Waves and tides could provide up to 240GW of renewable energy globally by 2050, requiring investment of £460 billion ($750 billion), according to the Carbon Trust – although the risk exists of “near zero deployment”, it warns.
The Carbon Trust’s marine renewables green growth paper, released on Tuesday, sets out ‘medium’ and ‘high’ deployment scenarios for the growth of wave and tidal technologies, which would account respectively for 75% and 25% of the market.
Under a ‘high deployment’ scenario, where substantial innovation takes place and non-renewable energy sources are constrained, the majority of growth in the marine energy market is expected to take place during 2020–50, where it is assumed both wave and tidal technologies will have become commercialised. The worldwide market for wave and tidal stream devices during this period is expected to grow by 14% and 9% a year respectively and peak soon thereafter.
Under the high deployment scenario, the UK could capture £75 billion of the £460 billion global market (22%) and in the process create 68,000 jobs by 2050. “About 70% of tidal and 85% of wave jobs will come from exports,” the Carbon Trust said.
The UK boasts around 35 of the world’s 120-130 wave energy and tidal stream device developers, the Carbon Trust found, including firms such as Pelamis and Aquamarine Power. The UK has 15 tidal devices under development compared with seven in Canada and five in the US.
“Marine energy could be a major ‘made in Britain’ success,” said Benj Sykes, director of innovations at the Carbon Trust. “By cementing our early-mover advantage, the UK could develop a significant export market, generate thousands of jobs and meet our own demand for clean, home-grown electricity.”
The UK has access to over half of Europe’s wave and over a quarter of Europe’s tidal resources – enough in theory to meet a fifth of its own domestic energy needs.
However, the Carbon Trust warns there is a danger of “near zero deployment” due to the relative infancy and uncertainty of the technologies; “to date only a handful of examples have progressed to full demonstration stage”, it said. Further innovation and funding will be needed to bring the technologies to commercial deployment and to spur development at greater distances from the shore and in deeper waters, where marine energy is plentiful.
Wave and tidal technologies will also require large reductions in production costs if they are to be competitive with other low-carbon technologies. The Carbon Trust notes that marine technologies might be considered as an “option play”, yielding a higher value if other low-carbon technologies such as nuclear and carbon capture and storage face particular “deployment constraints.”