Support and momentum are now further building behind the marine energy sector in the wake of the recent UK Government announcement.  An annual £20m investment into tidal stream technology will be made available, as part of a technology specific ringfence in the latest Contracts for Difference (CfD) allocation rounds.

In Wales, plans are quickly being developed within the devolved Welsh Government in order to further support the industry moving forward and help position Wales as a global leader in emerging offshore renewable energy. This week, results have been released of a Welsh Government review into scaling up renewable energy deployment and the First Minister delivered a keynote speech to a European wide gathering of the marine energy sector.

Remotely delivering his address to the Ocean Energy Europe conference in Brussels on 7th of December, First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined this year’s developments in producing a net zero action plan for Wales, the role marine energy can play and how Welsh Government aims to unlock the potential of the industry in Wales.

In his speech the First Minister reinforced Welsh Government’s “commitment to maximise marine energy through Welsh waters while delivering benefits to the wider people of Wales”, stressing “the importance of harnessing our natural resources to drive a clean energy future” and that “wave and tidal can play a critical role in supporting a zero-carbon economy and the creation of quality jobs”.

You can view the full address from Mark Drakeford here.

Also detailed in his speech was the purpose of the Marine Energy Programme, a taskforce established by Welsh Government with three major strands that sets out to:

  1. Investigate the creation of a tidal a lagoon challenge.
  2. Investigate the establishment of an emerging marine technology revenue support mechanism that sits alongside the UK Government’s CfD.
  3. Investigate the challenges and opportunities to further develop our port infrastructure.

To date, Marine Energy Wales (MEW) has been working closely with the Marine Energy Programme to help facilitate stakeholder engagement and ensure that the needs of industry are built into policy proposals in these three areas as they develop.

Further to the overarching strategy and commitment of Welsh Government, the Outcome of the Deep Dive into Renewable Energy carried out by Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, was released on the 8th of December. MEW contributed heavily to several sessions as part of the deep dive, which sought to identify barriers to significantly scaling up renewable energy deployment in Wales and identify steps to overcome these barriers. The report from Lee Waters puts forward a number of recommendations, with delivery anticipated over the coming.

A large number of the recommendations are particularly relevant to the marine energy sector. There was wide ranging sector support for the Deep Dive into Renewable Energy and the amount of effort that went into conducting this review. We at MEW welcome the fact that key sector asks have been acknowledged and built into these recommendations. We have outlined some of the key recommendations relevant to the marine energy sector below and we look forward to working with both industry and government in the implementation of these recommendations.

Strategy 

To develop renewable energy to fully meet our energy needs and utilise surplus generation to further tackle the nature and climate emergency. Create a national energy plan by 2024, mapping out future energy supply and demand for all parts of Wales, identifying gaps and matching local renewable energy generation with energy demand.

Grid Infrastructure

Welsh Government will set up a joint working group to look at options for supporting new, flexible grid connection for renewables and energy storage solutions. As well as this they will step up engagement with Ofgem to set out Wales’s investment needs, with a focus on retaining value within Wales. This will involve the creation of a Wales Energy System Architect that will oversee smart, whole system planning as well as Celtic Sea offshore network design and onshore reinforcements.

Consenting

Ensuring that the marine planning system is fit for purpose through an end-to-end review of marine licencing and consenting to improve the process. This will include an urgent review of Natural Resources Wales’s Offshore Renewable Energy Programme’s resourcing needs and options for consenting and advisory processes to keep pace with the growth of the sector, identifying evidence gaps and mechanisms to fill them, identifying marine strategic resource areas, streamlining the process for developing Celtic Sea renewable energy projects, and pursing the devolution of The Crown Estate.

Finance

Setting up an expert group to explore ways of drawing down additional investment in renewable energy as well as prioritising local and community ownership. Creating an alliance with devolved governments to ensure UK Government’s CfD process evolves appropriately in order to encourage supply chain development and to achieve a coherent and balanced development pathway for early commercial and emerging technologies.

Opportunities

Working with UK Government to bring new investment to ports in Wales, and working with ports in Wales to identify opportunities for specialisation and collaboration, thereby making Welsh ports investment ready. Developing a net zero skills action plan, supporting industry collaboration to maximise supply chain opportunities in Wales.

The full report is available for reading in both Welsh and English.