Monday, January 23, 2006

Wave and tidal power could supply a fifth of UK energy needs

To coincide with the energy review's launch the Carbon Trust has published the results of research which shows that ocean power could eventually replace the component of the energy mix currently filled by nuclear power.

They say it could become cost-competitive with conventional and other renewable types of energy generation in the long term – given the right level of investment now.

The report also reveals that the sector could meet three per cent of the UK’s total electricity supply by 2020.

The study is based on the Carbon Trust’s Marine Energy Challenge, a £3 million, 18-month programme, designed to improve understanding of wave and tidal stream energy by helping developers advance their technologies.

Marine energy currently costs more than conventional and other alternative energy sources as the generation technologies are at early stages of development. However, the report predicts that the cost has the potential to fall significantly. It cites private investment, underpinned by long-term Government support, as vital in unlocking the potential of the marine energy market.

Other key factors include the availability of grid connections and network capacity, regulation and security of supply considerations.

John Callaghan, Programme Engineer at the Carbon Trust, said: “The UK leads the world in marine renewables technology development. Given our superb natural resources and long-standing experience in offshore oil and gas, ship-building and power generation, the UK is in prime position to accelerate commercial progress in the marine energy sector and secure economic value by selling marine energy devices, developing wave and tidal stream farms and creating new revenues from electricity generation.

“Given the sector’s potential as a low carbon and indigenous energy source, growing the marine renewables market is an exciting prospect as part of the UK’s fight against climate change.

"However, public support and private investment is needed now to step up the pace of marine renewables development in the UK and ensure it meets its potential.”

The Carbon Trust recommends that the UK public sector funders should consider the following ways to support the development of the UK marine energy sector:
  • Give increased support over time for marine renewables technology development, with greater support for RD&D and cross-cutting technology issues to help deliver cost reductions;
  • Support marine renewables project development from now into the medium term, contingent on technologies proving technically viable in the first instance, and later - on evidence of reducing costs;
  • Develop a clear long-term policy framework for support to the sector to give business greater investment certainty.
The Carbon Trust’s Marine Energy Challenge brought together small scale developers of marine renewables technology with engineering expertise in order to accelerate the overall development of the sector.

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