Wave Energy

At the present time UK companies are arguably world leaders in wave energy conversion technologies. These include companies such as Pelamis. However, it is clear that in terms of offshore facilities there is a risk that the UK will be left behind. The European Marine Energy Centre is based off of the coast of Scotland, and was and still is at the forefront of wave energy device testing. However this is most suited for prototype devices, and now many of these devices are past this and on to the demonstration or commercial stages.

There have been plans for a while to give the UK the advantage at the next phase of the development process by setting up a project known as Wave Hub off of the Cornish coast which would be a site suited for the demonstration of commercial scale devices. However, this has been delayed several times, and as a result other similar schemes elsewhere in the world are catching up fast.

This may not appear to be a big problem, but there is the risk that many of these UK based companies will relocate to where the assistance given to them is more suitable, such as Portugal where the government has provided enough assistance to allow commercial wave farms to be operational. This will result in many jobs within the industry going abroad, and should the wave industry grow to be as big as the wind industry the number of jobs could be in the tens of thousands. Thus the UK is not grasping the opportunity to create a new industry, unlike what Denmark did with the wind industry 20 years ago - and that led to Vestas being the world leader in wind turbine manufacture.

However, the UK wave energy industry could be assisted in three ways. Firstly there needs to be funding released immediately for not only Wave Hub but further similar schemes around the UK coastline. Secondly, there needs to be improvements to the planning regulations to allow wave farms to be built easier. Finally, the price paid for electricity should be increased. Ideally this should be done with a tariff mechanism with a price per unit for electricity produced to be guaranteed for the lifetime of the project to reduce investment risk. However, it is more likely that the UK government will prefer to continue with the renewables obligation system, and as such there should be an increased number of ROCs given per unit of wave energy generated.

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