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Tidal wave of MPs call for step-change in state support for marine renewables

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91 MPs have signed a letter urging Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry to introduce new policies to support wave and tidal stream technologies

A ‘tidal wave’ of 91 MPs have signed a letter urging the government to step up support for the UK’s wave and tidal power industry, in advance of the government’s forthcoming Energy White Paper.

Some of the world’s first tidal arrays operate off the UK’s shoreline, such as Scotrenewables’ tidal stream turbine in Orkney, which generated 3GWh of renewable electricity in its first 12 months of operation.

The letter to Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry argues marine energy developments have established the UK as a world leader in tidal power technologies. As the industry scales up, costs are set to drop, and the tidal stream industry could bring economic benefits of £1.4bn by 2030, supporting 4,000 jobs, the group argues.

It also suggests wave power technologies could generate an additional £4bn in economic benefits by 2040, creating 8,100 jobs in the process. Much of this development would be concentrated in coastal areas that are in need of economic stimulus.

However, without action to support the marine energy industry these opportunities will be lost, the letter argues.

As it stands, tidal energy must compete with far cheaper and more developed renewable technologies such as biomass and offshore wind when fighting for government support, currently distributed through auctions for clean energy support contracts known as Contracts for Difference (CfD).

Advocates of marine energy maintain the sector could emulate the cost reductions experienced by the offshore wind industry following more than a decade of consistent support from the government. They also argue that tidal energy can deliver power predictably, helping to avoid the grid integration challenges faced by variable forms of renewables.

Developers have been warning for months that without any reliable policy support mechanisms currently in place the nascent UK marine energy industry risks losing its leadership position, as projects in Canada, the US, and China move forward.

As a result, the letter urges the government to include new policies to support wave and tidal stream technologies in its forthcoming Energy White Paper. Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat MPs who signed the letter suggest reforming the CfD system so that marine technologies compete among themselves for government-backed power contracts could allow the sector to scale up while driving competition and reducing costs.

The MPs also highlight an industry proposal to offer tax rebates to corporations which agree to pay above the market rate for electricity generated by wave and tidal projects, known as Innovation Power Purchase Agreements. 

“Marine energy is an innovative, world-class industry in which the UK is a global leader,” said Conservative MP Richard Graham, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Marine Energy and Tidal Lagoons, who wrote the letter. “To ensure the industry keeps growing, marine energy needs a route to market. The right kind of support will enable firms to take investment decisions which will ensure we retain our advantage – otherwise it will slip away to international competitors.”

However, the government has to date resisted calls to carve out new specific support for marine energy projects and controversially dropped plans last year for a contract for the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project, citing cost concerns.

Critics of marine energy have long argued that the sector faces major engineering challenges and as such faces significant barriers if it is to match the cost reductions experienced by wind and solar power.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “This government recognises the potential of marine technologies as we continue to scale up low carbon energy generation and work towards a net zero economy. Over the last decade, more than £90m has been made available to marine technologies across several UK government organisations. Like these projects, any further funding proposals must demonstrate value for money for consumers and taxpayers.”

Source: – Business Green
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