The Scot-Govt will this week announce that it is launching a new wave energy technology development body to encourage innovation in the industry in a move widely-regarded as seen as shoring up investor confidence in the wave power sector even as the financial wreck of Pelamis Wave Power Ltd settles on the sea-bed.
Wave Energy Scotland will ‘bring together the best engineering and academic minds to collaborate in a research and development programme to accelerate wave technology further.’
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing will provide more detail on Wave Energy Scotland during a Parliamentary statement in Holyrood on marine energy which he plans to make this week.
The Scot-Government recognises that early stage technologies, such as wave energy, can take time to flourish. Capturing wave energy is a complex and demanding process, and although the sector is still in its infancy Scotland has a world lead in the development of this cutting-edge technology.
The development of wave energy has also been hampered by the recent ‘uncertainty’ facing the energy sector more widely, following what Holyrood insiders regard as the ‘lengthy and delayed changes’ to the electricity market resulting from the UK Government’s Electricity Market Reform process.
Given that uncertainty, it is not surprising that investors are presently reluctant to commit to higher risk marine technologies. In spite of generous support for the sector from the Scottish Government, the lack of private capital has seriously hampered the progress of both wave and tidal energy developers.
Fergus Ewing explained: “With the extraordinary ocean energy resources off Scotland’s coasts, our belief in the future success of wave energy is undiminished.
“Now is the right time to consider the future of our support for wave energy in Scotland. This is a young industry and we still have a lot of learning to do in marine renewables.
“We want to encourage further innovation in wave energy development and we recognise the need for a bold new approach to supporting this emerging technology. There is also a lack of design convergence in wave energy with many different concepts in development, while tidal appears to be converging on a front-runner design.
“With Wave Energy Scotland, we are proposing a fresh and collaborative way to accelerate wave technology development. The best minds in industry and academia will work together to develop technologies that can be commercialised by the private sector.
“The Scottish Government and its enterprise bodies are absolutely committed to supporting the development of the wave and tidal sectors to unlock the potential of our seas.
“Marine energy is an important part of our renewable energy portfolio offering real economic opportunities for Scotland.
“This means that while the tidal energy sector is ready to build array demonstration projects – the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth is one such example – the wave energy sector must evolve further to gain the confidence of investors.”
Atlantis Resources’ MeyGen project is the world’s largest planned tidal stream development.
Currently, what is funded is the first phase (four turbines). This first phase has a development cost of £51 million, of which we have contributed £20.5 million. If this demonstration phase is successful, then there will be further phases of development, up to 398 megawatts.
A renewables industry source said: “The Scottish Government should be applauded for the creation of Wave Energy Scotland, which will provide crucial support to the home-grown Scottish companies who dominate the sector and allow collaboration on key shared engineering issues.”
* Scottish Energy News has submitted a Freedom of Information disclosure request to Scot-Government requiring details of how much money has been spent on organising and promoting the Saltire energy award, which is due to be announced in January 2015. No substantive reply has been received.