Over the last few years the UK has become a global leader in offshore wind power. We have installed more capacity than any other country. Currently it powers over 7.5 million UK homes and, by 2030, the UK will be providing a third of the UK’s electricity. In addition to the environmental benefits there are economic ones too. Offshore wind is one of the country’s biggest growth industries, creating thousands of jobs, attracting investment and levelling up many coastal communities in need of regeneration.
This has won plaudits at COP26, but we should not rest on our laurels. As well as supporting the growth in existing renewable technology we should also be investing in the technology of tomorrow too. However, we are in danger of failing learn from our recent successes and missing perhaps the biggest opportunity we have to grow our energy resilience. That opportunity is tidal power.
The Department for Busines, Energy and Industrial Strategy wanted to create a ringfenced funding pot to support tidal power in the latest rounds of funding to support renewable energy projects. They thought that forcing the now proven but commercially immature tidal stream generators to compete with more mature renewable energy sectors- such as wind was foolish. That is a competition that tidal cannot win at the moment, but will in the future. I believe it is right to carve out a small portion of the funding available to help this emerging technology progress. However, Treasury have not yet decided not to do this.
The tidal industry plan was carefully put together to develop tidal sites using sufficient turbine and supply chain manufacturing to drive down the price of tidal energy to a competitive level by 2030. It would also to deliver a route to the production about 20% of the UK’s energy current needs, by 2050. The added bonus being that the UK exports would capture a huge proportion of the global market share of the tidal industry- a huge £76 billion.
The government could declare an intention to develop tidal power as another renewable source of energy to meet net zero by 2050. If we miss the chance to do so, then the economic benefits of developing this technology early and of manufacturing it will go to other nations.
We would create jobs and regenerate coastal towns that need ‘levelling up’. We would have an inexhaustible predictable energy resource powered by nature that could be stood up much faster than nuclear. We would reduce our reliance on our energy imports and gain improved energy security. We would get 10-fold payback on investment and massive export opportunities. We would enable more nations to follow our lead. It also presents the opportunity to manufacture green hydrogen from the predictable tidal energy for storage, heating or transport during grid curtailment periods. There would be biodiversity gains too, as tidal sites take up a fraction of space needed for a wind site.
For the sake of Portsmouth and the planet I will be making this case to the Treasury in the hope they will seize the opportunity.