Links with EU on wave energy can boost Scotland

Wave and tidal energy development has been a key part of the Holyrood agenda for many years. Picture: Contributed
Wave and tidal energy development has been a key part of the Holyrood agenda for many years. Picture: Contributed
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Collaborating with Europe on wave and tidal energy will boost both Scotland and the industry as a whole, writes Lindsay Leask

While the development of wave and tidal energy has been a key part of the Scottish Government’s agenda for many years, the sector has taken a while to make its mark at a European level. But with Scotland helping to show the potential for what could be achieved, the Commission are now throwing their full support behind the sector – a move Scotland should be embracing with open arms.

The meeting, in Brussels’ iconic Berlaymont building, was the very first part of that journey, and action number one from a plan launched by EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger and his Maritime Affairs colleague Maria Damanaki earlier this year to accelerate the commercialisation of the ocean energy sector.

It’s no secret the marine energy industry is facing difficult times. Grid issues continue to hamper progress, the lengthy and complex electricity market reform process is driving concerns about the scale of the industry post-2019, and none of this is helping to bring down costs in what remains a relatively expensive form of electricity generation.

The Scottish Government should be applauded for their unwavering commitment to the industry, but it’s becoming increasingly clear we can’t tackle these issues alone. The EU and its member states must work together in a coordinated fashion to unlock the potential in our seas.

In the past, interest from the continent has been viewed with a degree of trepidation – nervousness that Scotland might lose its hard-fought global lead in this sector. Now, though, ‘collaboration’ is becoming the sector’s buzz-word – collaboration both across the industry and between European administrations.

Scotland remains the world leader in wave and tidal energy, and the strong ‘Team Scotland’ presence in Brussels earlier this month was just one indication of where the centre of this industry still lies.

Representatives from Marine Scotland, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Orkney-based EMEC, Scottish Renewables and numerous developers with projects based in Scotland were all in attendance, showcasing the groundbreaking work that is happening here in home waters.

With Europe’s largest consented tidal stream array, the world’s largest consented wave energy array and more grid connected devices deployed at EMEC than anywhere else in the world, the eyes of the Forum are looking to the Scottish experience as an example of how it should be done - but also to learn from the difficulties we have faced, and are still facing.

The opportunities we have to gain through sharing our experiences are great. By collaborating across Europe we can open up new finance streams, streamline regulatory burdens and find innovative solutions to technical challenges.

Our aim is to ensure Scotland remains at the forefront of this burgeoning industry, but we must work together across Europe to create a global industry projected to be worth €535 billion by 2050.

• Lindsay Leask is Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables