REA says marine report is welcome, but inconsistent

The Renewable Energy Association has welcomed an Energy and Climate Change Committee report acknowledging the potential of marine renewables, but questions the logic of it’s targets.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has acknowledged in a report published today the potential for marine renewables to contribute “a significant amount of clean electricity to the UK system” and “substantial economic benefits” to UK plc. These benefits include 10,000 direct jobs by 2020 (many of these in manufacturing) and as many as 68,000 by 2050, when the UK market could be worth £76 billion. However, the report is unrealistic in its cost projections (of both renewable and fossil generation technologies), and fails to recognise the benefits of marine renewables over nuclear and CCS.

The report, based on evidence from stakeholder engagement in which the REA was very active, advises the Government to commit to provide a stable and sustainable growth plan for marine renewables as the Electricity Market Reforms (EMR) progress over the course of this Parliament. It also urges Government to learn the lessons from both its failure to capitalise on the manufacturing opportunities presented by the development of wind power in the 1980s, and from the more recent rushed reductions to solar PV Feed-in Tariffs. The REA’s main comments are:

  • We welcome the report’s promotion of thus-far under-utilised sources of funding at the European level, but, given DECC’s limited budget, we are surprised that it does not recognise the potential for crossover with BIS’s Regional Growth Fund, given the report’s recognition of the potential for jobs and economic growth in the marine energy sector.
  • However, we question the logic of the report’s targets for cost reduction and deployment. Cost reduction is of course critical, but setting overly stringent targets (which fail to account for the volatility of fossil energy prices) is not helpful as it is hard to foresee at this early stage how the wide range of innovative devices in the pipeline will develop. And while deployment targets help drive ambition, this is a trait with which the industry is already brimming over – what it needs is better access to finance.
  • Finally, we welcome the recommendation for a baseline environmental survey of areas of strategic interest, but we feel that the potential adverse environmental impacts of marine renewables are overstated in the report, contrary to the available evidence [3]. Such impacts are rare, and as such marine renewables, which are waste-free and technologically proven, should be given equal or higher priority than nuclear and CCS.

REA Head of Marine Dr Stephanie Merry comments:

“It’s great to see this important report acknowledging the enormous energy potential that surrounds our island nation. We are particularly keen to see the Government avoid repeating the mistakes it made with wind in the 1980s, when it missed out on the chance to seize a huge manufacturing opportunity which eventually went to Denmark. The report rightfully recognises the need to expand our skills base at the university level to unlock the huge potential for green jobs and growth in marine renewables.”

Energy & Climate Change Minister Greg Barker spoke enthusiastically about marine renewables in a recent interview with REA News:

            “I’m personally very ambitious for this particular sector… the potential for marine renewables globally to be deployed at scale is huge.”

The REA is looking forward to working with DECC on the EMR consultation to ensure that wave and tidal continue to get the support they need, as any ‘cliff edge’ reductions in support could drive investors away and undo all the good work to date which this report has acknowledged.