Memorandum submitted by the Scottish Energy
The Scottish Energy Environment Foundation (SEEF)
is an independent organisation that has been set up to create
an internationally significant centre of excellence in energy
and related environmental technologies and assist the development
of commercial opportunities in these areas.
It is funded through support from the Scottish
Executive, Scottish Enterprise, British Energy, Scottish and Southern
Energy, and Scottish Power and has academic partners in Edinburgh
and Strathclyde Universities. Although able to draw on information
and expertise within these organisations it operates independently
from all of the partners.
Within the area of policy development its purpose
to act as a credible commentator and highlight the issues of importance
whilst balancing the vested commercial interets of any particular
developer/sector or organisation with those of another. It is
developing a wide membership that ranges from utilities and developers
of conventional and renewable energy systems to academics, planners,
SMEs and local authorities.
Through acting as a facilitator, SEEF is a resource
base, attracting EU and research funding, as well as helping new
initiatives to access venture capital. From a strong policy and
technology base it provides authoritative advice on energy and
the environment for demand and supply-side issues, as well as
contributing to the development of a Scottish energy policy.
Within the framework of the inquiry into wave
and tidal energy, the activities listed above are relevant to
the Committee. The Scottish Energy Environment Foundation is not
directly associated with any wave/tide energy developers but is
able to provide a considered response on this topic, with a particular
(and relevant) focus on issues in Scotland.
1. Development of the electricity supply
system in the UK has taken place over more than 100 years. At
present, the challenges faced demand a response that is implemented
within the next decade.
2. Environmental considerations are becoming
the key driver in the development of energy issues. Keeping a
focus on the longer-term issues has to become the priority if
the Government is committed to combating the effects of climate
change and developing a viable UK electricity mix.
3. With changes in the method and location
of electricity generation, the existing system has certain constraints.
The majority of existing power stations are unlikely to be operating
in 50 years time, so there is a tremendous opportunity to educate
and promote development within a new skills base, new technologies
4. There is a large potential resource for
wave and tidal energy in the UK, but serious consideration must
be given to the level of exploitation that is envisioned.
5. The majority of the resource for wave
and tidal energy is at a considerable distance from the population.
Significant strengthening of the grid will be required if this
resource is to be made available beyond the local supply level.
6. Transmission loss charges will need to
be addressed if existing generation sources are not to be disadvantaged
by zonal charging practices.
7. A skills base exists within the UK to
support the development of wave and tidal energy but it is in
decline. Education and (re)training programmes must be developed
to maintain current expertise in this area.
8. If policy decisions in this area are
to be effectively implemented, the consultees must include all
those stakeholders who operate in the marine environment.
1. It has taken over a century of growth
and development in the UK electricity industry to achieve a safe,
stable and regulated industry that meets the supply and demand
requirements of the nation.
2. Although developed primarily on the abundant
coal reserves of the UK, the electricity industry diversified
into gas-fired generation, nuclear power and large-scale hydroelectricity
driven by security of supply. Planning and development was based
on economic issues that also dictated technology choices, and
global warming and climate change were still considered as academic
research. Little account was taken of local environmental issues
beyond statutory planning and operation requirements.
3. The national grid transmission and supply
system and associated electricity generation capacity therefore
evolved over a long period of time in order to meet Government
energy policy. With a rapidly changing focus on methods of generation
that under consideration, there needs to be a strategic approach
that will take account of both the future requirements of technology
and infrastructure within a UK energy mix, and recognise the constraints
(or opportunities) of the existing system.
4. Development of the renewable resource
cannot be considered in isolation from the issues listed above,
and the paragraphs below expand on these in more detail.
5. The increasing importance of environmental
issues at the local and global scale is now the key to future
development. Climate change is recognised as one of the most serious
environmental threats facing the world today and emissions of
carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels is acknowledgd
as the largest contributor.
6. Under the Kyoto agreement the UK has
a target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent
from 1990 levels by the year 2010. The Government believes that
the UK will benefit from moving beyond its Kyoto target over the
same period of time, and have an additional national target to
reduce emissions of CO2 to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010.
7. Over the last decade, a switch from coal
to gas fired generation encouraged by low gas prices, combined
with an increase in the output from nuclear power stations has
reduced CO2 emissions within the electricity sector, making savings
against other sectors. However, the UK's total CO2 emissions are
forecast to begin rising again after 2000 even under a moderate
growth in electricity demand. Large increases in emissions from
the electricity sector are forecast when current nuclear power
stations are decommissioned, unless they can be replaced by other
low-carbon technologies (see appendix 1).
8. The recent report by the Royal Commission
on Environmental Pollution has highlighted the issue that a 20
per cent reduction target for CO2 emissions is likely to be only
the first step on an increasingly more stringent path to a bigger
cutperhaps 60 per cent or morethat will be needed
globally throughout this century and beyond if we are to avoid
the devastating effects of climate change.
