Government support needed to ensure isles lead on commercial rollout of marine renewables

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken in a parliamentary debate on the report of Climate Assembly UK, advocating for government support in the commercialisation of marine energy. Mr Carmichael highlighted the Northern Isles’ long history of supporting UK energy needs and its potential as a hub of marine renewables, and pressed the Government to introduce further support to encourage green growth. The MP also wrote to ministers this week in light of a draft EU report planning an uplift in marine energy capacity through to 2050.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“My constituency has been at the heart of this nation’s energy supply for the past 40 years. As we have relied on hydrocarbons, we have been home, very successfully, to two of the largest oil terminals. We are now coming to a phase of our nation’s history in which we anticipate that our reliance on hydrocarbons will wind down.

“My constituency remains equally committed to playing a full part in energy provision for our future needs. It is therefore somewhat frustrating for us still to find that the opportunities that we have to contribute to green renewable energy in the future are somewhat frustrated by a lack of action in respect of the opportunities that exist.

“I met the Minister earlier this year with the Marine Energy Council, from which he heard about the opportunities that exist in the development of wave and tidal power. We have now reached the phase of having finished the research and development work but not yet being fully able to go to commercial deployment. Every technology goes through this phase; in the 1980s we were at the forefront of the development of onshore wind. The prototype of many of the turbines now seen throughout the country was built in Orkney, on Burgar Hill. We did the groundbreaking, leading work on developing the technology, but we did not then fund the next stage to get it to commercial deployment.

“The risk now is that we will do the same thing with marine energy, and in particular the development of tidal energy. We have done the research and development; we now need to find something like an Innovation power purchase agreement that will get the industry through to the point at which it can contribute its full potential. If we leave it to others, others will take the opportunity. The European Union is coming forward with its draft marine energy strategy, and it now speaks about an altogether different scale of deployment.

“My worry is that we are about to lose the opportunities in respect of not just generating power for our country but the development of a home-grown supply chain, which could be crucial to providing green jobs. The sums of money involved in an Innovative Power Purchase Agreement for marine energy are relatively small; the opportunities that they could produce for the UK as a whole, and for Orkney and Shetland in particular, are enormous.”

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