A bitter battle over renewable tidal energy and competition policy is being fought within Brit-Govt’s department for energy and industry (BEIS).
In the ‘renewables’ corner, senior figures within BEIS want to introduce a Contract for Difference measure to support tidal power in general – and the MeyGen subsea power station being built off Caithness by Atlantis Resources – and whilst in the ‘competition’ corner are those who say the time for such subsidies has passed its sell-by date.
A senior London-based financier – who is close to both the company and BEIS – said: “It’s been a difficult year for tidal energy; it’s not got a clear signal from (the UK) government.
“It’s a question of whether the government is motivated enough to support large-scale, dispatchable renewable tidal power at the same (early) stage in its development curve as it did for offshore renewables.
“Tidal energy is now where offshore wind was five years ago which, since then has delivered enormous cost-reductions – down to as low as £57-mw/hr.
“It’s all very frustrating. BEIS – like every other government department – is almost entirely convulsed with Brexit and any major policy initiative, such as a contract for difference for tidal, has to go across <prime minister> May’s desk at No. 10.
“Atlantis has many admirers across the globe for its world-leading technology. It would be a real shame if this was lost to Scotland and the UK.
“What little money it has – about £13 million – has been sunk by the Scottish government into (surface) wave energy quango.
“The private sector tried – and failed – to build a commercially viable and physically robust wave power convertor to withstand the harsh surface environment and generator enough power. It remains to be seen whether the public sector Scottish wave energy quango can do any better.”
Atlantis is the developer and majority owner of the world’s largest tidal stream project, MeyGen, located in the Pentland Firth off Caithness. The first phase of this project is operating well and has generated more than 3,000 MWh. When fully complete, the project will have an installed capacity of 398 MW.
James Murray from Scotrenewables Tidal Power said: “Other countries now are starting to recognise the benefits of supporting the early stages of the industry.
“Countries such as France and Canada have put in place appropriate levels of revenue support for first array projects.
“It would be a terrible shame, but it does look like unless the UK government changes its mind that we might have to do our first commercial projects there instead.”
Brexit will cost marine energy sector £400m in lost EU funding as Atlantis chief warns UK industry is at tipping point
Renewables AFTER Brexit keynote conference: