Capitalise on tidal power, MSPs told

Engineers yesterday urged the Scottish Government to set up a £40million fund to help launch marine energy projects.

They claim match-funding is needed to help developers bridge the “chasm” between developing a prototype and commercial exploitation.

Developers believe wave and tidal energy and its global spin-off could be worth as much as North Sea oil and gas to the economy.

The opportunities are too great to miss, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. It is thought that Scotland has the potential to provide 10% of Europe’s wave energy and a quarter of the continent’s tidal power.

The institution says past and present Scottish administrations have done much to help but that must be capitalised on to secure a multibillion-pound industry.

Along with renewable energy companies, the institution wants to see political leadership from Edinburgh and Westminster.

They are calling for investment in the national grid, and in skills, particularly drawing on the expertise available in the North Sea.

Some 145,000 people are involved in the oil and gas industry in Scotland.

It was claimed at a press conference in Edinburgh yesterday that a £40million fund would go a long way to securing a marine energy industry that could be worth £2billion by 2020 in the UK and much more globally.

Martin McAdam, chief executive of Aquamarine Power, believes the returns could be on an equivalent scale to oil and gas and even bigger with the right support.

“We can grow this industry into a $100billion industry,” he said.

“We can only grow the industry into that size if we have the fabrications facilities, if we have the people who have the skills to make these devices, if we have people who understand manufacturing and production.

“I think the Scottish Government has a huge role, along with academia, to help companies move from producing one or two devices to producing hundreds.”

The £40million fund could be used as match funding to minimise the perceived risk of investors.

The development of renewables would also protect the economy from the volatility of the oil and gas market, it has been claimed.

Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Liam McArthur said it was vital that hubs like the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), in Orkney, retain their international competitive edge.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said £10million was being used to support wave and tidal energy projects around Scotland and a further £2.5million towards infrastructure projects at EMEC.

“The issue of further support for the sector will be examined by the Forum for Renewable Energy Development,” he said.

Labour energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald said ministers had given no indication of whether or not they intended to continue funding for the Wave and Tidal Energy Scheme (WATES), which has provided £13.5million to nine marine projects since its launch in October 2006.

“I am certain that these issues will be considered by the Scottish Parliament’s economy committee when we take forward our energy inquiry into the new year,” he said.