For years, U.S. wave and tidal developers have been envious of the supportive, not to mention, well funded environment enjoyed by their colleagues across the pond. But is the UK system all it's cracked up to be? Recently, some have argued that while the UK remains a world leader, nonetheless, the UK's program for marine renewables needs improvement to prevent companies from seeking out greener pastures - or more aptly, bluer waters.
Last week, the UK issued a new report from the Renewable Advisory Board (RAB)on the progress of the marine renewables industry in the UK. Several factors account for slower-than-anticipated progress, including substantial technical challenges, over optimism that created raised expectations and high costs associated with R&D projects. Still, the RAB report confirms the potential and wave and tidal power to contribute to renewable energy and climate change targets.
A second article from the Times Online (2/11/2008) suggests that misplaced funding priorities have thwarted successful commercialization of marine renewables.
One UK initiative - the £50 million Marine Renewables Deployment Fund - attracted only two applications, both of which were rejected. The reason? Only companies that had gone beyond initial R&D and had full scale operating devices qualified for funds, thus severely limiting the pool of eligible applicants. An energy advisor at EFF, which prepared a report assessing the UK's marine renewables program said that the lack of grants issued by the fund questioned whether money was being used wisely. The EFF report also cited the Portuguese offer to marine energy producers of a fixed premium price for their electricity for 12 years as an example of an attractive incentive.
The marine renewables industry in the US should now look to the program in the UK not necessarily with envy, but in an effort to figure out what's the best way to spend public money to promote what will hopefully emerge as a successful private industry.