Energy and Climate Change Select Committee asks all the right questions
3 Nov 11 - Neil Davidson, Public Affairs Manager
A well-informed group of MPs was asking all the right questions
yesterday as the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee called
for oral evidence in its inquiry into the future of marine
renewables in the UK.
The committee kicked off their inquiry earlier this year, with
the goal of examining the UK Government's policies and approach to
marine energy and questioning whether the coalition's ocean energy
plans are doing all they can.
Ably chaired by veteran Tory MP Tim Yeo, the evidence session,
held in the Palace of Westminster, was an opportunity for the
committee of interested MPs to quiz selected industry
representatives on what they thought, based on written evidence
submitted in the summer.
Dressed in best bib and tucker, and sat in the wood-panelled
committee room beneath portraits of long-dead mutton chop-whiskered
grandees, some of the industry's finest, including Aquamarine
Power, E.ON, RenewableUK, and Meygen were fired a thick and fast
barrage of well-targeted marine energy posers.
Were 5 ROCs a good thing? Yes they most certainly
Did the industry welcome the £20 million DECC Marine Energy
Array Demonstrator fund (MEAD)? Yes we did. More would have been
nice (of course) but together with the new, surprise £18 million
from the Scottish Government, plus FP7 and NER300 from Europe,
there was certainly something to play for. I stated that every £1
of grant given to leading developers to date had leveraged more
than £5 private sector investment. If the UK is looking for a
growth agenda, I said, marine energy has a strong potential
Is the focus on arrays for funding the right thing? Most
Are Marine Energy Parks (MEP) a good idea to stimulate the
supply chain? Well, not so sure. I responded that the
whole of the UK is an MEP, and cited our experience in
building the Oyster 800, where we used suppliers from across the
UK, including Fugro Seacore from Falmouth, Arnish fabrication yard
on Lewis, numerous Orkney contractors and BiFab at Methil, plus our
own teams in Edinburgh, Queen's University Belfast and Orkney. We
felt government should focus on getting devices in the water -
through enabling better grid access, industry-wide monitoring and
EIAs that can be shared by all - rather than incentivising a supply
chain in one part of the UK over another.
And finally, what should the UK Government do to enable the
industry to flourish and grow? The unanimous answer was .... put in
place a suitable feed-in tariff (FIT) for marine energy post-2017!
Everyone agreed that 5 ROCs was good - but we all gave a very
strong message to the committee (and the DECC officials present)
that 5 ROCs only gave big industrial investors and utilities a
short-term view to 2017. What is needed (and soon) is a consistent
long-term signal via EMR (Electricity Market Reform) that there
will be a decent strike price for marine energy in place in 2013.
Not at the same level as 5 ROCs, we all nodded, but a reasonable
tapering that would give big players an early view of the long-term
market and the confidence to invest.
Tim Yeo nodded too, and the committee clearly got the point.
2012 will be a big year for the industry, and the strike price for
the marine energy FIT will be key.
That is the question we all want the answer to. Let's hope we
hear it soon.
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