“Tremendous prize”: Carmichael leads parliamentary debate calling for greater support for marine renewables

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called on the government to provide “finely tuned” support to enable the growth and commercialisation of marine renewables. Highlighting successful projects in both Orkney and Shetland and around the UK, Mr Carmichael said that unlocking investment in wave and tidal energy could see the UK lead the world and generate high quality jobs for coastal communities.

Speaking in the debate, Mr Carmichael said:

“The generation of electricity using wave and tidal power is an industrial sector in which the UK has the ability to lead the world. What is needed now is support to turn technical feasibility into commercial application. Living in an island community, one is acutely aware of the power of the sea. Orkney is home to the European Marine Energy Centre, the undisputed world leader in testing wave and tidal devices.

“Tidal stream could deliver £1.4 billion gross value added by 2030, while the figure for wave is £4 billion by 2040. Those figures, plus the thousands of jobs that would come with them, are a tremendous prize. The industry is ready to move, the technology is there, the private investment is primed but it does need a helping hand from Government at this critical stage.

“Orbital Marine Power is at the forefront of this industry, and the most recent prototype successfully generated 3.25 GWh into the UK grid during a 12-month period of trials at the European Marine Energy Centre. Orbital and its investors are now awaiting the right signals from the Government to go fully commercial.

“Some 80% of the Orbital machine currently under construction is from UK suppliers. The contrast with wind power, which has relied overwhelmingly on imported machinery, is obvious.

“The same runs true of Nova Innovation, which deployed the world’s first offshore tidal array in Shetland. Construction of the Shetland tidal array had over 80% UK content, including 25% of the supply chain spend in Shetland. Operation of the array has seen 98% UK supply chain content, with over 50% of project expenditure going to companies in the Northern Isles, such as Shetland Composites, which is now one of the top tidal blade manufacturers in Europe.

“If we can be world leaders in the domestic application of marine renewable technologies, we will also be in pole position to become the leading exporters to the world.

“The missing link, however, has long been one that would give wave and tidal energy the chance to develop commercially. As we know from other renewable technologies, once the process of a commercial roll-out is underway, the costs drop like a stone.

“In short, what the marine energy sector needs today from the Government is a signal of support that can in turn be used to open the door to economic benefits the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.”

Responding for the Government, Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“I have a real interest in this subject. He is absolutely right about the pot structure, we have allowed marine and tidal projects to remain in “pot 2”. I am very sympathetic to ideas of having a reserved quantum for marine projects, particularly tidal projects.

“Obviously, public money must be well considered and looked after, and the challenge is very much on the industry, as I have said to industry players and champions on separate occasions. The challenge is for them to show how these costs can come down. If they can, then I am sure that the Government would be very willing to support the technology.”

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