wave energy generation

Wave power strategy crucial to reach commercial potential, says report

Wave power is not living up to its potential despite the benefits it could bring to the UK’s electricity generation, researchers have claimed.

A report from the University of Strathclyde and Imperial College London found that despite £200m in taxpayer money being spent on the technology since 2000, it “remains some distance away from commercialisation”.

They found several key factors that were slowing development including:

  • Poor understanding of the scale of the wave energy innovation challenge
  • Premature emphasis on array-scale commercialisation from both government and industry
  • Fast changing, complex and poorly coordinated energy innovation policy landscape
  • Lack of lesson sharing between technology developers
  • Lack of test facilities to enable part-scale prototype testing

The researchers said the public sector has made an effort to learn from these mistakes, particularly the Scottish government, which has redesigned its research, design and development programmes, created new networks for sharing information and developed “world-class” test stations.

The report indicates these changes mean the UK is now better-placed to create a commercial wave power device but this is under threat from Brexit’s predicted impact on funding and collaboration.

It states: “With the UK government significantly reducing its support for wave energy and the threat of EU funds being withdrawn after Brexit, the Scottish government could find itself acting alone in developing wave energy technology.”

The report makes 10 policy recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the UK’s future support for wave energy innovation, including:

  • Retaining access to EU research & development funding post-Brexit
  • Developing a long-term wave energy strategy, especially for Scotland
  • Improving coordination of research & development support within and across government
  • Avoiding competition for subsidies with more established technologies, such as offshore wind and tidal stream
  • Support the formation of niche market for wave energy deployment

Matthew Hannon, Chancellor’s Fellow of Technology and Innovation at Strathclyde Business School, said: “The report’s findings are aimed primarily at government and industry in a bid to help improve the effectiveness of future wave energy innovation support in the UK and accelerate the technology’s journey towards commercialisation.”

Hannah Smith, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, called on government to “provide a viable mechanism to ensure the sector’s continued development”, adding failure to do so “would risk losing Scotland’s lead in this global industry”.

A spokesman for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The UK Government is a leader in providing support for renewable technologies and has committed up to £557m for further clean electricity auctions.

“Wave and tidal stream technologies could participate in the latest auction, but we didn’t ring-fence budget for them at the expense of other, potentially less expensive technologies. This meant we brought forward over 3GW of clean electricity while ensuring the best value for money for consumers.”

In September it emerged that the cost of electricity produced by new offshore wind farms had fallen to record lows. 

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