Japanese VIP visit to European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney is ‘warning’ to Scottish wave sector


Members of the Japanese marine energy delegation visit Orkney
Members of the Japanese marine energy delegation visit Orkney

A VIP party of Japanese politicians and energy chiefs have visited the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney on a fact-finding mission.

The 10-strong party from the Nagasaki area toured the centre in Stromness to learn more about Orkney’s role at the forefront of the global wave and tidal energy sector. The visit – hosted by EMEC and the Orkney-based environmental consultancy firm Aquatera – took place as Japan looks to establish its own marine energy test centre sites.

“Last year saw Nagasaki designated as a marine energy test site area by the Japanese Government,” said Ian Johnstone, senior consultant with Aquatera.

“We’ve been working with colleagues in Japan for a number of years to help progress their plans and this current visit is all about the operational aspects of running a test site. In addition, our experience of working with the supply chain companies supporting the wave and tidal energy developers operating in Orkney enables us to advise and assist the wider community in Nagasaki as it looks to take advantage of this developing industry.”

Takaaki Morita, Director of Nagasaki Prefectural Government’s marine energy development office, said EMEC was recognised in Japan as the leading organisation for wave and tidal testing.

He said: “We are an island with a lot of people and there is a strong local demand to make marine energy successful. Nagasaki wants to lead this movement towards marine renewables and be the frontrunner of a new industry in Japan.”

Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC, commented: “We’ve been very keen to help set up a test centre in Japan and believe that a college of like-minded centres around the world will actually help the industry move forward faster than if we don’t know what’s going on, or are at loggerheads, trying to go in different directions

“In addition, we think there’s a big opportunity for our supply chain to work with Japan and we also fully expect Japanese machines to be deployed in Scottish waters, harvesting energy around our coasts.”

Whilst the Scottish wave energy sector has experienced some setbacks recently, large-scale tidal energy generation schemes in Scottish waters are now moving closer to becoming a reality. In Orkney, where more marine energy devices have been tested than at any other site in the world, the developing wave and tidal industry now supports around 300 jobs.

But Kermode warned: “Although welcome, this Japanese visit is a sign that other places are showing the same faith in marine energy as we have done in Scotland. It’s also a wake up call that we haven’t got the game all to ourselves anymore.

“We are going to face interest from elsewhere and it’s really important that we don’t overlook the fact that if we don’t make a good job of this, somebody else will.”

* Rémi Gruet has been appointed new chief executive of Ocean Energy Europe – the Brussels-based trade association for ocean renewable energy. He succeeds Dr Sian George, who was appointed to oversee the reinvention of the association as Ocean Energy Europe in 2012. Gruet will be tasked with shaping the policy context that will help Europe’s ocean energy sector reach commercialisation over the coming decade.

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