THE government faced an accusation last night that Scotland’s renewable energy policy was “in shreds”.
As First Minister Alex Salmond unveiled details of the world’s biggest marine energy prize, he was challenged over the extent of government funding available to help developers get wave and tidal-power projects up and running.
The industry and opposition politicians also condemned the seven-year wait for a winner.
The Saltire Prize competition opens in the summer and closes in June 2013, with the winner being named two years later.
Mr Salmond revealed at a reception at Edinburgh Castle last night that the £10million prize would be awarded to the team that could best demonstrate – in Scottish waters – commercially viable wave or tidal technology capable of generating a minimum of 100 gigawatt hours over a two-year period.
Cost, environmental sustainability and safety will also be taken into account.
Mr Salmond said there were enough funds available, as less than £2million of the £13.5million Wave and Tidal Energy Scheme (Wates) money had been allocated.
But it was claimed last night that £10.68million of Wates cash had been allocated to eight projects (one recently withdrew), with £2.5million going to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.
Professor Bill Banks, president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said: “Effectively that money is as good as gone — it just physically has not left the Scottish bank account into the developers’ bank account.”
He added that it was unacceptable to give the whole £10million Saltire Prize to just one project.
“There are some companies at the moment at EMEC that are desperate to see the Scottish Government put its money where its mouth is.
“If it is committed to renewables it must make an announcement (on the prize winner) far sooner than 2015. There are potentially up to 150,000 jobs that could be at stake.”
Last week, the institution called for a £40million fund to help companies get prototypes in the water.
Labour’s energy spokesman, Lewis Macdonald, said Mr Salmond’s promise to promote Scotland as a world leader in renewable energy was turning into a “major national embarrassment”.
He added: “The Scottish Government’s renewables policy is in shreds.”
Referring to the 2015 date for the announcement of a winner, Mr Macdonald said: “Enterprising Scottish companies will hear this news in stunned disbelief. Far from Scotland leading the world, it seems that Alex Salmond plans to make an award after the rest of the world have left us far behind.”
Mr Salmond said that, apart from the money still available in Wates, the government planned to increase support through enhancing subsidies through renewable obligation certificates for both wave and tidal energy.
He said: “We believe that will be a huge benefit for people who get a device in the water and demonstrate they can do the job — that is clearly where they key support is.”