Photo: UK-built tidal energy turbines (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power; SIMEC Atlantis Energy; Nova Innovation)

Industry reacts: Starting gun fired for tidal to establish itself in the UK’s energy mix

The UK’s tidal energy industry has welcomed the government announcement of ring-fenced funding for tidal stream energy, deeming the move as ‘absolutely pivotal’ for reinstating the industry on its journey to large-scale power generation in the UK.

UK-built tidal energy turbines (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power; SIMEC Atlantis Energy; Nova Innovation)
UK-built tidal energy turbines (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power; SIMEC Atlantis Energy; Nova Innovation)

The decision to invest £20 million per year in tidal stream electricity through its renewable energy auction scheme – made by the UK government on 24 November 2021 – has been hailed by the UK’s tidal energy industry as a positive move for delivering a route to market for the sector.

The move is also expected to strengthen energy security by adding to diverse, renewable electricity supply and creating jobs across the UK’s coastal communities.

Leading tidal energy companies based in the UK – Orbital Marine Power, Nova Innovation, and SIMEC Atlantis Energy – have all welcomed the announcement as a long-awaited answer to their call for support.

According to Orbital Marine, The decision validates the UK market for tidal stream, while providing a more level playing field for its unique floating technology to support the global transition to a net-zero future.

Andrew Scott, the company’s CEO, said: “We have long called for this sort of ring-fenced funding to develop this important technology and to further build a home-grown industry around it.

“Having this clear, positive signal from UK Government gives us the platform to grow the investment in our pioneering business and unlock the vital investments we need to make in our supply chain and projects to deliver a new commercial renewable sector.

“This will see sustainable, green jobs created in the UK along with predictable, low carbon electricity generated to help deliver net zero against the backdrop of a global export market”.

The chief executive of another Scottish-based tidal energy company Nova Innovation, Simon Forrest, said: “We are delighted that tidal stream energy has been recognised by the UK government as being a key part of the green industrial revolution.

“The ring-fenced £20 million per year, guaranteed for 15 years under the CfD scheme, will deliver a route to market for the sector. Nova Innovation and our partner SIMEC Atlantis – turbocharging the delivery of tidal energy across the world”.

Applauding the news, Graham Reid, CEO of SIMEC Atlantis, the company behind the MeyGen tidal energy project, said: “A huge thank you to the supporters and champions that have made the case for our technology and the role it will play in creating jobs, investment and delivering the only predictable renewable energy source with no visual impact”.

Up to 60MW of tidal stream capacity potentially in water by 2027

According to Stephen Wyatt, research and innovation director at Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the UK’s innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy, the ring-fenced funding could enable between 30MW and 60MW of tidal stream capacity deployed in UK waters between 2025 and 2027.

Wyatt said: “We are delighted with this announcement, which sees the tidal stream industry reinstated on their journey to large-scale power generation in the UK. Depending on the prices bid by project developers, we estimate that this announcement could enable between 30 and 60MW of tidal stream capacity deployed in UK waters between 2025 and 2027.

“This fires the starting gun for tidal to establish itself in the UK’s energy system mix, encouraging deployment that will drive cost reduction towards £90MWh at 1GW deployed capacity. Long term benefits could be a net cumulative benefit to the UK by 2030 of £1.4 billion, including considerable exports and the creation of around 4,000 jobs.

“Given the tenacity and capability of the industry and their supporters, we can be confident the UK can now make rapid progress on the journey towards commercialisation in UK waters”.

Commenting on the announcement, Neil Kermode, managing director of the world-leading testing centre for marine energy – the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), said:  

“This support for the marine energy industry is absolutely pivotal – our work here at EMEC to demonstrate new technology is world-leading, but there must be a domestic market to ensure wave and tidal stream technologies can reach commercialisation and play their part in our future energy mix, right here in our own waters.

“Support for the first large arrays of tidal stream projects is an incredibly positive signal for investment in marine renewable energy – I want to thank the numerous ministers, MPs and civil servants who were convinced by the case we put forward, and understood the potential benefits to our economy, environment, and exports this new industry can bring”.