9. The developed world needs to demonstrate
to developing countries that it is possible to break the link
between economic growth and rising emissions, thereby helping
to achieve sustaintable development. This would start the transition
to the low carbon economy that will be needed in the longer term
if the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are to be stabilised.
10. The UK electricity transmission and
distribution system was developed to receive the generation output
of large power stations (primarily coal, oil and gas fired stations)
transmit this to the centres of demand across the country, and
then distribute it amongst the local users on that network in
order to supply their demands. The fuel source was transported
to the power station, and the flow of electricity generated was
from a strong central point (the grid) to a weaker periphery.
11. The development of grid-linked renewable
generation capacity on a large scale therefore has some constraints
placed upon it. Unlike the existing conventional power stations
renewable generation has to be sited in the location with the
optimal resource (wave, tidal, wind etc), which is often far from
the centres of demand and at the periphery of a weak electricity
supply system (where it exists). The further one moves away from
the optimal resource location the higher the generation costs
become. Additionally, the transmission of electricity over long
distances incurs a transmission loss and there are charges for
access to, and the use of the distribution and transmission networks
that must be borne by the developer/operator of the site, and
the electricity supply company for that area. The intermittent
nature of the supply from some renewable generation also puts
it at a disadvantage with the New Electricity Trading Arrangements
(NETA) under which fluctuating supply attracts a penalty.
12. The status of the grid transmission
system for Scotland in 1993 is shown in appendix 2. Given there
has been only minor development of this system in the intervening
period it is still a good illustration of the key issue for wave
and tidal energy development in Scotland.
13. If the UK is to fully exploit the potential
of the wave and tidal resource in Scotland then significant improvement
to the grid supply infrastructure is required. To supply the large
centres of demand located outside of Scotland, 400kv transmission
lines will have to be developed to the north and western coasts,
and connected into the existing systems. Connections to the offshore
islands will also need development through sub-sea cables in order
to be able to receive the output from developments sited in these
areas and link them into the grid.
14. Even if wave and tidal energy is developed
on a small scale, the location in which the resource is optimal
has a very dispersed local population with a weak distribution
network. Placing generating capacity in these areas and linking
into the local supply network can cause network problems or require
costly strengthening. A 500kW wave device is located on the Island
of Islay off the west coast of Scotland is the first commercial
wave device in the world to operate, yet only 150kW of the output
can be used due to the weak grid link. A recent study in the Highlands
and Islands region of Scotland highlighted that an investment
of £200 million would be required to allow development renewable
(wind) generation in this region.
15. When electricity is transmitted on the
national grid system over long distances there are losses incurred
as a result of the physical laws that govern the voltage, current
and resistance. Where the grid system is operating efficiently,
the losses will be low but there is a degree of variation. At
present the cost of these physical losses places an average transmission
loss charge on generators (including renewables). The market regulator
(Ofgem) is proposing that the average charge is replaced by a
locational signal that reflects the higher loss levels with the
increasing distance to demand. As a result, all the generators
within a particular area would be charged at a rate that accounts
for the zonal losses of that area.
16. This has cost implications for the siting
of renewable generation, as it will become preferential to locate
all new generation plant in the south-east of the UK where the
zonal charge will be the lowest cost.
17. This issue is pertinent to the issue
of wave and tidal energy, as from a Scottish perspective the location
of the resource (the far north, and offshore from the western
coast) is a long way from the centres of demand (in Scotland),
and even further from the demand centre in the UK (the south-east).
18. The paragraphs above describe the existing,
and future (short to medium-term) issues. It must be borne in
mind that within the next 50 years the majority of existing power
stations are unlikely to be operating. Therefore, designing a
coherent system that includes both demand and supply measures,
a flexible electricity generation portfolio, coupled with transparent
regulation mechanisms is vital to meeting longer-term commitments.
By "backcasting" from this future state, the true scope
of the challenges to development (and their timescales) will become
19. If the UK has the ambition to fully
develop opportunities within wave and tidal energy then there
needs to be a focus on the skills that are required to support
it. At present, there has been little co-ordinated support for
wave and tidal energy projects and the facilities available for
development and testing of devices are not being maintained.
20. Within the UK shipbuilding and offshore
industries, the skills base exists to support many of the fundamental
aspects of wave and tidal energy devices. Both of these industries
are in decline and education and (re)training programmes must
be developed to transfer the knowledge into a structure that can
maintain current expertise in this area, and provide opportunities
for new developments.
21. Framed against the opportunities that
exist, the initiative should be taken to transfer the leading
techniques and devices from the experience of those already operating
in the marine offshore environment into wave and tidal technologies.
