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UK wave and tidal industry fights for funding

The UK wave and tidal industry represented by RenewableUK is launching a campaign for financial support for the sector.

By Renewable Energy Focus staff

Oliver Wragg, RenewableUK’s Wave and Tidal Development Manager, says: “Our new report, Wave and Tidal Energy in the UK shows that Britain has the opportunity to lead the world in developing the emerging marine energy industry. This sector has the potential to employ 10,000 people and generate revenues of nearly £4 billion per year by 202. The removal of £42 million of ring-fenced funding through the Marine Renewables Deployment Fund (MRDF) means that there will be no guaranteed support for the development of this technology from the end of March this year.”

Chief Executive Maria McCaffery, adds: “The huge economic and environmental opportunities arising from this growing industry are recognised by countries such as the USA, Canada and China, and there is a real danger that our leading position will be lost to overseas competitors. It is vital that the Government retains its support for this sector.”

Minister pro wave and tidal

UK Minister for Climate Change, Greg Barker, aims to address the concerns of the UK wave and tidal industry, saying: “It seems to me quite bonkers that in this island nation of ours – surrounded by seas and ocean, with our great marine heritage and genius for advance engineering coupled with the threat of climate change and dwindling traditional domestic energy resources – we haven’t done more to exploit this abundant resource. This has to change.”

Government commitment

“I want to assure that the Coalition is absolutely committed to harnessing the complete range of benefits which a successful marine renewables industry can bring to the UK – the development of the sector is explicitly written into the fabric of the Coalition Agreement,” Barker says.

He adds that the marine renewable sector will play an important part in the 2020 renewable energy targets, and that the industry could bring important jobs and economic opportunities for the UK.

“Work is already being done to support marine energy – recently the Technology Strategy Board announced £2.5m support to some of the sector’s leading companies and the Energy Technologies Institute issued a request for proposals to model tidal energy resources around the UK.”

"The Coalition is committed to investing real money, real time, more energy and genuine political capital in making this happen."
- Greg Barker, UK Minister for Climate Change

Furthermore the ETI is expected to launch its next marine energy project, which could benefit wave and tidal developers and engineers.

Learning from Google

Barker says it will be important to focus the UK’s wave and tidal efforts: “I recently attended a meeting at No10, chaired by the Chancellor, with Eric Schmidt of Google. What really came out of that is a sense that we can learn a lot from the growth of other sectors that have their basis in innovation, such as IT.

“The clustering of companies in the Silicon Valley in the US was a key driver of innovation and growth because it fostered information sharing and competition which ultimately led to a reduction in vestment risk.

“I think that the marine sector could benefit from a similar model and I think Marine Energy Parks which draw together R&D, manufacturing and other sector expertise could achieve that.”


Barker says the Coalition Government aims to look at policies to support the wave and tidal industry, and that it will work with industry through the UK Marine Energy Programme and the Marine Energy Programme Board to identify and shape policies.

“We’re already consulting on whether to offer generators a choice of ROCs or a new feed-in tariff mechanism between introduction of Electricity Markets Review legislation in 2013 or 14 and 2017. This will give marine generators access to this new form of FiTs from the start, providing added certainty and a more stable revenue stream.

“It will take a little while before the new FiTs are in place and the marine sector needs confidence that appropriate support will be in place before that to ensure that longer-term investments are made. Cleary the longer-term future of the sector is tied up with the new FiTs. But we will address this immediate issue through the review of the current Renewables Obligation.”

Barker adds that the Government has already sped up the RO review, which could mean support for the industry a year earlier than previously planned. Legislation is now expected to be in place from April 2012.

Some of the proposals made include linking a higher ROC banding level with a capacity limit. Barker says this has the double benefit of providing more generous incentive for investment within a finite cost envelope and encouraging developers to get wave and tidal devices into the water as quickly as possible.

Marine Fund failure

Barker admits the failure of the Marine Renewable Deployment Fund, which is close to its end without having spent its allocation.

“I am determined to put in place a more effective way of supporting the development of marine energy which will lead to the right levels of investment and which will effectively push forward the sector. Of course, in a constrained fiscal environment the needs of the marine sector will need to be considered alongside the needs of other technologies in a more holistic approach.”

He adds, however: “Before deciding what support we will provide to marine and to other important technologies I want to be sure we understand what the innovation needs truly are and how the Government and the private sector can best act together to address them.”

He concludes: “The Coalition is committed to investing real money, real time, more energy and genuine political capital in making this happen.”

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