'˜Scotland risks missing multi-billion-pound tidal energy boom'

Scotland has paved the way for marine energy to become a mainstream part of the global energy mix, writes Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables.

A tidal energy project.
A tidal energy project.

Our country is home to some of the most advanced tidal energy devices anywhere in the world, and we should all be proud of the world lead that has been developed here.

This week’s announcement by Nova Innovation – that it has developed the world’s first fully uoperational, grid-connected ‘baseload’ tidal power station – is yet another sign that Scotland’s innovative mindset, dedicated supply chain and talented engineers have what it takes to make a success of tidal energy.

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Another factor, though, shouldn’t be underplayed: Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s total tidal resource.

The powerful currents at play around our shores, and particularly our northern isles, are now being used to create green energy. But they’re doing so much more, too.

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In Orkney – the heart of the world’s marine energy industry – these devices, and the companies which install, test and maintain them, have created a local supply chain and are re-energising coastal communities.

A glance at the job opportunities offered in Orkney today alone paints a rich picture: vacancies for engineers, technicians, research managers and many more.

These are skilled roles in one of our most remote communities – jobs which not only bring people to Orkney, but provide chances for local people who otherwise may have had to move away from the islands to forge a career there.

Local businesses, too, are thriving because of marine energy.

Specialists like Leask Marine – shortlisted for the outstanding service prize at this year’s Scottish Green Energy Awards – have built a depth of knowledge of marine energy which exists nowhere else on earth.

Their skills are in demand across the globe, with a Scottish Renewables study in 2016 showing how Orkney environmental consultancy Aquatera had been involved in the creation of marine energy projects in the United States, Chile, Japan, Columbia, Peru and Indonesia.

Through innovation, the wave and tidal sectors are driving cost reductions, cutting carbon, and delivering jobs and investment to our remote communities.

Further expansion of marine energy creates an opportunity for Scotland to capitalise on a potential multi-billion-pound global market.

However, all of this is at risk with the lack of a clear strategy and route to market for tidal and wave technologies in the UK. To keep driving progress, it’s vital that government recognises the benefits of developing our marine energy resource.

We would strongly encourage both the Scottish and UK Governments to continue working with industry in order to determine the best way for our wave and tidal sectors to fully commercialise.