Now is not the time to be faint-hearted
5 Nov 13 - Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be
understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear
less." - Marie Curie
Last week the European Ocean Energy Association hosted its
first conference outside Brussels at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. It
was a great event.
European ocean energy, and a surprising number of officials,
came to the home of the wave industry. What got me at this
conference is that Europe is now listening. We heard of the 'Blue
Growth' plan. Blue Growth is the long term strategy to support
sustainable growth in the marine sector.
The 'blue' economy represents 5.4 million jobs and a gross added
value of just under €500 billion a year. However, further growth is
possible in a number of areas which are highlighted within the
strategy. Thankfully marine energy is now one of the blue growth
areas. While marine renewable energy includes offshore wind - it
also considers wave and tidal energy as well as ocean thermal
Marine energy, according to the official EU communication on the
matter, has "the potential to enhance the efficiency of harvesting
the European energy resource, minimize land use requirements…and
reduce European greenhouse gas emissions (by about 65Mt of CO2 in
We have the Scottish Government attention, we have the UK
Government attention and now we have the EU attention. We have come
along way in the wave industry and we have the initial wave
machines now being tested at full scale at the European Marine
Energy Centre in Orkney.
The conference was able to add some real-life colour to this
high level debate, and we heard that in Orkney more than 250 people
now work in marine renewable - a tremendous statistic considering
the total population of the islands is only around 20,000.
We were also able to confirm that Oyster 800 is now back in
service after its summer refit. Bringing the machine straight back
into service worked quite well and is a real credit to the machine
designers. We know it works we have to focus on making it reliable
and then cost effective.
Of course the marine energy sector has risks - financing risks,
technical risks, political risks and many others. We can all find
reasons not to do something. The prize however is huge: economic
activity, manufacturing jobs, investment in peripheral regions and
the ability to impact the way we use and think of the marine
We have seen this scenario before - in industries such as
nuclear energy and wind where the UK has had an early technology
lead, yet has failed to continue to invest at the point in time
when the risks, and the potential rewards, are highest.
A quick look across the channel offers a very interesting view.
After a slow start the French have announced a huge programme of
work at Cherbourg. They have set aside several hundred acres, are
putting in a 1,250MW interconnector, are building several factories
and determined to do 4.4GW of marine energy in the Basse-Normandy
The French Government is dedicating €30 million each to three
tidal projects and will invest more than €100 million into
research, development and demonstration through France Energies
Now that is ambition, and it is difficult not to be a small bit
So I would say now is the time for UK engineering to be bold, to
step in and help create a new industry. Now is the time for risk
taking. Now is the time to decide if the UK is a risk taker or a
We must take the jobs and the economic activity, they are
rightly ours. Now is not the time to be faint-hearted.