EMEC’s Managing Director: Don’t repeat failures of the past, UK

The Managing Director of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) – Neil Kermode – has urged the UK not to repeat the failures of the past by being ‘timid and ineffectual’ when supporting nascent technologies such as tidal and wave.

Neil Kermode (Photo: EMEC)

The time has come to commit to making the UK a prosperous, decarbonized and green economy by actively supporting the marine renewable industry, said Neil Kermode.

“This is not the moment to ‘play safe’. It is the moment to be bold because innovation means doing new and risky things in the service of the vision we have of a prosperous, decarbonized and green economy,” the Managing Director of the most advanced open sea test center for marine energy told the UK government after attending the International Conference on Ocean Energy (ICOE) in France earlier this month.

Namely, Kermode contrasted the UK government’s apparent ‘diminishing’ support for its marine energy industry, with – what he called – the passion regional French politicians have for the sector, along with their Irish counterparts, and the EU governance, echoing the question ‘why?’ often posed by the industry itself.

“This is both surprising and worrying in equal degrees. It is surprising because the UK is making such strong progress to generate from the oceans. The sterling work done by Scotrenewables with their 2MW machine at EMEC now passing the 2,500MWh mark and MeyGen setting a new world record in March this year for generating 1,400MWh from a tidal stream array in one month means that the UK’s hard fought for pole position is being maintained.

“And the level of public support for marine renewables is higher than it has been in the last 6 years as shown by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s own public attitude tracker published a few weeks ago. Support almost exactly matches the picture for renewables as a whole and specifically offshore wind, a technology the government does actively support,” Kermode said.

Channel funding to ‘sunrise’ industry – no need to keep supporting the ‘sunset’ one

The UK provides annual support to the oil and gas sector to the tune of around $11,000,000,000 of which nearly $1 billion is actual cash, Kermode said.

So, the lack of money is ‘clearly’ not the reason for the lack of support for the marine renewables in the UK since – at present – the UK is giving around £120 for every man, woman and child in the country today to support an industry that ‘has to be curtailed for planetary security reasons’, according to Kermode.

Some of marine energy technologies that ‘took a dip’ at EMEC, off Orkney, Scotland (Photo: EMEC)

“By taking a little from the industry we need to replace, the UK could choose to channel its efforts into a sunrise industry. It does not need to keep supporting a sunset one,””Kermode said.

If there was ever a time for a responsible bold step – it is now

In his blog post, Kermode also highlighted the wind export benefits Denmark achieved as opposed to the ones harnessed by the UK – calling on to the presentation delivered during ICOE 2018 by Gavin McPherson of Nova Innovation who showed how the UK ‘stuffed up its support for wind.’

Kermode said: “By being late and timid with its support, the UK has derived a 1/24th of the export value of wind energy that Denmark achieved. Indeed Denmark, a country with 1/11th the population of the UK, derives more annual income than the UK does from our much-vaunted defence industry. (Per capita; Denmark’s wind industry is worth 256 times as much as is the UK’s).”

Wrapping up the reflections on the current UK marine energy situation – Kermode added that ‘it would be a reprehensible dereliction of duty if those with the levers of power at their hands failed to use them for the good of the country’, stating also that the time for responsible and bold step came.

“So as people anxiously wait for the long expected supportive announcement for the Swansea Barrage, we should reflect on the choices the Government is going to make.

“Are we going to repeat the failures of the past by being timid and ineffectual when supporting a nascent technology like we were with wind? Are we really going to give up our hard fought for world lead in marine renewables because we cannot learn from our mistakes?

“Or are we going to deliver on promises to have a nation fuelled by innovation and deliver the Prime Minister’s recent commitment to “a cleaner, greener country (that will) reap the economic rewards of the clean growth revolution.

“To me it seems to be an obvious choice to make: we should go for the opportunity, not throw more money on a sunset industry; keep the lead rather than skulk off the field; build a new economy based on success and export, not commit ourselves to just consume,” concluded Kermode.