Memorandum submitted by Mr Peter Hain,
MP, Minister of State and Energy and Competitiveness in Europe,
Department of Trade and Industry
I very much welcomed the opportunity to appear
before your committee on 28 March to assist you with your inquiry
into energy from wave and tidal stream. As agreed at the committee
hearing, I am writing to you now to answer the outstanding point
as to whom I believe the major players are and how the UK compares
with them in the development of this technology.
As I told the committee, a number of countries
are active in pursuing wave and tidal stream technologies with
programmes at various stages of development. Many of these programmes
are led by research institutions, but few have reached the commercial
demonstration stage. If the UK is to successfully develop and
deploy wave energy and tidal stream projects, it is important
to engage with industry at an early stage of the technology development.
The UK has a wealth of skills and experience in its marine and
offshore industries that can make a significant contribution to
the successful development of these new technologies. This is
why my Department's programme focuses on industrially led projects
to complement the work of the Engineering and Physical Sciences
research council in the academic area.
Countries that have an industrial interest in
the development of projects are probably the UK's major competitors
at present. Japan has been successful in the development and deployment
of prototype devices (mostly of the oscillating water column type)
and has commercially exploited this technology to power navigation
buoys at sea (a niche market). They have also built and tested
a large floating oscillating water column device called the "Mighty
Whale" which had a maximum output of 110kW and produced electricity
at around three times the cost of coal or oil. I believe this
development programme ended in 1999 and, as far as I know, there
are no plans for a follow on project. A Swedish company, Sea Power
International, has tested a prototype "Floating Wave Power
Vessel" which generates power from low head water turbines.
Sea Power International has a SRO (Scottish Renewable Order) contract
to install a 400kW machine 500m off the coast of Shetland this
year. They claim its advantages are that it is a robust simple
concept which uses known shipbuilding and water turbine technology.
Despite this, the project sponsors seem to require a considerable
subsidy and have suggested that almost a third of the project
costs should be met from government or EU sources. Portugal has
been a major player in wave energy development in Europe with
its EU funded oscillating water column device in the Azores, but
whether this translates into a major industrial interest remains
to be seen.
By comparison with the rest of the world, the
UK has made good progress on wave power in recent years and the
commissioning of the generator on Islay last year is evidence
of that. I hope that reinstating the wave programme in 1999 will
act as a further spur to development and stimulate interest in
UK based companies remaining here as a base for their operations.
As you know, my Department's programme already supports seven
wave energy projects and I can tell you that, since the beginning
of April, three further proposals worthy of support have been
received and are being processed. In addition, I have authorised
including energy from tidal currents in the renewable energy support
programme which opens up the prospect of exploiting a second technology
to extract energy from the seas surrounding the UK. My decision
will enable DTI officials to take forward discussions with a project
developer on a proposed demonstration plant to be constructed
off the north Devon coast next year.
All in all, I believe the UK is making good
progress with the development of clean energy and the development
and deployment of reliable and cost effective wave and tidal current
technologies has an important part to play. However, I am not
complacent and continued effort on the part of government will
be required to maintain progress. I hope and believe your inquiry
will help me with the further development of clean sustainable
energy in the UK and I look forward to receiving your report.
24 April 2001