HC 1624 Energy and Climate Change CommitteeMemorandum from Research Councils UK

1. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is a strategic partnership set up to champion research supported by the seven UK Research Councils. RCUK was established in 2002 to enable the Councils to work together more effectively to enhance the overall impact and effectiveness of their research, training and innovation activities, contributing to the delivery of the Government’s objectives for science and innovation. Further details are available at www.rcuk.ac.uk.

2. This evidence is submitted by RCUK and represents its independent views. It does not include, or necessarily reflect the views of the Knowledge and Innovation Group in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The submission is made on behalf of the following Councils:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Executive Summary

3. The EPSRC led RCUK Energy Programme aims to position the UK to meet its energy and environmental targets and policy goals by investing in world-class research and postgraduate training. The RCUK Energy Programme supports a substantial portfolio of activities, bringing together researchers from many disciplines to tackle the research challenges involved in developing and exploiting energy technologies and understanding their environmental, economic and social impact. In this submission marine renewable energy refers to wave and tidal energy as per the Inquiry announcement and does not include offshore wind or bioenergy. Marine renewable energy research that is supported as part of this balanced portfolio can be found in Table 2, Annex two at the end of this document.

4. According to the offshore valuation report marine renewables have the potential for contributing up to 192TWh of electricity to the UK grid, and could support between 5,000 and 26,000 jobs depending on the level of deployment. Whilst the cost of marine renewables is currently high, 2050 levelised costs are predicted to be between 8 pence and 12 pence per KWh. The research supported by the research councils is focused at tackling the fundamental scientific challenges that need to be overcome in order to meet these cost reduction targets.

5. The Research Councils currently support £17 million of ongoing research in marine renewable energy. Our research portfolio includes most marine renewable energy technologies, covering the environmental, engineering, economic and policy aspects of the technologies. The exploitation of the research we support is important and the Research Councils work closely with the Energy Technologies Institute, the Technology Strategy Board, Government and industry to coordinate the support for fundamental research through to development and application. Marine renewable energy is supported through the EPSRC SUPERGEN programme (since 2003), through the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) portfolio, and through the NERC Knowledge Exchange Marine Renewable Energy programme set up in 2011 to support the translation and uptake of research relevant to marine renewables.

6. An important objective of the RCUK Energy Programme is to develop and maintain high level skills through support for postgraduate training. The provision of this skills base is key to the future economic viability of the marine renewable energy and the demand for qualified marine engineers is high. The Research Councils all support studentships in marine renewable energy. In August 2011, EPSRC and the Energy Technologies Institute announced a new £6.5 million Industrial Doctorate Centre in offshore energy to develop the next generation of research and industry leaders in this area.

7. Supporting evidence for this submission was taken from the reports listed in Annex 3.


8. The Research Councils play a key role in supporting the fundamental science that underpins energy research that will position the UK to most effectively develop and exploit technology advances. By its nature the technical and scientific challenges addressed through fundamental research will have an impact on the economics and sustainability of renewable energy.

9. The contributions of science to the development of marine renewables include:

Understanding the energy resource that is available and that can be realistically extracted.

Providing monitoring capability both for the impacts of deployment and mechanisms for mitigation and de-risking new technologies

Mechanical and electrical engineering provide understanding of the design of devices and how power can be taken on-shore.

Underpinning fundamental science leading to new and potentially transformative designs and technologies.

Providing knowledge on wave and tidal conditions, as well as the surrounding environment, to enable the most effective deployment of devices.

Providing knowledge of the behaviour of individual devices and of arrays.

Environmental science to consider the whole system when developing and deploying renewables (for eg optimising marine space use to accommodate fisheries, transport and other industrial activities as well as the deployment of renewable devices).

Issues affecting regulation and consenting for deployment, including impacts of noise (for eg from pile driving) and other potentially negative impacts.

10. Historically the Research Councils have concentrated their funding in marine renewables through the EPSRC SUPERGEN Marine programme and NERC research centres. SUPERGEN has been running since 2003, has received over £8 millions of support and has led to advances in resource modelling, electricity take-off from devices and arrays, device control and engineering, moorings, the environment impact of marine renewable energy extraction and the economics of marine energy. The NERC National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool (NOCL) has extensive experience researching the potential impact of renewable energy structures on the marine environment. Early work included assessments of the power available to various tidal power schemes proposed for the Bristol Channel and current work is looking at the potential for the Eastern Irish Sea. Other relevant work , , at NERC research centres has been has been funded via the Oceans 2025 programme.

