Photo: Illustration/Orbital Marine Power's 2MW tidal energy deployed offshore Scotland (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

UK’s environmental committee calls for more tidal energy to ensure long-term energy security

In its latest report, the Environmental Audit Committee of the United Kingdom has called for a greater strategic focus on tidal energy, highlighting its potential to contribute to the country’s energy security in the long term.

Illustration/Orbital Marine Power's 2MW tidal energy deployed offshore Scotland (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)
Illustration/Orbital Marine Power’s 2MW tidal energy deployed offshore Scotland (Courtesy of Orbital Marine Power)

The latest report from the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) sets out how the UK can accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and secure energy supplies to tackle the energy affordability, security and sustainability crises facing the country.

In the report, titled ‘Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels and securing energy supplies’, the EAC argues that there were some notable gaps on renewable energy in the British Energy Strategy, which followed the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting gas supply crisis, that are related to short term potential of onshore wind, and long-term potential of tidal power.

According to the report, tidal energy technology received ‘scant attention’ in the strategy, despite UK’s abundant tidal energy resources that could be tapped and ‘significant benefit’ that tidal stream and tidal range technologies can provide in terms of predictability and ability to consistently deliver reliable year-round source of clean electricity.

“We welcome the inclusion of tidal power in Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions which has resulted in 40MW of clean power from tides being awarded contracts. Tidal and other marine energy projects should be a vital component of the government’s strategies for delivering both net zero and energy security.

“We recommend that the government incorporate, as part of the revised net zero strategy to be published by March 2023, an approach to developing tidal and marine energy that includes a stated ambition for the sector set out in gigawatts of generating capacity.

“The UK should be aiming to generate a significant proportion of its power from these sources by the middle of the 2030s,” the EAC said in the report.

However, the approach must be extremely sensitive to biodiversity considerations given the obvious risks of disrupting important habitats, and the government should make this clear in planning guidance, EAC stressed.

Commenting on the report, EAC’s chairman, Philip Dunne, said: “Fossil fuels have helped keep our homes warm, power our cars and generate the majority of our electricity. Britain will continue to need to access fossil fuel supplies during the net zero transition.

“But government should consult on setting an end date for licensing oil and gas from the North Sea. We can accelerate this transition by fully harnessing our abundant renewable energy resources, including tidal energy that can deliver a reliable year-round source of clean electricity, and by upgrading our energy inefficient buildings.

“The UK has enormous renewable energy potential and sectors such as offshore wind are booming. But more must be done to harness the opportunities which onshore wind, tidal and solar technologies provide. Developers should be required to fit solar panels on new homes as standard.

“Bold action is needed now. The last year, with Russia’s aggression in Europe choking energy supplies, has shown us just how vulnerable our over-reliance on imported fossil fuels can make us. The committee has today set out a number of clear recommendations to drive real change: I hope the government will act swiftly to implement them.”

The committee has called for an update of the British Energy Security Strategy to be published in spring 2023, indicating progress in reducing reliance on Russian imports, securing energy supplies and improving energy efficiency.

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