A new academic report has analysed the reasons for a lack of progression in the UK’s wave energy sector, despite investment of almost £200m of public funds since 2000. The evidence points to problems stemming from premature emphasis on commercialisation, as well as weaknesses in past government and industrial innovation strategies. As a result, key players went into administration and other investors withdrew from the market. In a move to improve the policy landscape, the Scottish government launched a knowledge capture initiative which has led to a reconfiguration of wave energy policy. While it is too early to see the results as yet, the academic report highlights the need to focus on consolidating the newly configured system, which could be disrupted by Brexit and the possible loss of EU funding. UK government funding for wave technology has reduced since 2011, while Scotland and the EU increased their support. Last month, the EU awarded funding for a marine energy test site in Wales, with the Welsh government announcing a further £1.2 million in funding. The investment will develop a Marine Energy Test Area (META) in Milford Haven.
Future policy recommendations include the need to establish a UK government body that is responsible for wave technology. Meanwhile, Scotland should implement a long-term wave strategy that is resilient to the possibility of support being reduced from both the UK and the EU. There was also a call to avoid competition with established low-carbon energy technologies for government subsidies. However, it should be noted that the recently released Clean Growth Strategy stated, “More nascent technologies such as wave, tidal stream and tidal range, could also have a role in the long-term decarbonisation of the UK, but they will need to demonstrate how they can compete with other forms of generation”. As an island, the UK is ideally placed to utilise marine energy, but it is in competition with a wide range of other renewable technologies. The European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney is the world’s only open-sea testing site, attracting interest from around the world. Together with the development of the marine testing facilities in Wales, these centres are crucial in supporting the UK’s place in the industry.
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