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World lead in tidal energy projects such as MeyGen can only be maintained with 'practical support' from UK Government

By Gordon Calder

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THE UK's world-leading position in tidal energy such as the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth can only be maintained with "practical support" from the government.

That is the warning made by the industry which is calling for "modest policy changes" to be made by Friday to help protect Britain's technological lead in places such as Caithness and Orkney and to prevent manufacturing jobs being lost to overseas competitors.

The industry wants the UK government to ring fence money for tidal energy in its upcoming Contracts for Difference

(CfD) auctions which are part of the government’s fiscal policies to support the commercialisation of green energy technologies. At present, however, despite the UK’s world-leading position, tidal energy is not included in the government’s draft framework for the next auction, which is to be finalised at the end of the week.

Tidal energy projects such as MeyGen need support from the UK Govt, says industry leaders.
Tidal energy projects such as MeyGen need support from the UK Govt, says industry leaders.

The plea comes after 36 MPs, including Jamie Stone, wrote to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to support the tidal energy industry by ring-fencing money in the CfD auctions.

The call was backed by Sean Parsons, the director of external affairs for Simec Atlantis Energy – the company behind the pioneering MeyGen development in the Pentland Firth. He stressed that an independent report by the Royal Society states that the industry is capable of delivering 11 gigawatts (GW) of power, which is around 15 per cent of the total UK energy demand.

"What we need is for Westminster to provide the right support for the industry to deliver the next phases of these critical projects," he said.

Now other key players are urging the UK government act before it is too late. Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland said: "We know that the potential benefits to our economy and the environment could be enormous, with job opportunities across the country and export markets waiting. All that is needed is that modest boost from the government to get this industry to full commercial rollout, ready to compete with other established renewable technologies. This is the last great hurdle."

Neil Kermode, managing director at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) based in Orkney said: "The UK has the largest tidal energy resource in Europe, and one of the best in the world. No country is better placed to maximise the opportunity to build a home-grown sustainable energy sector that can take the best of British technology to the global marketplace. The Government has demonstrated its support for floating offshore wind by setting a 1 GW deployment target and providing ring-fenced support at £24 million. We are looking for the same support for tidal stream – a shared ambition and a dedicated pot of money to support this innovative technology.

"This is not about asking for more money, but for ring-fenced support. All of the benefits of tidal stream stand to be lost unless a modest change is made to the Contracts for Difference framework."

Andrew Scott, chief executive of Orbital Marine Power, said: "We have shown that tidal stream energy in the UK can deliver not only clean energy, but sustainable high-quality green jobs too at an intensity not witnessed before in the UK. The question is: does the UK want to capitalise on that?"

Rear Admiral RP Stevens, chairman of the Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC) on the Isle of Wight, said: "The vibrant domestic tidal energy market in the UK sector stands poised to deliver green jobs in coastal communities and manufacturing centres across all nations of the Union: from Orkney to the Isle of Wight. We have the opportunity to secure the UK’s world-leading position, a dominant global market share and demonstrate our strengths in innovation and leadership in tackling climate change.

"At PTEC we are delighted to be able to use a UK-developed and UK-built technology like Orbital’s turbines. But the development of a strong domestic market will depend on whether decisive action is taken by Government now to provide dedicated support to tidal stream energy and secure the opportunity before us."

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