Photo: Illustration/SIMEC Atlantis' AR1500 tidal turbine (Courtesy of SIMEC Atlantis Energy)

UK: MPs urge government to seize tidal power potential

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has in a letter to UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng emphasised the substantial potential of the tidal power sector to contribute to the UK’s renewable energy mix.

Illustration/SIMEC Atlantis AR1500 tidal turbine (Courtesy of SIMEC Atlantis Energy)
Illustration/SIMEC Atlantis’ AR1500 tidal turbine (Courtesy of SIMEC Atlantis Energy)

The EAC has reflected on evidence it received in the latest stage of its Technological innovations and climate change inquiry. Members heard that current tidal stream projects in development already have the capacity to deliver 1GW of electricity to the grid.

The EAC has also recognized the benefits of tidal stream technology in boosting technology clusters in coastal locations with optimal tidal flow, increasing inward investment and driving the development of specialist supply chains, which are principally UK-based.

There is also significant export potential, with UK knowledge and expertise helping other nations with tidal power projects, according to EAC.

However, the EAC was also made aware that tidal range projects – such as lagoons and barrages – are stuck at the concept stage, without sufficient funding to undertake studies required to secure further backing to assess long-term viability.

Therefore, the EAC has urged the government to consider the important benefits of tidal stream and tidal range, and to offer support across the sector.

In particular, the UK government should discuss an administrative strike price for Contracts for Difference (CfD) round 4 which will allow tidal stream projects in development to proceed to the grid offer.

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When discussing how this is to be paid – avoiding adding costs on to household bills – ECA said the UK government should engage constructively with the sector on its proposal for a purchasing power agreement model which could see developers and investors paid for energy generated without the costs being passed on to domestic bills.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne, said: “Tidal power can offer numerous benefits and potential for the UK, which boasts over 7,500 miles of coastline and unrivalled resources to generate reliable power supplies without the vagaries of sunlight or wind. 

“While we appreciate the government’s concern about the potential initial cost to the taxpayer to support early-stage tidal stream and tidal range structures, the benefits outweigh the costs. Support for tidal stream is likely to lead to a rapid fall in generating costs similar to, if not steeper than, the fall experienced in offshore wind. Tidal range projects are relatively cheap to maintain once the initial costs are paid off, offering – in the longer term – a potentially affordable contribution to make to the UK’s renewable energy mix. 

“It is clear that there is a strong current of interest in tidal power, with clusters set to thrive around the UK, if it is given government backing. It is imperative that the Government fully considers the benefits of this reliable renewable energy and have constructive discussions with the sector”.