The UK could capture just under a quarter of the global marine energy market, according to analysis released today by the Carbon Trust.
Equivalent to up to £76bn to the UK economy by 2050, this growing sector could also generate over 68,000 UK jobs, if the technology is successfully developed and deployed internationally and the UK builds on its existing lead, it said.
The majority of these jobs would develop thanks to growing export markets in countries like Chile, Korea and America as well as Atlantic-facing European states which benefit from powerful waves or tidal currents.
The analysis found that total marine energy capacity could be 27.5GW in the UK by 2050, which would be capable of supplying to the grid the equivalent of over a fifth of current UK electricity demand.
Carbon Trust director of innovations Benj Sykes said: “Marine energy could be a major ‘made in Britain’ success. By cementing our early mover advantage, the UK could develop a significant export market, generate thousands of jobs and meet our own demand for clean, home-grown electricity.
“To maintain our world-leading position, we must continue to drive innovation within the industry and turn our competitive advantage in constructing and operating marine technology into sustained green growth.”
The analysis highlighted three areas of challenge for the industry:
Technology verification – the industry must continually innovate to push technologies along the path to commercial deployment. Wave and tidal technologies are moving into full-scale demonstration, but this will need to be followed by deployment of the first multiple megawatt arrays.
Costs - need to be reduced so that marine energy can compete with other low carbon technologies. Targeted R&D will be required for this to happen.
Wider support - such as public approval, grid upgrades to transfer electricity to areas of demand and the development of a manufacturing supply chain will also be critical.
The UK boasts around 35 of the world’s 120 to 130 wave energy and tidal stream device developers. British companies such as Pelamis, Aquamarine Power and Marine Current Turbines are leading the way in deploying their technologies in UK waters. Almost half of Europe’s wave resources and over a quarter of its tidal energy resources are to be found off the British coastline.