11. Support for marine renewables in recent years has been both focused, to coordinate the science research, and broadened to include aspects of policy, environmental impacts and arrays. In addition to this, investment in mid-scale test facilities has been made to address identified gaps in the research capability.

12. Significant Research Council activities in marine renewables include:

A newly supported £3 million SUPERGEN Marine Hub which will coordinate university-led research in marine renewable energy whilst engaging closely with industry and other stakeholders. This will include the successful proposals from a recently closed £3 million call for underpinning challenges in Marine renewable energy.

NERC/Defra joint Marine Renewable Energy Research Programme: This programme works with the technological development of wave and tidal energy, using existing facilities and industry data, to predict the cumulative environmental interactions which result from deploying “wet renewables”. Projects arising from this programme are focussed on understanding the environmental benefits and risks of up-scaling marine renewable energy schemes on the quality of marine bio-resources and biophysical dynamics of open coasts

The NERC Marine Renewable Energy Knowledge Exchange Programme (MRE KEP), will catalyse the development of stronger partnerships between the academic, public and private sectors; provide the private and public sectors with access to potential suppliers of the most up-to-date academic research in this field; facilitate public, private and academic sectors in integrating policy, business and research needs and support the private and public sectors in delivering a sustainable future for marine renewable energy. The MRE KEP is working in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Research Steering Group (ORRSG), a cross department group managed by the Marine Management Organisation and involving Defra, DECC and The Crown Estate among others.

Resource and sea bed mapping: this survey work provides information to organisations planning offshore renewable energy projects and to guide policy and planning decisions for future site leasing rounds eg the NERC National Oceanographic Centre worked with the Met Office, ABP-MER and Garrad Hassan to map the UK’s wind, wave and tidal resources in the widely acclaimed Atlas of UK Marine Renewable Energy commissioned by BERR; the NERC supported British Geological Survey is developing seabed geology maps to underpin the assessment of our marine resources and provide an important part of the framework for marine planning.

A new £6 million combined wave and current test facility, supported by EPSRC has been commissioned at the University of Edinburgh that will model both wave and tidal devices and arrays at ~1/16 scale in conditions that model the most severe environments that will be encountered during deployment off UK shores. This facility will complement a facility being constructed at the University of Plymouth which will model the environmental impact of devices and small arrays at similar scales.

A new EPSRC-ETI £7 million Industrial Doctoral Centre in Offshore Renewables will supply 50 doctoral students into the marine sector over the next eight years equipped with broad industrial experience and a good understanding of the marine sector.

13. A table of the annual expenditure by the research councils on marine energy and a comprehensive list of current research projects can be seen in Annex 2.

Q1. What are the potential benefits that marine renewable could bring to the UK and should Government be supporting the development of these technologies?

14. As stated in the inquiry notification the Carbon Trust estimate that 15-20% of UK electricity could be generated by marine renewables. Although this represents a much smaller resource than offshore wind it is more regular and dependable, especially tidal energy. As such marine renewables have a role in moderating the intermittency issues of wind.

15. The location of the UK means that about 10% of global available marine renewable energy is located within the UK’s coastal waters, with the Pentland Firth having one of the largest flows of water globally and the river Severn having the second largest tidal range of any river globally. This positions the UK well to develop wave and tidal power using its resources, to deploy these approaches in other markets in the future.

16. The UK is currently one of the leading countries in developing marine renewables. This technology lead is built on a strong scientific, maritime and offshore engineering capability supported by world-class environmental science. In addition to the potential for contributing to energy self sufficiency, this sector has major potential to stimulate supply chains and manufacturing in the UK, with associated employment benefits. According to a recent paper by the Carbon Trust, the global market for offshore energy, including offshore wind, could be worth up to £460 billion in the period 2010 – 2050. They consider that the UK could capture around 22% of the global market, with a gross contribution of £15 billion to UK GDP over the period and the generation of over 68,000 UK jobs by 2050. The offshore valuation report puts the WET marine renewable energy renewables as having the potential to contribute up to 192TWh of electricity to the UK grid, and could support between 5,000 and 26,000 jobs depending on the level of deployment.

Q2. How effective have existing Government policies and initiatives on marine renewables been in supporting the development and deployment of these technologies?

