Maria McCaffery: State support key to refuelling energy sector

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THE decision for Edinburgh to be the home of the headquarters of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) is a welcome boost for the renewable energy sector.

It recognises Scotland’s position at the vanguard of the renewable energy revolution and that the nation has set an ambitious target to deliver the equivalent of 100 per cent of its total electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

Scotland has the largest offshore renewable energy resources in the European Union: 25 per cent of offshore wind; 25 per cent of tidal; and 10 per cent of wave power. This abundant resource is being harnessed by the wave and tidal power sector, where Scotland leads the way not only within the UK but also globally.

With 1.6 gigawatts of wave and tidal projects planned through Crown Estate licensing, Scotland boasts enormous untapped potential and our research has revealed that by 2020 the UK industry could have a value of up to £3.7 billion, creating 10,000 direct jobs.

Attracting investment is vital to the development of marine energy technologies and was a key focus for RenewableUK’s annual Wave and Tidal conference held in Edinburgh last week. The delivery of projects will not take place without significant government support, as the cost of developing wave and tidal technologies is too high for private investment to bear alone.

So far, the Scottish and UK governments have earmarked £38 million for the development of marine energy technology. This is approximately a third of the amount needed to overcome the barriers to full-scale commercialisation and the development of a thriving marine-based renewable energy industry.

It is envisaged that key financial players such as the GIB will be able to make significant contributions and broaden the pool of investors for large-scale renewable energy projects. However, it is disappointing to note that the GIB shows no sign of supporting wave and tidal energy projects.

Although it is still early days for marine renewables, an overly-cautious approach could allow other countries to steal Scotland’s lead, so government support is vital.

• Maria McCaffery is chief executive of RenewableUK