Wave and tidal energy offers a predictable and consistent source of renewable energy.
Developing the potential of marine energy resources will help the UK:
- save around 61 metric tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2025 (valued at an estimated £1.1 billion to the UK economy)
- help meet the UK’s renewable energy objectives
Wave and tidal stream energy has the potential to meet up to 20% of the UK’s current electricity demand, representing a 30-to-50 gigawatt (GW) installed capacity. Between 200 and 300 megawatts (MWs) of generation capacity may be able to be deployed by 2020, and at the higher end of the range, up to 27GWs by 2050 (see the Renewable Energy Roadmap).
The UK is currently seen as a world leader and focal point for the development of wave and tidal stream technologies. With its excellent marine resource and its expertise in oil and gas exploration, the UK is in a unique position to benefit from this type of renewable energy and to develop related wave and tidal stream services. The industry is still in its early stages however, and further research is needed to determine how best to exploit these assets.
UK Marine Energy Programme
The UK Marine Energy Programme enhances the UK marine energy sector’s ability to develop and deploy wave and tidal energy devices at a commercial scale.
Through the programme we will:
- help the UK marine energy sector move towards commercial deployment over the coming 5 years
- provide a direct link between ministers at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and people who work in the marine energy sector
The programme is managed by the Marine Energy Programme Board.
Marine energy parks
We have established marine energy parks (MEPs) to bring together local and national government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, technology developers, academia and industry for the development of the marine energy sector.
The first, the South West Marine Energy Park (SWMEP) was established in January 2012 and stretches from Bristol through to Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly. This includes the Wave Hub in Cornwall and the Fab-Test nursery site in Falmouth.
The second MEP was established in the north of Scotland in July 2013 in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters incorporating the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).
Funding for wave and tidal energy
To help develop and commercialise wave and tidal technology, we have introduced the most comprehensive marine energy support regime in the world. This provides support from grants for the earliest stages of university research through to demonstration and revenue support for deployment under the banded Renewables Obligation (RO).
Find out about Technology Innovation Needs Assessments (TINAS) in our guide on innovation funding for low-carbon technologies.
We have supported the creation of a unique wave and tidal testing infrastructure in the UK. The test centres provide facilities ranging from component testing onshore through to in-sea testing of devices and arrays. These testing centres are:
- European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney
- New and Renewable Energy Centre (NAREC) in Northumberland
- Wave Hub in Cornwall
Marine Energy Array Demonstrator (MEAD) scheme
In June 2011 we announced we are investing up to £20 million in wave and tidal power to help develop marine energy technologies from prototype stage to demonstration of arrays of devices. We are doing this through our MEAD scheme and on 27th February 2013, two projects were selected to be funded under the scheme, subject to State Aid. The projects selected are The SeaGeneration Wales Limited project in Anglesey and the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth Inner Sound in Scotland.
DECC will fund the scheme from its £200 million budget for low-carbon technologies announced in the 2010 spending review.. Through the Low Carbon Innovation Co-ordination Group (LCICG) DECC makes sure sure the different funding schemes complement rather than compete with each other.
Read more about the MEAD scheme in our guide on innovation funding for low-carbon technologies.
Other sources of funding
See our guide on innovation funding for low-carbon technologies for details of other sources of funding.
Investing in wave and tidal energy
Different types of investors are needed to commercialise the marine energy sector. These include:
- corporate organisations
- venture capitalists
- angel investors (individual who provides capital for a business start-up)
In February 2010 DECC commissioned Kreab & Gavin Anderson to produce a survey of the views of potential investors. All were involved in renewable energy and some were already investors in the marine sector.
Tidal range potential
Studies have estimated the UK’s total theoretical tidal range resource at between 25 and 30GWs – enough to supply around 12% of current UK electricity demand. The majority of this is in the Severn estuary (which has between 8 and 12GW), with the estuaries and bays of the north west representing a similar amount and the east coast a further 5 to 6GW.
The 2-year cross-government Severn tidal power feasibility study could not see a strategic case for public investment in a Severn tidal scheme in the immediate term, though private sector groups are continuing to investigate the potential. Other potential projects assessed by developers at sites around the UK include the Mersey, the Solway Firth and the North Wales coast.