UK government looks to fund new marine power technology

Up to £20m of government money will go to funding new marine power technology, the climate change minister announced today.

The funds from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are designed to help two wave or tidal devices progress from current large-scale prototypes to bigger installations in the sea.

But industry bodies have argued that the money isn’t enough to help Britain secure a world-leading position in the field and doesn’t make up for funds withdrawn earlier this year.

Climate change minister Greg Barker said: ‘Marine power has huge potential in the UK not just in contributing to a greener electricity supply and cutting emissions, but in supporting thousands of jobs in a sector worth a potential £15 billion to the economy to 2050.

‘Britain can be a world leader as we have decades of expertise in offshore industries and the most advanced devices are already being developed here.

‘Our geography gives us access to rich marine resources that act as a natural laboratory to test and run devices in realistic conditions, especially in Scotland and the South West where innovative work is already being carried out.’

The Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) head of marine renewables, Dr Stephanie Merry, said: ’The REA is pleased that DECC has allocated £20 million from its budget for low carbon technologies specifically for the demonstration of arrays of wave and tidal stream energy devices, but let’s not forget it that last March it took £42 million away when it closed the Marine Renewables Deployment Fund.

’The Government talks of these technologies having the potential to meet 15-20% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2050 and improving our security of supply – but that isn’t going happen unless device and project developers get consistent encouragement over the long term.’

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of trade body RenewableUK, said: ’Overall, the first generation of marine energy projects is likely to cost £80 million per 10 MW scheme, and we need at least 3 or 4 projects to drive costs down and achieve the best technical solutions to maintain our premier global position in this field. So £20 million is a good start – but it’s only a drop in the ocean.’

The MRDF was launched in 2005 with the aim of providing money to new tidal and wave devices but was criticised by industry for making the qualifiying conditions too tight.

The new scheme is expected to open in spring next year and, subject to a value-for-money assessment, will support two projects to test prototypes in array formations.

This is the final development stage in generating large-scale electricity from marine power prior to commercial roll-out.

hydro-electric wave energy

The government hopes to develop more projects, such as Aquamarine’s Oyster device, to their final testing stage before commercial roll-out

The £20m comes from DECC’s budget of £200m, announced in the government’s spending review last November, which also includes £60m for the development of offshore wind manufacturing infrastructure at port locations.

Barker added: ‘The money we’re announcing today will take marine power to the next stage of development in the UK and a step closer to being a real contender in the future energy market.’

The UK is also hoping to secure funding from the EU New Entrant’s Reserve 300 (NER300) fund, having submitted three tidal and one wave-energy projects to the competition.

UK wave energy company Aquamarine Power announced earlier this month that it is preparing for the installation of its second full-scale Oyster wave energy converter off the coast of Orkney later in the summer.