The Future of Marine Renewables in the UK - Energy and Climate Change Contents

1 Introduction

1.  The seas and oceans represent a large potential source of renewable energy but, unlike wind turbines and solar panels, technologies that can achieve the Holy grail and "turn sea water into electricity" are still in their infancy[1]. If captured effectively, the energy contained in waves and the flow of the tides could provide a clean and reliable source of electricity. With the largest wave and tidal resource in Europe, the UK could gain substantial benefits from marine renewables.

2.  The UK is currently the world leader in the development of wave and tidal stream technologies.[2] Of the eight full-scale prototype devices installed worldwide, seven are in the UK.[3] This success is the result of a number of factors: an abundant natural resource, a long history of academic research on wave and tidal power, world-class testing facilities and a strong skills base in other maritime industries.[4]

3.  Our inquiry was prompted by DECC's decision to close the £50m Marine Renewables Deployment Fund and to replace it with a £20m innovation fund but it has not been limited to it. We have also examined the opportunities for the UK in developing wave and tidal energy and assessed the effectiveness of the Government's broader policy measures in this area.

4.  In this report, we use the phrase "tidal energy" to refer to tidal stream energy (unless otherwise stated). While we recognise that tidal range technologies (such as tidal barrages and tidal lagoons) could also make a significant contribution to the UK's energy system, we have not looked in detail at this family of technologies. This is because this group of technologies is more mature (La Rance tidal barrage in France has been operational since 1966[5]) and therefore faces a very different set of challenges around deployment and support than those faced by nascent technologies such as wave and tidal stream. We refer interested readers to the work of our predecessor committee on Severn Estuary Tidal Power Projects.[6] We use the term "marine renewables" to refer to wave and tidal stream energy only - we have excluded consideration of offshore wind from this inquiry.

5.  We received 50 submissions of written evidence and held three oral evidence sessions. A full list of witnesses can be found at the end of this report.[7] We are very grateful to all those who have contributed towards this inquiry. We also visited the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, where we met with members of the industry and representatives from the local council.[8] We would like to express our thanks to all those who took the time to meet us and to impart their first-hand knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in developing wave and tidal energy.

Structure of this report

6.  We begin our report in Chapters 2 and 3 by setting out the context of our inquiry, including identifying some of the potential benefits the wave and tidal energy could bring and some of the barriers to investment in this sector. Chapter 4 looks at the Government's overarching strategy and the various institutions that are engaged in developing the marine renewables sector. Chapters 5 and 6 address some of the main barriers to the development of marine energy, including raising sufficient finance (Chapter 5), grid connections, the consenting process, public acceptability, environmental integrity and the skills gap (Chapter 6). Finally, we draw conclusions in Chapter 7.

1   with the exception of some tidal range technologies, such as La Rance tidal barrage in France - Ev w16. Back

2   Tidal stream devices use the flow of water due to tides to generate electricity. Tidal range devices use the change in height of water due to tides, using principles similar to a hydroelectric dam.

Ev 42, 53, w1, w20, w24, w32, w39, w45, w61, w97, w107; Q 11 Back

3   Ev 82 Back

4   Ev 42, 78, 82, w20, w45, w52, w61, w97, w102 Back

5   Ev w8, w16, w73, w78, w81  Back

6   Energy and Climate Change Committee, Minutes of Evidence, Severn Estuary Tidal Power Projects, 14 October 2009, HC 1011-i Back

7   Page 36 Back

8   See annex 1 - note of visit. Back

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Prepared 19 February 2012