a GVA contribution of £306 million to the UK economy.

“For the UK to truly maximise on this potential and cement itself as the world leader in tidal power, the sector urgently needs appropriate and enduring support to be made available including continued funding for research and development as well as revenue support via the Contracts for Difference Allocation Round 4. This will provide long-term confidence to investors and truly support the commercialisation of the sector.

“We need to act now, otherwise we’ll lose our first mover advantage, just as we did with wind energy back in the 1980’s. It would be criminal to let that happen again!”

Andrew Scott, chief executive of tidal energy engineering company Orbital Marine Power, said: “It is fantastic to see the Environmental Audit Committee recognise the role tidal stream energy can play in assisting the UK's transition to net zero whilst at the same time capturing the sizable socio-economic opportunity from a global lead in tidal energy.

"This is a home-built industry that can help the UK build back greener.”


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