Although already at the forefront of global marine energy development, Member of Parliament Alistair Carmichael is looking to further secure Scotland’s status by imploring the government to further support the sector via its recently released industrial strategy.
The plan, unveiled by the Scottish government in late November, seeks to “drive growth across Scotland, boosting skills and improving productivity and infrastructure” through the pursuit of several “Grand Challenges.” These include artificial intelligence, clean growth, and improved mobility for people, goods and services.
As others in the United Kingdom have noted, however, significant economic opportunity could be had in the marine, tidal and wave energy industry, should a country devote itself to cultivating the sector.
“This is going to be something that is going to require a dedicated funding stream,” Carmichael said during this week’s Minister’s Question Time. “What is the Secretary of State doing in collaboration with his colleagues in the Department for Business to ensure that we get that dedicated funding stream?”
Scotland is already home to European Marine Energy Test Centre (EMEC) and Shetland Tidal Array — each of which has already made significant contributions toward the commercialization of marine energy via research being performed at them.
Still, Carmichael argued, the government needs to formalize its support for marine energy — largely through funding and recognition within the industrial strategy — to give Scotland’s efforts further credibility within the United Kingdom.
“For the industrial strategy to reach all parts of the U.K., it should be an opportunity for Scotland to develop its potential in wave and tidal power,” Carmichael said.
Member of Parliament David Mundell, responding on behalf of the government, said it was “important to ensure the development of tidal energy in particular” and that Scotland “will continue to look at what funding can be made available for it.”
Examining the potential
Though it does not quantify the potential for Scotland’s marine energy in terms of actual output, the government does claim “the potential exists to generate more electricity than we currently need from the waters around the Scottish coast.”
In economic terms, Wales, which is also looking to establish itself as the premier leader in marine energy, said earlier that the market could equate to more than US$6.8 billion in U.K. exports by 2050.
Meanwhile, a 2015 report from Marine Energy Pembrokeshire noted that investments into the supply chain had already contributed $27.6 million for tidal stream energy; $22.4 million for tidal range energy and $1.5 million for wave energy into the Welsh economy alone.
Exactly what a similar industry for Scotland remains to be seen, but the private sector is looking to do its part in growing its marine energy field as well.
Last month, Wave Energy Scotland released a directory intended to help developers better familiarize themselves with potential installation sites. The same group has also provided millions in research and development funding to a number of organizations, including four who split $3.7 million in an April round of awards.