Premature emphasis on commercialization hinders UK wave growth

Illustration/Oyster 800 wave energy device (Photo: Aquamarine Power/Archive)

The UK wave energy sector’s failure to reach market can in part be attributed to premature emphasis on commercialization and lack of knowledge exchange, the new report by University of Strathclyde and Imperial College London has found.

The report examined the extent to which the failure to deliver a commercially viable wave energy device can be attributed to weaknesses in both government and industry’s support for wave energy innovation in the UK.

Some of the key factors highlighted in the report behind the failure of wave power technology to mature over the past 15 years come down to poor understanding of the scale of the wave energy innovation challenge, and premature emphasis on array-scale commercialization from both government and industry.

Also, the paper cites fast changing, complex and poorly coordinated energy innovation policy landscape, lack of lesson sharing between technology developers, and lack of test facilities to enable part-scale prototype testing as other reasons preventing the sector to become commercially viable.

The researchers have made 10 policy recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the UK’s future support for wave energy innovation.

Recommendations include retaining access to EU research and development funding post-Brexit, developing a long-term wave energy strategy, especially for Scotland, and mproving coordination of research and development support within and across government.

In addition, avoiding competition for subsidies with more established technologies, such as offshore wind and tidal stream has also been advised.

Jim Skea, Chair in Sustainable Energy in the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, said: “The report points towards two weakness in wave innovation that can be remedied: first the lack of convergence on a dominant design that has been the key to success for other renewable technologies and, second, fragmentation of support across many overlapping schemes.”

Matthew Hannon, Chancellor’s Fellow of Technology and Innovation in the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde Business School, added: “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 commercialization.”

The report was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Strathclyde Business School and the International Public Policy Institute.

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