Marine Energy Wales

Home » Marine Energy Wales: Reflecting on 2023 and anticipating the future

As we bid farewell to 2023, it’s time to reflect on the remarkable journey the marine energy sector in Wales has been on over the past year. The last 12 months have been truly transformative for Wales, for the sector and for us at Marine Energy Wales (MEW).

Wales emerges from 2023 with new ambitions and tangible targets – not least from Welsh Government, who pledged this year to meet 100% of the country’s annual electricity needs from renewables by 2035. The targets were formally adopted this summer following several months of consultation. It really underlines the importance we’re placing on this next decade to increase the pace of our response in Wales to the climate emergency.

We at MEW had high hopes at the beginning of the year, predicting it would be the year renewable energy scales up, and our ambition has not wavered.

From our perspective, 2023 will go down in history as the year tidal trumped wind, and the year Wales became a global leader in terms of tidal energy technology. And while floating offshore wind (FLOW) faced challenges, the future for marine renewable energy in Wales, in our opinion, has never looked so bright.

The numerous developments and achievements we’ve seen in 2023, have set the stage for 2024 to be another truly transformative twelve months, and we’re excited to see where we’ll be this time next year.

Let’s look at some of the key highlights and milestones that have defined the past year.

January: Advocacy and ambition

The MEW team kicked off 2023 with a bang, and a resounding call for industry support at The House of Commons. Shaping and influencing policy is a key part of what we do, and this event set the stage for what would be a year full of campaigning, calls for reform and, at times, an overwhelming sense of missed opportunity for FLOW.

January also saw us host an event at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. As the Celtic Sea Developer Alliance (CSDA) we invited politicians and stakeholders to join leading FLOW developers to hear how members of the Senedd can best support the sector and maximise opportunities for Wales. The event was a great success, and we hope to plan similar over the coming months.

February: Shifting tides and global engagements

Nova Innovation’s decision to pull plans for their flagship Welsh tidal project in North Wales in February marked a challenging moment for tidal energy.

Nova confirmed that due to a range of site-specific factors, it was ultimately not financially viable to continue. The barriers they faced were very real, and this is why we continue to campaign for sector investment, timely consenting, and grid upgrades.

In happier news, our MD Jetske Germing helped promote our work on a global stage – speaking on the Innovation Stage at the World Ocean Summit in Lisbon. February also saw us welcome seven new members to our ever-growing network.

March: MEW 2023 and major consents

MEW 2023 proved to be a monumental event, bringing together more than 500 delegates, a hundred speakers, and almost 250 organisations in Swansea. Our two-day conference also featured a keynote speech from Wales’ First Minister – it was an opportunity for him to launch the Welsh Government’s Tidal Lagoon Challenge.

March also saw consent granted for Erebus, Wales’ first floating windfarm and part of the first phase test and demo projects in the Celtic Sea. It marked a hugely positive step forward for the project and for the FLOW sector.

As if March couldn’t get any busier, The Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot, and Anglesey Freeport on Ynys Mon were unveiled as Wales’ first freeports

April: Webinars and consultations

Recovering from a packed month in March, it was business as usual in April. Our engagement continued, hosting a Tidal Lagoon Challenge Webinar to engage with key stakeholders, and we submitted a response on behalf of our members to a consultation on the Welsh Government’s energy policy strategy.

May: Legacy and new beginnings

After four years, our Selkie project came to an end in May this year. The project spanned two countries, six partners and a network of more than a hundred companies. Its focus was on boosting the marine energy industry in Wales and Ireland. As the project ended, we took an opportunity to reflect on its achievements and highlight the legacy it has left for the marine energy sector.

But May was a time for new beginnings too, with the launch of our new Members’ Area – a place to streamline information on events, webinars, and reports for our growing community. It’s been a huge success, and we hope a great addition to our offering.

Outside of MEW, May also saw the Welsh Government publish an independent review of the Marine Licencing Process – an important opportunity to improve and streamline the process and support the development of marine energy projects in Wales.

June: State of the sector

June saw us launch our 2023 State of the Sector Report, highlighting the progress and achievements of the Welsh marine renewable energy sector. It’s a large part of our focus each year, and really helps put it all into perspective. The headline was that a record-breaking £103.4 million investment and spending in the sector has been recorded – nearly quadrupling the figures of the previous year.