17. UK government support via the Research Councils has been critical to supporting the underpinning research base that has given the UK a global lead in this technology. The Research Councils have supported fundamental research into devices, arrays, policy, electricity grid connections, moorings and more recently into environmental issues. This research has helped define the Energy Technologies Institute marine renewable energy programme and is being increasingly used by industry to guide their development efforts in Technology Strategy Board supported programmes.

18. Also, the Research Council supported UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) Marine Energy Technology Roadmap provides a comprehensive list of government initiatives in recent years (see page 9 of road map). These initiatives are bringing marine energy technologies to deployment more quickly by linking the underpinning research base to device development and deployment and by sharing the risk that the small device developer companies face.

Q3. What lessons can be learnt from experiences within the UK and from other countries to date in supporting the development and deployment of marine renewables?

19. Early adoption and investment can lead to a rapid capture of the market, as seen in the Danish wind energy industry and the German solar energy industry. The approach in Germany and Denmark to offshore wind has been much more proactive than in the UK – especially with respect to the policy and research landscapes; in both Denmark and Germany the research science community were engaged early in technology development and environmental issues and strategic research programmes set up to support development and deployment. This has given them a strong market position in the wind energy sector.

20. The UK needs to continue to support marine renewable energy research, including both the technology itself and the environmental and socio-economic consequences of deployment. Indeed, the environmental and socio-economic consequences of marine energy development need to be addressed in advance of deployment, rather than post deployment as with wind energy, both to address public concerns over their impact and ensure marine space is developed sustainably.

21. This whole systems understanding is critical for confidence in the investor decision making processes, regulatory, planning and consenting requirements and is essential in order to allow the industry to globalise and reduce lead times to deployment. This can only be delivered in collaborative programmes between the Research Councils, industry and government.

Q4. Is publicly provided innovation funding necessary for the development of marine technologies and if so, why?

22. Marine renewable energy is a developing industry that is dominated by small companies with insufficient resources to develop the industry and technology without risk sharing. Carefully targeted public support at the early stages can reduce the risk and give the larger companies confidence that the sector is worth investing in. Much of the capital that will be invested in marine renewables deployment is from global funds. For this to be invested in the UK, de-risking of both the technologies and issues related to their deployment is required. Furthermore, a stable and predictable regulatory environment, which is informed by research linked to the innovation is necessary. With the UK’s strong knowledge base, there is the potential to be ahead of other nations provided that sufficient funding is deployed to address these issues.

23. The current strategy across the funding organisations is to develop a mixed portfolio of research and development activity. The Research Councils are responsible for the underpinning scientific understanding of the marine environment, the mechanical and hydrodynamic properties of devices (at the generic level) and the socio-economics of marine energy. This fundamental understanding is supporting development research supported by the Technology Strategy Board and the Energy Technologies Institute.

Q5. What non-financial barriers are there to the development of marine renewables?

24. Public attitudes to marine renewable energy development in the UK are generally less negative than to onshore wind and nuclear. However, there are regional differences and resistance to development in some areas has the potential to stall deployment. A key to changing this landscape is to oblige energy companies to find means to include communities which effectively host projects in the financial rewards of renewable energy generation eg as per Fintry Development Trust and Islay Energy Trust.

25. Conflict with other sectoral interests, such as fishing, navigation and recreational activities has led to major problems in some areas. The NERC MRE KEP is in the process of addressing these issues directly through initiatives to bring sectors together and facilitate the necessary research to ensure public understanding of the issues and appropriate decision making by regulators.

26. Other barriers that are already being addressed through Research Council activities include:

The creation of an Industrial Doctoral Centre by the Research Councils and the Energy Technologies Institute to address capacity issues that the sector may face in the coming years.

Mid range test facilities for repeatable tidal system studies, and combined wave and current test facilities for both wave and tidal studies were identified as a capability gap in the UKERC roadmap. These issues have been resolved with the support of an environmental test facility at Plymouth (not funded by Research Councils) and the all water test facility being constructed at Edinburgh that is being funded by the Research Councils.

Q6. To what extent is the supply chain for marine renewables based in the UK and how does Government policy affect the development of these industries?

27. The industry is very immature, as such, the supply chain is still developing; this is the case globally. However, infrastructure decisions are being made in the UK for the offshore wind industry and these should also benefit the marine energy industry eg the offshore North Sea electricity grid. In addition, the UK has a strong offshore engineering industry and a manufacturing base that should be capable of meeting the necessary deployment schedule as long as there is industry confidence in the future of the technologies.