Education will also play an important role if a new generation
of scientists, engineers and economists, are to approach the future
without the constraints of a sytem that belongs more to the last
century than to this one.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
22. Within the scope of the Committee's
inquiry, there has been a wide call for memoranda. The questions
that are listed below identify particular areas of interest but
have not highlighted the overarching issue of planning.
23. An examination of the complexity of
the legal framework and its stakeholders surrounding the development
of the offshore wind industry in the UK provides a useful corollary
to wave and tidal energy development. The different organisations
that could be potentially involved with any project either as
advisers, or as influencers whose decision determine the outcome
of a project proposal, must be included in the process of policy
development in this area. By forming alliances with these organisations
from the outset, the complexity of the overall process can be
reduced, and the certainty of the outcome improved for a prospective
investor or developer.
RESPONSES TO THE COMMITTEE'S
Is the technology available for efficient generation
of power from waves and tides?
24. The concepts for generation from wave
and tidal resources are well developed, but the technology is
not yet mature for either.
25. Water-based technologies have an advantage
over wind and solar in that the energy flux is in an order of
magnitude higher, typically 4kW per metre squared compared with
400W, and often much less, for wind and solar technologies. Modern
load management techniques have also substantially alleviated
earlier intermittent load fluctuating problems pertaining to both
tidal and wave power among other renewable sources. However, like
other forms of renewable generation factors relating to system
integration still have to be considered even now for both tidal
power and wave power.
26. The design of wave energy converters
has to be flexible enough to enable them to operate at maximum
efficiency over the normal range of sea conditions, yet they must
be robust enough to withstand the worst storms, along with any
anchorage or civil/marine engineering works.
27. Despite its large potential resource
for the UK of 40-50 TWh/year (approximately 15-20 per cent of
UK electricity generation output), no economic large-scale wave
energy device has yet been produced, and load management and integration
problems are still quite severe.
Will wave and tidal energy become commercially
viable in the near future, and attractive to the private sector
as a profitable investment?
28. The development of offshore wind projects
has received much publicity within England and Wales and is already
becoming attractive for private sector investment. Although a
large wind resource exists in Scotland, the development of projects
offshore is less attractive than those proposed in England and
Wales due to the steeper coastal profile and subsequent increase
in engineering cost that currently limit large-scale development.
29. However, there is a great marine resource
to be harnessed in wave and tidal energy around the coastline
of the UK, in particular on the northern and western coasts of
Scotland. An additional factor that plays in favour of the development
of offshore wave and tidal energy is that unlike other forms of
renewable energy (for example wind), it is highly predictable
and can provide a base-load supply.
30. At present, the economic advantage of
wave and tidal power depends upon the relative values of imported
and exported energy within the system, and on the ability of the
supply system to meet the demand. It will be difficult for either
to become commercially viable if the present economic indicators
continue to be used. The additional engineering costs per installed
unit of power for wave and tidal energy are not balanced by additional
environmental costs that could be reflected in other carbon dioxide
31. Under the Renewables Obligation, a system
of certificates has been proposed that will move some way towards
addressing the benefits of "new" renewable generation
technologies. The new arrangements place an obligation on electricity
suppliers to provide 10 per cent of their supply from renewable
source by 2010 or pay a fixed penalty per unit that is not supplied
from a qualifying renewable resource.
32. Hardware costs for both wave and tidal
plant are coming in around £1,000/kW. However installed costs
in OWC projects can come in around £2,500/kW if extensive
civil engineering works are required for the supporting structure.
Where additional network issues require to be addressed, this
will add to the costs significantly if it is a small-scale project.
With "mass production" hardware costs should be able
to be reduced.
33. At present the price of electricity
produced by wave and tidal stream technologies come in at above
5p per unit (which is the proposed capped price of the renewable
electricity to be supplied in this arrangement). With electricity
suppliers operating with a commercial driver, it would not make
sense to enter into such contracts with wave and tidal power providers
when they can buy themselves out of the unit supply obligation
at a price lower than contracting wave generation. In addition,
tidal stream energy is not included in the Renewable Obligation
list of acceptable technologies despite its potential.
What projects are currently running in the UK
and how successful have they been?
34. Three wave energy projects were awarded
contracts under the 3rd Scottish Renewables Order (SRO), but only
one of these contracts has been realised. The main wave energy
project is a shoreline device that combines an oscillating water
column (OWC) to compress air that drives a Wells turbine. WaveGen
and Professor Whittaker from Queen's University Belfast had developed
smaller scale demonstration devices over a period of around 10
years. The commercial device (Limpet) was commissioned in November
2000 and has a capacity rating of 0.5MW. Due to a weak grid-connection
on the Island only 0.15MW of the capacity can be used. The device
also requires specific shoreline characteristics.
