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Tidings of comfort and joy

By Elizabeth Block

The UK government appears to have given up on being “the greenest government ever”. No one saw much comfort for renewables in the recent Energy Bill or in the Autumn Statement that followed.

Why, I wonder, instead of a “dash for gas”, can’t we have a “race for renewables”? Or a “war on global warming...”?

Never mind, I have some “good tidings” for you. At least one sector is bucking the tide. Last week the tidal energy sector sounded amazingly buoyant – sorry, but I cannot think of a better word – at the annual Tidal Today conference.

What’s buoying up the sector?

Well, some big money for one thing. As you will know, Siemens took control of Marine Current Turbines earlier this year and very recently Alstom of France announced its intention to take over TGL – Tidal Generation Ltd. – from Rolls Royce.

TGL’s CEO Rob Stevenson was almost bursting with pride – and why not? In the natural world, small fish try not to get eaten by big fish. But in the corporate world, it’s the opposite, and Rob’s been happily swallowed up by two big fish in succession.

How big a fish is Alstom?

The group employs 92,000 people in around 100 countries. It had sales of €20bn and booked close to €22bn in orders in 2011/12. In contrast, with about 29 employees, as of 31 December 2011, TGL had gross assets of £10.6mn. Alstom is said to be paying £46mn for TGL.

Rob was so happy that he even had praise for DECC, a rare thing at these events. “We’ve had good support from DECC,” he said, but warned that the industry must deliver to “earn” its 5 ROCs. And he amused the audience with a slide showing how he once put his device on a Scottish ferry, enroute to EMEC, just paying the normal ferry fare.

Other corporates are getting directly into the act – with some developing their own devices. For example, Total has a stake in Scotrenewables Tidal Power Ltd., along with renewable giant Fred Olsen. On the development side, Schottel, another big German corporate, not only has a new tidal generator but has taken a share of Tidal Stream, a platform developer that claims it can save up to half on installation costs.

So, despite the fragmentation of the sector, which means that it will be a while until any one or two devices are regarded as “proven”, there is reason to hope that tidal arrays may actually be financed and deployed within a couple of years. Or, as Rob put it:

“We must move from a cottage industry to industrialisation.”

Another reason for hope: Anders Jansson, CEO of Minesto AB in Norway, which has an innovative tidal kite device called Deep Green, has redefined the tidal resource. That is, by counting in “low-velocity” tides, he claims to have expanded the total extractable tidal resource. I think he should get in touch with the Crown Estate!

Not everything is getting bigger, though, and that’s good news on the vessel front. The boats are getting smaller. That is, to cut costs, more developers are designing with a view to using a “multicat” or similar for deployment, rather than a DP - which will eat up most of your grant money in one day.

There was much, much more at the Tidal Today conference so please look out for a full market report in March/April 2013 edition of Renewable Energy Focus. If you aren’t already a subscriber, sign up for your free copies here.

Meantime, if you like this post, you’ll also like this guest blog by Felicia Jackson on driving forward wind and marine in the UK.

Elizabeth Block is a freelance journalist based in the UK.

Click here for more Renewable Energy Focus blogs.


Posted 10/12/2012 by Gail Rajgor

Tagged under: Tidal , Tidal energy , Tidal power , Marine , Marine energy , Marine power , wave and tidal , alternative energy , offshore energy , hydro energy , hydro power

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