28. Business investment relies on a long-term stable fiscal and regulatory context in which businesses can operate. This is the primary requirement for the sector. Government can also encourage businesses operating in other sectors to transfer their skills to the marine renewables sector.

Q7. What approach should Government take to supporting marine renewables in the future?

29. For this sector to grow and flourish, it is essential that government continues to support the necessary fundamental research that industry is unlikely to fund, especially so for novel and transformative research. It is also essential that flexible funding is available which allows industry and government to engage the best of UK science in collaborative fundamental and applied research to support the development of the sector. Continued and joined up investment in engineering, environmental and socio-economic research will be needed over the next ten years to bring the potential of this sector to fruition.

30. The Research Councils will continue to support the underpinning research needed to help move marine renewable energy technology to deployment in co-ordination with the TSB and ETI. Recent activities to define the research challenges include:

A scoping workshop involving the academic community and industry to identify the underpinning research challenges facing marine energy. The outputs of this workshop provided the basis of a £3 million call that will support research from 2012 as an addition to the recently EPSRC funded SUPERGEN Marine Hub.

NERC MRE KEP has collaborated with stakeholders from regulatory, policy and industry organisations to map the environmental research necessary to support UK government and EU 2020 targets for marine energy deployment (includes offshore wind). This has resulted in the identification of more than 100 high level generic environmental research issues that need to be addressed to support development of the sector; ranging from high priority basic science to meet existing legal requirements through to the very fundamental need to understand whole system consequences of technology deployment in the marine system

Working with ORRSG to provide a collaborative forum for dialogue with relevant stakeholders and policy makers, and co-ordination and dissemination of research and evidence on the impacts of offshore wind, wave and tidal technologies.

Q8. Are there any other issues relating to the future of marine renewables in the UK that you think the committee should be aware of?


September 2011

Annex 1


The case studies below illustrate how fundamental research can benefit the marine renewables sector.

Tidal Turbines

The SeaGen tidal turbine at Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, was the first turbine in the world built on a commercially viable scale. Research Council supported research has helped demonstrate environmental compatibility, a crucial hurdle for the acceptability of the technology, particularly for a highly environmentally sensitive location, and should help fast track the roll out of the technology within the UK. Carbon emissions to the value of £35-70 million pa by 2020 could be saved should 500-1000 turbines be deployed. A lead in this sector could open up the marine renewables market to UK industry with the sector predicted to be worth £150 million to £1 billion pa in the UK by 2050.

Aquamarine Power

The world’s first near-shore wave power system, developed from research funded by the RCUK Energy Programme, began supplying power to the National Grid for homes in Orkney and beyond in December 2009. The Oyster, developed by Edinburgh based Aquamarine Power, has no gearbox, generator or electrical components in the water. Instead, it transfers the sea’s energy to the shore for electricity generation on dry land. This cuts costs, reduces environmental risk and makes Oyster easier to maintain and more reliable. The company’s latest development, the Oyster 800, was unveiled in July 2011 for installation in Orkney this year.

Test Facilities

The UKERC 2010 marine energy roadmap identified a capability gap in test facilities capable of modelling devices and arrays at intermediate scale in both waves and currents and noted that this was a priority in the technical strategy. These issues have been addressed by the support of two new test facilities; the PRIMaRE facility at Plymouth University supported by SWRDA that will be able to model devices and small arrays and their impact on coastal conditions; and the UKMER facility at Edinburgh University that will model devices and arrays in multidirectional wave and tidal flow conditions at high relative energies. These facilities should be fully functional by late 2012 early 2013 and will give the UK a strong lead in understanding how devices function in deep water conditions and what their impact will be on the wider coastal environment.

Environmental Impact Assessment Software

PRIMER is a software package developed out of NERC funded research at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and operated through a spin-out company PRIMER-E. It enables users to perform complex analysis of environmental datasets and has been used to inform the Environmental Impact Assessments of offshore wind farms. PRIMER was used to conduct assessments for eight of the 17 sites granted permission as part of the second round of leasing by the Crown Estate. Taking into account average energy consumption, these eight offshore wind turbines could potentially generate enough electricity for 1.75 million UK households per year once fully operational. Taking an approximate average household spend on electricity of £1,000 per year, this equates to £1.75 billion in household electricity expenditure each year. PRIMER is one of the leading industry standard packages for marine community and biodiversity research. Before PRIMER, it was not possible to analyse such complex data sets, so the effects of many marine activities were unknown.

