Wave and tidal
134. Wave and tidal energy has huge potential in
the UK, with one estimate suggesting that 1,000 MW could be installed
by 2012-13. Set
amid oceans, with strong currents, Britain has a massive natural
resource. Tidal energy is more reliable than wind and solar power
but in terms of technological development it is well behind both.
Current generation costs are relatively high although we have
been told that in the long term it has the potential to be one
of the cheapest forms of electricity generation.
The UK has RD&D strengths in these technologies, with a small
number of companies who lead the development of the technologies
as well as a number of universities with a significant research
capability in this area.
EPSRC has a moderate investment in wave and tidal research, having
risen from nothing in 1999-2000 to around £0.5 million in
2001-02. The DTI expects to spend £1.6 million on RD&D
in 2002-03 and has recently announced that two companiesWavegen
and Tidal Hydraulic Generatorswill receive £3.7 million
between them to develop prototype tidal generators off the coasts
of Islay (west Scotland) and Pembrokeshire (see Table 6). Wave
and tidal were considered priority areas of research by the ERRG
report, stating that they were technologies with "good long-term
prospects of yielding very large reductions of carbon emissions"
with "the potential to play a significant role in helping
to meet the challenge of a secure, sustainable, low-carbon energy
Brian Wilson told us that he was a fan of wave and tidal technologies
and that the DTI had managed to support all credible projects
in wave and tidal energy, which begs the question as to why there
are so few credible projects.
Mr Wilson seemed very confident about the future of the technology,
suggesting that the current commercial generator on Islay only
needed to be scaled up and mass produced like sausages.
We hope the Minister is right and it really is that simple. We
were pleased to see his announcement of new funding for wave and
tidal projects two days after appearing before us.
135. Wave and tidal power was the subject of an inquiry
by our predecessor Committee in the last Parliament and it remains
a particular concern of ours.
The report concluded that there were no major technological barriers
to its exploitation and criticised the Government for its lack
of funding. It recommended a managed programme by the EPSRC for
wave and tidal and a "significant proportion" of the
£100 million announced by the Prime Minister for renewables
in March 2001. We are pleased to see that wave and tidal energy
has received greater governmental attention since our predecessors'
report. We hope that the recent increases in funding represent
the first stage in building capacity, leading to investment commensurate
with the potential of wave and tidal energy. We can look forward
in the near future to investment commensurate with wave and tidal
energy's potential impact on the UK's energy supply.
136. A further recommendation of our predecessors
was that a National Offshore Wave and Tidal Test Centre should
be set up. In its reply, the Government said that it had taken
the first steps in setting up a Marine Energy Test Centre at Stromness
in the Orkneys. We welcome this development and look forward to
its opening "later this year".
There is clearly progress in this field but the Government would
do well to note these comments from the Engineering Business:
"Tide and wave energy technology developers
are intending to make huge progress on large-scale systems in
a very short time scale, all on low budget programmes. The challenge
for government is to decide how desirable it is to generate significant
power from wave and tide resources, and how important it is to
develop these new industries based on British companies using
existing UK skills and infrastructure. If the answer to both of
these questions is yes, then we are confident that we can deliver
and the only requirement is to provide market conditions that
encourage this to happen".