This winter a typical household’s gas and electricity bill will rise to an estimated £3,549 a year. At the same time climate change is becoming increasingly evident as Europe faced its worst drought for 500 years this summer.
For both of these reasons, we must speed up the UK’s transition to clean energy, enabling greater energy security, cushioned from global conflicts, and a predictable supply, able to meet our current and future needs.
Tidal power offers a predictable, reliable supply of clean energy. The UK has 50 per cent of Europe’s tidal energy resource, with a forecast GVA of £1.4bn by 2030. We could meet an estimated 12 per cent of our current electricity needs from tidal power. Rural and coastal communities could be the principal beneficiaries from tidal installations.
In July government funding finally provided 40MW of tidal energy, across three winning developments (two in Scotland, one in Wales), at a price under £180/MW via the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction.
While the funding is a step in the right direction, with gas and other energy prices peaking well over £400/MW and grid balancing costs of £4,000/MW when there is no wind or sun, the current funding mechanism is inadequate. Most developers will be unable to bid so low in the future.
Jeremy Smith, Managing Director of QED Naval (pictured above left) speaks to Energy Now about the enormous potential Tidal power has in the UK.
“Tidal could deliver 12 % of the UK’s current electricity needs, and is predictable, reliable and cyclical. Tidal is ready to go – let’s not wait any longer.”
QED Naval Subhub Tidal Platform
Tidal energy infrastructure and energy storage systems need sustained investment to ensure they, and all the future revenue and jobs they will deliver, are well positioned and quite simply do not disappear abroad, as has been the case with much of the manufacture of wind turbines. This requires a long term national strategy and government support.
The capital expenditure cost of tidal energy projects is now becoming competitive with wind. However, tidal power, in common with most other forms of renewable energy, requires significant upfront capital expenditure, with no likely revenue stream for several years.
For tidal developers, given this lengthy return on investment and very low CfD revenue prices to start with, it is very hard to attract upfront investment to finance a project.
The UK Marine Energy Council reports that tidal stream is forecast to be cheaper than new nuclear at the point of 1GW of deployment. Getting to the point of 1GW of projects in deployment is therefore crucial in order to boost innovation, attract investment, realise economies of scale and bring costs down.
The Oosterschelde Tidal Power project in the Netherlands, developed in 2015, is among the largest tidal turbine arrays in the world. Its five turbines produce 1.25MW of power, enough to supply 1,000 local households. It has generated over 3.3GWhr of tidal energy, more than any other tidal turbine in its class, under tight operational constraints imposed by the water authority of the Netherlands. Over its six years of operation it has been through two planned maintenance cycles so it has proved its reliability and is the only fully commercial tidal project in the world using a power purchase agreement from Vattenfall.
Oosterschelde tidal power installation
In the UK, a reformed funding mechanism would create sustainable jobs and supply chains in coastal communities, while boosting energy security through an entirely predictable baseload-style renewable energy resource. Tidal power is also a good fit for producing green hydrogen, given its near constant generation of power.
Scotland in particular would benefit from greater investment in tidal power. Scotland has abundant natural tidal resources, numerous islands and more than 11,000 miles of coastline. Many of Scotland’s islands are not connected to the national grid and still rely on diesel generators, one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel.
Providing islands with their own energy supply could play a significant part in reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint and could potentially enable islands to use any spare capacity for specific projects that would otherwise have been unaffordable.
Off the coast of Islay, QED Naval has a joint venture with Islay Energy Trust to develop a 10MW tidal site, which will enable the island – and its valuable distillery businesses – to produce all their own power. This is just one example of the huge potential offered by harnessing the power of our oceans.
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