UKERC Energy & Environment Phase II

Plymouth Marine Laboratory is currently working on this project to develop strategies for marine and land based energy production and GHG mitigation technologies which limit environmental impacts whilst safeguarding or even restoring ecosystem services. A methods toolbox which integrates socio-economic valuation of ecosystem goods and services into technology evaluation will be developed and applied. This will allow a holistic assessment of the impact of energy production and GHG mitigation technologies on the UK carbon footprint.

Evaluation of Antifouling Systems for Tidal and Wave DevicesReDapt

Plymouth Marine Laboratory and PML Applications Ltd (PML’s wholly owned trading subsidiary) are working on this project funded by the Energy Technologies Institute. The aim of this project is to develop a protocol for selection of anti-fouling systems (AFS) for tidal and wave energy devices, given the operational requirements of the sector to meet the 2020 target of 2GW installed capacity. Tidal and wave device developers are being subjected to a barrage of marketing literature from different coatings producers, and at present have no independently verified, objective and scientifically robust information to differentiate between the products on offer.

Annex 2


Table 1




























Note: In late 2010 several large projects were funded by the research councils that will significantly increase the annual expenditure on Marine energy in future years. These new projects are highlighted in blue in table 2.

2010-2011 numbers include a one off payment to support the construction of a test facility at Edinburgh University/

Table 2


Reference Number

Grant Title

Holding Institution

Grant Holder

Grant Value



University of Edinburgh

Wallace, Professor R




University of Southampton

Chaplin, Professor JR



Design of Wave and Current Generators for Stable Wave Generation in Multidirectional Combined Wave Current tanks

University of Edinburgh

Bryden, Professor I



A Teaching Resource for Sustainable Power Generation

University of Bristol

Pavier, Professor MJ



Partnership for Public Engagement: Facts about Wave and Tidal Energy

University of Edinburgh

Ingram, Professor DM



United Kingdom Centre for Marine Energy Research

University of Edinburgh

Wallace, Professor R



United Kingdom Centre for Marine Energy Research: The all UK waters, combined, current and wave test facility.

University of Edinburgh

Bryden, Professor I



Fully Submerged Evolution of SeaGen for Exposed Open Deep Water Locations

University of Edinburgh

Bryden, Professor I



Assessment of novel WEC with rubber-air-water interface; performance validation, optimization and demonstration of associated cost benefits

University of Strathclyde

Day, Dr A. H.



Fully Submerged Evolution of SeaGen for Exposed Open Deep Water Locations

Queen’s University of Belfast

Elsaesser, Dr B



Industrial Doctoral Centre for Offshore Renewable Energy (IDCORE)‡

University of Edinburgh

Ingram, Professor DM



Flow, Water column & Benthic Ecology 4D (FLOWBEC)

National Oceanography Centre Liverpool

Bell, Dr P



Understanding How Marine Renewable Device Operations Influence Fine Scale Habitat Use and Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates (RESPONSE)

University of St Andrews

Thompson, Dr D



Optimising Array Form for Energy Extraction and Environmental Benefit (EBAO)

University of Edinburgh

Bryden, Professor I



Great Race Eddies and Turbulence

Scottish Association for Marine Science

Dale, Dr AC



Wave Hub Baseline Study

Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Torres, Dr RJ



Impact of Offshore Wind Farm Sub-sea Cable B-fields on Important Crustacean Species

Newcastle University

Bentley, Professor MG


** Project yet to start

# collaborative with the Technology Strategy board

‡ Co-funded with ETI

NB the above table does not include information on the NERC Marine Renewable Knowledge Exchange Programme as it does not fund research

Annex 3


Marine SUPERGEN Phase I final report, Phase II achievement report, and annual reports.

Marine Energy Technology Innovation Needs Assessment.

UKERC/ETI Marine Energy Technology Roadmap 2010.

UKERC Marine Renewable Energy Technology Roadmap 2008.

HM Government Marine Energy Action Plan 2010.

Offshore Valuation: A Valuation of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource.

Industry, regulator and policy priorities for environmental research as identified by NERC programmes in marine renewable energy 2010.

Developing Marine Energy: De-Risking the Growth of Tidal Energy, DTZ economic impact analysis 2010.

Cost of and financial support for wave, tidal stream and tidal range generation in the UK, Ernst and young and Black and Veatch report 2010.

Prepared 15th February 2012