35. In terms of tidal stream energy, the
science is well understood but the technology requires further
development. One 300kW unit is about to be installed by marine
Current Turbines of Lynmouth in Devon and The Engineering Business
has also demonstrated a small model device that they are seeking
to upgrade to a demonstration stage. A novel tidal device is also
undergoing development by RVeco Ltd.
Why did past projects fail?
36. Previous programmes have included IT
Power's tidal stream that suffered the wrath of the elements at
the Corran Narrows, Loch Linnhe near Fort William and ART's (now
Wavegen) OSPREY project suffering similiar problems in the Pentland
Firth. These failures have been attributed to engineering shortcomings
induced by budgetary cutbacks.
37. Most likely sources of wave energy are
on the west coast of Britain, and at some considerable distance
from likely large users of electricity. Hence the total costs
for design and erection of the energy generators, and the power
transmission system must be analysed and estimated in relation
to the market, and the price that the market will pay. Too often
in the past, seeming attractive projects have foundered because
of over-optimistic initial assumptions.
38. At present, wave and tidal energy technologies
lack a large corporate sponsor and this lack is of critical importance.
Recently a trade association "Seapower" (sponsored by
British Energy) and the associated Marine Technologies Network
was announced that will provide a platform from which to address
some of these issues, but a significant financial sponsor for
development is still the major requirement.
What role should wave and tidal energy have in
the Government's renewable energy strategy? Should they be a higher
39. Wave and tidal stream devices have the
potential to be as important as onshore wind energy but the technology
needs to be demonstrated and encouraged if it is to develop.
40. They have an additional benefit over
other forms of renewable generation that are currently receiving
support (offshore wind, biomass) that they can be predicted and
used as base load (which wind is not), and do not involve a combustion
process and consequent exhaust gases. It they are to be used on
a large scale, they are also likely to have less visual impact
(particularly tidal services) and as such should also be assessed
on these merits for support.
What Research & Development is being undertaken
at present? Is national funding for R&D being well co-ordinated?
41. Although there are funding opportunities
available through both the DTI and the EPSRC, much of the research
being carried out is fragmented, and undertaken with limited funding
available (maximum typically 50 per cent of project costs) with
peer reviews primarily being academic based. Additionally, some
of the research is limited by a lack of available facilities within
the UK for testing and development.
42. An example of this is Professor Salter
at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Edinburgh.
He is working on wave power using a modified Swedish buoy system,
however the Edinburgh wave tank, where this work is being undertaken,
is scheduled for demolition.
What are the environmental implications of wave
and tidal energy, particularly for marine life? How will such
devices affect shipping?
43. It is often perceived that the environmental
effects of wave power will lead to a reduction in the wave energy
incident on shores and shallow inshore waters. This decrease could
result in changes in the numbers and species of the local flora
and fauna and the reduction in wave height could also lead to
less replenishment of water to splash-filled pools. They may also
lead to the growth, rather than the erosion, of beaches. Offshore
installations will also require shore based support facilities
as well as a fleet of support vessels.
44. The onshore Islay Wave station is viewed
by many as not contributing to the local visual amenity and some
designs of air-turbine may produce unpleasant noise which could
be audible above the background of the wind and waves. Offshore
devices will have less visual impact but may come into conflict
with fishing activities in terms of risk of collision and the
fouling of fishing gear on mooring systems. Offshore devices may,
however, create calm conditions lee-side, which could be of advantage
to maritime transport.
45. The development of an offshore wave/tidal
industry could have significant knock-on benefits in other areas.
Anchoring devices could act as new reefs for colonisation by fish
and marine life, and careful siting of wave and tidal devices
could protect existing, or create new spawning/nursery grounds
for the depleted fish stocks.
46. Tidal stream devices are judged to be
considerably less intrusive than wind turbines and barrages and
the likely hazard to navigation will be no different from what
exhibited by current offshore installations. The impact on marine
life has yet to be assessed.
How does Britain compare with other comparable
nations in R&D in this field? What projects are currently
being undertaken abroad and how successful have they been?
47. Because Britain has one of the best
world resources of wave and tidal climate, we are well-placed
to develop this potential and the Limpet wave-power device is
one of the most advanced systems world wide. The UK is no worse
than other EU countries. However as the major resources exist
around the west coast of the UK, we should be well ahead of the
world in terms of R&D and Funding programmes.
48. There are smaller systems wave-power
devices powering buoys and remote instrumentation at sea. For
example, the Japanese TWG-3 is currently being used by Trinity
Light House Service as well as in Denmark and Japan. Blue energy
in Canada has also developed a 25kW Darrieus vertical axis turbine.
The Portuguese have built an oscillating water-column device in
the Azores and further work on tidal stream devices is being undertaken
in Norway, Italy and China.
49. Several designs have now been developed
and tested around the world over the last 10 years and predictions
now show that from an initial generating cost of 20 p/kWh in 1980,
cost will be down to 6 p/kWh in 2001.
1 March 2001