The UK is in a global race for the development of ocean energy (wind and wave power) with rival nation states both outwith and inside the EU – which is why the UK government has, to date, invested over £28m in world class testing facilities, such as the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre.
That was one of the main messages by the UK Climate Change Minister at an EU ocean energy summit held this week in Edinburgh. Greg Barker, MP, a member of the UK Government was, keynote speaker at the EU Ocean Energy, Association conference at the Dynamic Earth expo – next to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood.
He said: “I am delighted that the EU Ocean Energy Association decided to host its conference – for the first time ever outside of Brussels – in Edinburgh, illustrating the strong role that the UK has been playing and continues to play in supporting the development of ocean energy.
“Today, I want to re-affirm the UK Government’s genuine, long-term commitment to ocean energy. As a direct result of this commitment and of the extensive support framework we have put in place, great advances have been made in developing the sector, here in the UK.
“Secondly, we must not forget that Europe is in a global race for the development of ocean energy. As with all such races, others will challenge our leadership. But winning this race will bring global rewards and open world-wide future opportunities to the sector.
“Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, staying in the race and winning it will require strong partnerships. Collaboration is absolutely essential in getting the sector to move forward to the next stage of its development. Collaboration between Governments. Collaboration across Europe. But mostly, collaboration across the industry.”
In the most overtly political part of his speech, Barker added: “I am in no doubt that, as part of UK, the cost of supporting and developing the sector is best shared on the broad shoulders of the UK, rather than on the narrower tax base of Scotland alone. This, I believe, doesn’t apply solely to ocean energy, but to low-carbon energy of all types.’
Underlining the UK Government’s pledge to support marine energy, he added: “We have ensured the developers of first arrays in the UK receive sufficient public sector funding to de-risk their projects.
“We have done this firstly by making up to £20m of direct capital grant funding available through the Marine Energy Array Demonstrator (MEAD). And, subject to State Aid and successful final investment decision, the MEAD will fund two innovative tidal stream projects in the UK.
“And we have de-risked the arrays by prioritising ocean energy in the first call for proposals of the EU New Entrant Reserve 300. As a result, two tidal array projects – both Scottish-based – have been awarded NER-300 funding. We have continued to work very closely with the European Commission and the Scottish Government so that these two projects can progress to demonstrate the sector’s future potential.”
Speaking shortly before the departure of a Scottish oil and gas trade mission to China – being led by First Minister Alex Salmond, which leaves Edinburgh this weekend for Peking – the UK minister then announced the launch of a new £7 million programme to ramp up offshore renewable energy projects. He said:
“I am delighted to announce today that the Technology Strategy Board is to invest £7m to accelerate the development of innovative infrastructure technologies for offshore renewables, including wave and tidal stream. The successful collaborative R&D projects will help reduce the cost of electricity generation.
“The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will provide up to a further £500,000 to fund academic partners in projects focused on High Voltage Direct Current technologies.
“In addition, the UK Research Councils’ Energy Programme took a delegation of leading UK academics to Peking earlier this month to explore areas of co-operation with China for ocean energy. They will decide the scope of a £1.5 million joint call for research proposals between EPSRC and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) – to be launched in early 2014.
“This is a great example of the type of investment that this Government has been making in the marine sector over the years. And we have provided much more, for example: