Report calls for more visionary approach to renewables

The UK could become a leading exporter of wave and tidal power equipment and expertise if the Government adopts a more visionary approach to developing marine renewables, a new report has found.

The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee believes that although technologies that can harness the power of the sea to generate electricity are still in their infancy, they could eventually generate 20% of the UK's electricity needs. Tim Yeo MP, chair of the committee, said: "Britannia really could rule the waves when it comes to marine renewable energy. "We are extremely well placed to lead the world in wave and tidal technologies, which could potentially bring significant benefits in manufacturing and jobs, as well an abundant supply of reliable low carbon electricity. "A more visionary approach from the Department of Energy and Climate Change could help to boost confidence and drive the pace of development." The UK is currently the world leader in the development of wave and tidal energy technologies. Of the eight full-scale prototype devices installed worldwide, seven are in the UK. The report warns, however, that an overly cautious approach to developing this sector may allow other less risk-averse countries to steal the UK's lead. It points out that although the UK was at one point a leader in terms of research and testing of wind turbines, it failed to establish a domestic manufacturing industry and missed out on many economic benefits. Yeo added: "In the eighties the UK squandered the lead it had in wind power development and now Denmark has a large share of the worldwide market in turbine manufacturing. It should be a priority for the Government to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of developments in this technology and does not allow our lead to slip." The report identifies a number of potential obstacles that could hinder the development of a marine renewables industry in the UK. Investor confidence, policy certainty, public-private risk sharing, improved grid connections and a workforce with the necessary engineering skills are all crucial if the UK hopes to retain its lead in this industry, it said. "The UK needs a strong political vision to boost confidence and drive the pace of development in order to reap the rewards of a successful wave and tidal power industry," Yeo concluded. "The Government must also encourage more students into engineering disciplines now so that they are able to take advantage of the new jobs that could be created through a UK based wave and tidal industry."