Progress requires outside assistance

The Scottish Government is to set up a new body to encourage and promote innovation in the wave energy sector of the renewable energy industry. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said Wave Energy Scotland would draw on the sector’s best engineering and academic minds with the aim to hasten development and encourage private investment.

It is expected that Mr. Ewing will give further details during his statement to the Scottish Parliament this week however it was noted that ministers understood that in the primary stage of new technologies, such as wave technology, things can take time to flourish. It was also stated that despite generous support for the sector from the Scottish Government a lack of private capital had held back progress of the wave and tidal energy industry.

Mr Ewing said: “This is a young industry and we still have a lot of learning to do in marine renewables. We want to encourage further innovation in wave energy development and we recognise the need for a bold new approach to supporting this emerging technology.

“There is also a lack of design convergence in wave energy with many different concepts in development, while tidal appears to be converging on a front-runner design. With Wave Energy Scotland, we are proposing a fresh and collaborative way to accelerate wave technology development.

“The best minds in industry and academia will work together to develop technologies that can be commercialised by the private sector.”

Scottish Renewables welcomed the introduction of Wave Energy Scotland Senior policy manager Lindsay Leask said: “Capturing wave energy is a complex and demanding process, and although the sector is still in its infancy Scotland can rightly be said to hold a world lead in the development of this cutting-edge technology.

“The Scottish government should be applauded for the creation of Wave Energy Scotland, which will provide crucial support to the home-grown Scottish companies who dominate the sector and allow collaboration on key shared engineering issues.

Sticking with the Scottish Government and the Economy, Energy, and Tourism Committee has written to Dermot Nolan, the CEO of Ofgem, requesting that he addresses concerns of residents of the Outer Hebrides that prospective renewable energy developments are being undermined by continuing setbacks to the delivery of new improved national grid infrastructure to the islands.

The Committee estimated that approximately £2billion could be invested in renewable energy projects in the Outer Hebrides creating jobs and boosting the local community but the ongoing delays in constructing the infrastructure are preventing such investment from being made.

Welcoming the Committee’s move, SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said: “Scotland’s islands are home to vast energy potential, but in order to secure the jobs and investment that come with these resources, they need to be able to transmit their energy to the rest of Scotland and beyond.

“The years of delay in establishing the grid connections that are needed to the Outer Hebrides is a disgrace and is undermining the economy of the Western Isles.”

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “The Scottish Government has been actively campaigning for interconnectors to our islands, but for too long there has been only delay after delay from Ofgem and Whitehall.

“Ofgem need to wake up to the damage that their delays and inaction in this area are causing and explain their failure to make progress.”

It is no surprise that there is a direct correlation between these two stories. The shores of Scotland, and particularly those in the north of the country, offer a wealth of renewable energy resource in wave and tidal power. However without the infrastructure in place to deliver this energy to areas of higher population the commercial potential remains low. This in turn dissuades private investment and therefore diminishes the opportunity for innovation which would help reduce productions costs.

We at ILI Energy are in favour of strong private investment in the industry but the conditions have to be right. The opportunity to harvest the renewable energy resources of these areas must be coupled with the ability to export the clean energy to a ready consumer base. The demand for energy and particularly clean energy is high so it is the ability to export that is hampering progress.

This is where the Government and associated bodies must step up to develop the infrastructure required and attract the necessary capital to drive the industry forward. The long term benefits, as we are now seeing with wind developments, are tangible. Both the public and private sectors as well as consumers will benefit from this, it just needs that spark to get things moving in the right direction.

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