The study into the future costs and growth potential of the UK wave and tidal stream energy sector, reveals that the sector could meet 3% of the UK’s total electricity supply by 2020, given the right level of investment. The study is based on the Carbon Trust’s Marine Energy Challenge, a £3M (US$5.2M), 18-month programme, to assess the current costs and performance of marine renewables. In parallel the Challenge looked to find whether the future costs of wave and tidal stream electricity could be reduced to become cost-competitive with other renewables and conventional generation in the future and what contribution to UK energy supply they could provide.

The Carbon Trust report predicts that the cost of marine renewables has the potential to fall significantly in the future. It cites private investment, underpinned by long-term government support, as vital in unlocking the potential of the marine energy market. Other key factors included in the report as being likely to impact on the growth of marine energy include the availability of grid connections and network capacity, regulation and security of supply considerations.

John Callaghan, programme engineer at the Carbon Trust, said: “The UK leads the world in marine renewables technology development. Given our superb natural resources and long-standing experience in offshore oil and gas, ship-building and power generation, the UK is in prime position to accelerate commercial progress in the marine energy sector.”

Marcus Rand, chief executive at British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), added: “Evidence from the wind sector shows where long-term support is provided the costs of power generation can be reduced significantly and the multiple environmental and economic benefits can be harnessed.”

In light of the report findings, the Carbon Trust recommends that the UK give increased support for marine renewables technology development, with greater support for RD&D and cross-cutting technology issues to help deliver cost reductions. In addition the government should develop a clear long-term policy framework for support to the sector to give business greater investment certainty, says the Carbon Trust.