Marine energy costs set to decrease over next 10 years

The UK’s best marine energy sites could generate electricity at costs comparable with nuclear and onshore wind. 

According to analysis released today by the Carbon Trust, this could happen as soon as 2025, once cost reductions from deploying the first gigawatt of energy devices have been realised.

Through its Marine Energy Accelerator programme, the Carbon Trust says it has established that the costs for the first wave and tidal energy farms will be around £0.30–£0.40/Kwh, which is expected given the early stage of the technologies’ development.

The report concludes that, with continued and targeted innovation, reductions in costs can be achieved in the next 10 years. 

The report also quantifies the amount of energy that can be tapped and sets out the actions now needed to set the industry on a path to commercial success.

The analysis shows that wave energy could generate 50TWh of electricity per year, equivalent to 13 per cent of the UK’s power needs, and tidal stream 20.6TWh per year, or five per cent of UK power needs. Between them, wave and tidal stream could generate more electricity than 12 large coal-fired power stations. 

The fast-flowing tides of the deeper areas of the Pentland Firth, between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands, alone could ultimately generate almost one third of all tidal-stream energy (6TWh/year) and at an equivalent cost to nuclear and onshore wind.

The analysis goes on to say that technology innovation will be vital to tackling the harsher conditions that are encountered in the deeper areas of the Pentland Firth. With targeted innovation, energy generation costs for both wave and tidal-stream technologies could reduce to an average of £0.15 per kilowatt hour by 2025, which is equivalent to today’s cost of offshore wind energy. 

Benj Sykes, director of innovations at Carbon Trust, said: ‘Marine energy is one of the UK’s most exciting green growth sectors and one where we have a real lead.

‘Wave and tidal stream could provide a fifth of our electricity needs and be a major “made in Britain” success. The key players must now pull together to tackle the next set of challenges and innovate to drive down costs.

‘Our Marine Energy Accelerator, working with key industry players and government, has shown that savings of tens of millions of pounds are possible.’

Separate Carbon Trust analysis has shown that the UK could capture just less than a quarter of the global marine energy market. Equivalent to up to £76bn to the UK economy by 2050, this sector could also generate more than 68,000 UK jobs.