7 Conclusion |
102. The UK is clearly leading the world in the
development of wave and tidal energy. Indeed, the sense of pride
in the UK's achievements in this sector was palpable throughout
our inquiry, and rightly so. Marine renewables have the potential
to contribute a significant amount of clean electricity to the
UK system and could also bring substantial economic benefits.
It should therefore be a key priority for the Government to ensure
that the UK remains at the cutting edge of technology development
and does not allow its lead to slip.
103. Although it is still very early days for
marine renewables and it is unlikely that they will make a significant
contribution to the UK's energy mix before 2020, the potential
longer-term benefits associated with developing a thriving wave
and tidal industry in the UK are significant. The Government must
not repeat the mistakes that allowed the UK to lose its lead in
the development of wind power. An overly cautious approach to
developing the sector may allow other less risk-averse countries
to steal the UK's lead.
104. The priority must now be to focus on reducing
the costs of marine energy to a level that is competitive. Simplifying
the plethora of different organisations that provide funding will
help minimise bureaucracy for the industry and providing greater
certainty about policy plans beyond 2017 will help to boost confidence.
The Department has learnt from the experience with the Marine
Renewable Deployment Fund and is now engaging much more closely
with the industry through the Marine Energy Programme Board. This
should ensure that new policies are based on a realistic assessment
of what the industry can deliver.
105. While most of the focus to date has been
on getting prototype devices in the water, it is important to
anticipate other barriers that will need to be overcome as the
sector moves closer to commercialisation. As the scale of deployment
increases, issues such as grid connections, the consenting process,
the need for better data on marine wildlife and public attitudes
all have the potential to derail the development of marine renewables.
It is reassuring that DECC is already thinking about dealing with
some of these obstacles, though in the case of others such as
public engagement there is clearly room for improvement. The industry
in particular should not assume that marine renewables will automatically
enjoy public support simply because they are "out of sight
and out of mind".
106. Wave and tidal energy is a sector that shows
great promise. The opportunities for deployment of these technologies
worldwide are considerable. Although it will be some time before
we can reap the full benefits of a fully-fledged marine energy
industry, it is vital that DECC continues to support the development
of these technologies so that the UK can retain its leadership
position. The resource that the Government has put in to underpinning
our world lead has not been large, but the potential benefits
are great. The UK needs a strong political vision to ensure that
we can reap the rewards of a successful marine industry.