From reading the Renewable Road Map published alongside the
Government's Energy Market Reform White Paper (EMR) this week you
would be forgiven for thinking that the marine industry in the UK
was on a road to nowhere.
While other low carbon technologies, such as offshore and
onshore wind and biomass, have some healthy amounts of power
attributed to them in 2020, marine has a just a solitary
This is equivalent to one fiftieth of the electricity expected
from offshore wind by 2020. In
engineering terms it is equivalent to some 300MW of commercially
operational wave and tidal devices - or some 60 offshore wind
turbines. Little more than a drop in the ocean.
In reality, given the current state of play of the sector and
the challenges ahead, the 1 TWh figure is about right.
However, it illustrates the dilemma of roadmaps. If the end
point had been a further decade out to 2030 the picture would be
dramatically different for marine.
Our new analysis of marine published
this week does just that and looks at the sector out to 2050.
It shows that deployment at a global and local scale will begin in
earnest from 2020. As a result, we foresee a bright future
for this nascent sector. Indeed our three year study shows that
deployment could be as high as 4.5GW by 2030 and up to 60GW by
2050; a dramatic scaling up from 2020 levels.
Over that time frame as the sector moves from pre-commercial to
its commercial phase dramatic cost reductions are possible to the
point that we have concluded that the best marine sites, in
Scotland, could be generating power on a cost parity with nuclear
and onshore wind by as early as 2025.
As more is deployed beyond 2030 further cost reductions are
achieved, but the bulk of the costs are taken out over the next ten
to 15 years. Indeed if the road map is projected out to 2050
the sector could be generating not 1TWh but some 70TWhs; equivalent
to around 20% of our country's power needs.
So what is needed to make this happen?
Our analysis concludes that there are four key ingredients for
success. Firstly, the sector needs continued targeted
innovation as devices move from prototypes to full-scale arrays,
which in turn require continued government support for continued
technology development and cost reduction. This is
fundamental to drive down costs. The recent Marine Renewables Proving
Fund is an excellent example of a good targeted use of limited
Secondly, government must also provide a long term and
sustainable revenue support package, via the EMR, to ensure
investors have confidence to take the technology to the next
level. Thirdly, we need greater involvement from utilities
and project developers to continue to boost investor
And lastly we need to learn from offshore wind and ensure that
the grid is running alongside the technology. In particular
we must ensure that our best sites, for example Pentland Firth in
Scotland, are ready to plug and play.
Because we have taken an important early lead in marine's
development the sector offers significant economic benefit for UK
plc. Indeed British companies such as Pelamis,
Aquamarine Power and Marine Current Turbines are leading the way in
deploying their technologies in UK waters, with six out of the
eight full scale prototypes in the world being installed here.
Our analysis has shown that the UK could capture just under a
quarter of the global marine energy market, equivalent up to £76bn
to the UK economy by 2050. And if this was not enough we have
also found that this growing sector could also generate over 68,000
As the dust settles on the EMR and politicians and the energy
industry focus on some of the more pressing issues we must ensure
that the UK also plays the long term energy game. For while
the benefits of marine may not materialise for a decade or more we
must invest political and financial capital now to ensure it
becomes a key part of our move to a low carbon energy supply.