The UK Marine Energy Council (MEC)'s five key asks

UK Marine Energy Council sets five key asks for upcoming UK government 

The UK Marine Energy Council (MEC) has outlined five key asks for the upcoming Government to realize the potential of wave and tidal energy, and embed UK content into projects deployed domestically and internationally.

Source: The UK Marine Energy Council (MEC)

According to MEC, the UK possesses more than 30 GW of unused tidal stream and wave energy capacity, which would be sufficient to supply over one-third of its electricity needs.

UK’s trajectory aims for over 100 MW of tidal stream capacity in the country’s waters by 2028, with projects contributing over 80% to the UK supply chain content spend, fostering green jobs in coastal communities and beyond.

The upcoming parliament, which is to run from 2024 to 2029, holds importance for the UK’s journey towards achieving net zero emissions. The next Government can make use of the UK’s maritime expertise and indigenous natural resources by implementing the following five actions:

  1. Increase the tidal stream ringfence to £30 million (approximately $38 million) in this year’s renewable auction (Allocation Round 6),
  2. Set a 1 GW tidal stream target by 2035,
  3. Set a 300 MW wave energy target by 2035,
  4. Streamline and prioritize the conseting of marine energy projects,
  5. Introduce innovation support for marine energy.

Background of five asks

1. Increase the tidal stream ringfence to £30m in Allocation Round 6

In the previous two renewable auctions, the UK Government secured 90 MW of contracted tidal stream capacity. 

According to MEC, the current £10 million (approximately $12,7 million) ringfence will secure an additional 13 MW of capacity. 

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Increasing the ringfence to £30 million could potentially secure over 40 MW for the next Government, sustaining momentum and industry expansion while reinforcing the UK’s international leadership in this sector.

3. Set a 300 MW wave energy target by 2035

Marine energy holds the potential to contribute up to £41 billion (approximately $52 billion) gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy by 2050 and generate £1 billion (approximately $1,2 billion) in annual energy system cost savings, said MEC.

By achieving 1 GW of deployment, tidal stream energy is projected to decrease to £78 (approximately $99) per MWh by 2035 and drop below £50 (approximately $63) per MWh by 2050.

Moreover, there is an opportunity to ‘co-locate’ wave energy converters with offshore wind farms in the future, potentially reducing overall costs by 12% for both technologies.

Setting clear targets for marine energy will enhance investor confidence and send a strong market signal that the UK is dedicated to fostering the growth of the sector, said MEC. Like other offshore renewable energies, having defined targets is crucial for scaling up commercial growth in both technologies and projects.

4. Streamline and prioritize the consenting of marine energy projects

Offshore renewable projects exceeding 1 MW necessitate a marine license under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) and Section 36 consent under the Electricity Act (1989). 

This approval procedure, which can extend for over four years, is a requirement for projects to participate in the UK’s renewable auctions. 

MEC said that the next Government should collaborate with industry and statutory consultees to simplify this process, endorse site monitoring to demonstrate the minimal impact of marine energy, and adopt a balanced approach to marine energy deployment.

5. Introduce innovation funding for marine energy

Research conducted by the LSE’s Grantham Institute indicates that the UK is a “specialized innovator” in marine energy technologies, surpassing its performance in other sectors such as offshore wind, nuclear, and carbon capture, usage, and storage. 

With the absence of EU funding, the Government must sustain the UK’s position as an innovation leader, attracting investment to generate employment, foster economic growth, and capitalize on opportunities to export innovation and expertise globally.