Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 69

Supplementary submission from the South West of England Regional Development Agency

  1.  On 29 June 2007, the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SW RDA) submitted written evidence to the Science & Technologies Committee's inquiry into renewable energy generation technologies.

  2.  The following is submitted as supplementary evidence, addressing the issues that affect commercial deployment of marine energy devices.

  2.1  No devices have yet been deployed at sea in multiple groups (arrays) for a sustained period of time. Until this has taken place, investors are unlikely to commit to the capital expenditure needed for a commercial scale project. The Wave Hub reduces the cost, time and risk of this commercial proving stage by providing shared infrastructure and a consented, leased area of sea.

  2.2  Regulators and stakeholders need to understand the environmental impacts such projects would cause. This is best achieved by a long term, comprehensive monitoring framework rather than the more limited monitoring that can be imposed through consent conditions. With support from SW RDA for capital equipment and first year staffing, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter (in association with other research institutes in the area) have established the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy (PRI-MaRE). This plans to put in place a long term monitoring framework as well as associated industry focused research. Their plans will shortly be discussed with the relevant research councils, government departments and other funding bodies and the willingness of these to align their priorities with those of PRI-MaRE will be key to meeting this objective.

  2.3  My understanding is that the companies developing the devices could speed up their development if, through the Universities or otherwise, applied research facilities were available to undertake device specific testing of components, stress testing, moorings testing and similar. The PRI-MaRE group are also planning to introduce these services.

  2.4  Investors in commercial, or pre-commercial, projects would be given increased confidence if the short, medium and longer term availability of grants and price support mechanisms could be made clear. The proposed amendments to the Marine Renewables Deployment Fund and changes to the Renewable Obligation Certificate system are likely to be welcomed, but it would help if a statement of intent could be given that the ROC system would not then be withdrawn or reduced for the next, say, 20 or 25 years.

  2.5  The consenting process is currently being reformed and this is welcomed. SW RDA submitted comments to a Defra consultation in 2007 and is willing to offer its experience as an applicant for consent to the departments developing the new process.

  2.6  For marine renewables to develop on a commercial scale in the South West of England, a process is essential to reconcile the need for sites with those of others, including merchant shipping, commercial fishing, recreation, marine conservation and military. The process should be in place as soon as possible to avoid ad hoc applications or new designations inhibiting a better, more strategic, approach. In particular, the coastal area around the South West is intensively used by many different types of commercial fishing. Closure of significant areas will have significant adverse effects and if marine conservation and marine energy extraction were able to earmark the same sea areas, these impacts could be reduced.

  2.7  The electricity transmission and distribution networks in South West England are known to have surplus capacity currently, but with proposals such as the Atlantic Array on the horizon this is limited and the full potential of marine renewables may only be realised with some upgrading. Our knowledge of what may be required and when is currently being developed.

January 2008

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