Key marine energy sites could be cost competitive with nuclear and onshore wind by 2025 with accelerated and targeted innovation, according to a report by the Carbon Trust.
Through its Marine Energy Accelerator programme, the Carbon Trust said that the costs for the first wave and tidal energy farms will be around 30kWh to40p/kWh which is high, relative to today’s more established low carbon technologies, such as offshore wind. But with continued and targeted innovation aggressive reductions in costs can be achieved in the next 10 years, it said adding that in the future marine energy could provide a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs.
The analysis shows that wave energy could generate 50 terra watt hours of electricity per year, equivalent to 13% of the UK’s power needs, and tidal stream 20.6 terra watt hours per year or 5% of UK power needs. Between them wave and tidal stream could generate more electricity than 12 large coal-fired power stations. The fast flowing tides of the deeper areas of the Pentland Firth between the Scottish mainland and the Orkneys alone could ultimately generate almost one third of all tidal stream energy (6 terra watt hours per year) and at an equivalent cost to nuclear and onshore wind.
Technology innovation will be vital to tackle the harsher conditions which are encountered in the deeper areas of the Pentland Firth. With targeted innovation energy generation costs for both wave and tidal stream technologies could reduce to an average of 15p per kilowatt hour by 2025 - equivalent to today’s cost of offshore wind energy.
The £3.5M Marine Energy Accelerator has driven innovation in key areas including device deployment and mooring. One of these innovations, developed with Pelamis Wave Power, has projected savings of £15M a year by 2020 through faster installation and connection of the device in rougher weather conditions.
“Wave and tidal stream could provide a fifth of our electricity needs and be a major ‘made in Britain’ success,” said Carbon Trust innovations director Benj Sykes.
Separate Carbon Trust analysis has shown that the UK could capture just under a quarter of the global marine energy market. Equivalent to up to £76bn to the UK economy by 2050, this growing sector could also generate over 68,000 UK jobs.
The latest analysis from the Marine Energy Accelerator highlighted the following key areas for action:
- Targeted innovation is needed to drive cost reduction and de-risk the industry. Project developers should engage in non-competitive R&D efforts to tackle challenges and costs associated with array deployment, foundations and electrical connections.
- Government needs to provide a stable revenue support framework and legislative backing through Strategic Environmental Assessments to streamline the planning process for wave and tidal energy farms.
- Utilities and project developers must continue to be more heavily involved in the industry which will generate wider investor confidence.
- Supply chain partners should look to invest now to create market-leading positions.
- Plans for grid connections to areas of marine energy need to be expanded, specifically for the Pentland Firth.