If you missed the report, it’s well worth a read, and we’re already beginning to think about our 2024 edition.

JULY: TOM Takes the lead on tidal

With the summer in full swing, the MEW team continued to champion the sector. It was a busy month for Tom in particular, as he pushed for tidal stream at Westminster and attended an insightful round-table discussion with Welsh Secretary of State David TC Davies on behalf of our CSDA members. Meetings like these are a key part in our mission to shape and influence policy.

august: championing collaboration and warm welcomes

Our political engagement work stepped up a gear in August as we welcomed Simon Hart, Conservative MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and Chief Whip, to Pembroke Dock for a round-table discussion. It was a chance to bring him up to speed on all the work being done by MEW and the wider Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum team, and voice some of the pressing concerns of our members.

August also saw our network grow with two brand new members.

september: contracts for difference commiserations and celebrations

September saw major disappointment for floating offshore wind, in Auction Round 5 (AR5) of the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference scheme. Despite several offshore wind projects being eligible to compete, and several warnings to Government, developers did not bid due to the low strike price on offer.

The failure to secure any successful contracts for FLOW was seen as a significant setback to the government’s renewable targets, and there were widespread calls from industry for urgent reforms to the CfD process, and a change of focus away from the competition for lowest price per electron. 

The lack of success for FLOW however did present a somewhat unexpected opportunity for the tidal sector, as over 22MW of tidal stream projects won contracts in Wales.

All 4 projects will be deployed at Morlais Tidal Demonstration Zone in Anglesey, representing a significant step forward for the sector and a renewed sense of optimism. Soon after the announcement, we caught up with the developers to find out more about their plans.

September was also a busy month of political engagement for MEW and the wider Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum team. We hosted both Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change, and Paul Davies, MS for Preseli Pembrokeshire in Pembroke Dock. Both visits were a chance to update on sector developments, and for Julie James it was an opportunity to learn first-hand about META on a boat tour around the Milford Haven Waterway.

october: morlais and memorandums of understanding

Morlais officially opened in October, after more than a decade of work and planning.

As Wales’ first tidal stream energy site, it marked a significant milestone not just for the project itself, which is managed and run by Anglesey-based social enterprise Menter Môn, but for the Welsh tidal energy sector as a whole.

October also saw key announcements around collaborations, both with industry players and educational institutions, such as our MoU with the Marine Energy Council (MEC), and the news that a new cohort of students had been welcomed on to the pioneering Destination Renewables education programme in Pembrokeshire.

Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum are proud to be one of the course partners, and our Education Programme Manager Tim Brew has been heavily involved with shaping it. The hands-on course has been designed to inspire the next generation of renewable workers in Pembrokeshire and beyond.

November & december: new members and welcome news

The year may have been drawing to a close, but there was no let up on announcements for the sector, as UK Government announced an increase in strike prices for Round 6 of its annual Contracts for Difference scheme in November.

The Administrative Strike Price (ASP), for floating offshore wind was increased by 52%, whilst tidal increased by 29%, both very welcome news for the sector, and increasing the chances of Celtic Sea projects being able to bid for and secure contracts in the next round.

The end of 2023 also saw an announcement of increased investment powers for The Crown Estate, and the publication of their long-awaited Information Memorandum.

looking ahead to 2024

As we step into 2024, we can be certain the next twelve months will bring both challenges and opportunities for the sector in Wales, and it feels exciting.

With this latest announcement from The Crown Estate, as mentioned above, it really feels as though the starting pistol has been fired. As FLOW developers digest and reflect on the requirements for Leasing Round 5, we as the CSDA will continue to be on hand to support and advocate on their behalf.

Meanwhile confirmation in the Autumn Statement of UK Government’s intention to unlock a further 12GW of FLOW capacity brings a sense of cautious optimism, and we’re eager to see more detail in the months ahead.

As for tidal, we’re already beginning to see tangible benefits, as developers begin their work creating bases and building supply chain contacts in North Wales.

At MEW, we remain committed to driving the industry, advocating for change and fostering collaborations that can enable a cleaner future for Wales.

Here’s to a 2024 full of positive change.