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Preparing for the “Triple Test”: Building Confidence in Wave and Tidal Energy

Published 1 February 2018

Nova Innovation's tidal turbine is installed at Bluemull Sound, Shetland as part of the EnFAIT project.

The wave and tidal energy sectors are approaching an important juncture.

Speaking at the launch of the UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy in October 2017, Climate Change and Industry Minister Claire Perry announced the introduction of a new “triple test” to help determine financial support for emerging technologies.

Reinforcing the ultimate need for low carbon energy sources to be affordable, the Minister outlined three key requirements: that technologies deliver maximum carbon emission reduction, have a clear cost reduction pathway, and offer the opportunity for the UK to develop world-leading solutions in a sizeable global market.

“We are determined to create the best possible ecosystem for the private sector to invest and innovate,” said the Minister. As witnessed in the offshore wind industry, where costs have plummeted 50% in just two years, getting it right can have remarkable benefits.

Analysts and experts from across the Government and private industry are in agreement that the UK’s wave and tidal sectors have huge potential. But the next major hurdle is attracting the much-needed revenue support that will enable a clear pipeline for wave and tidal devices to scale up into commercial-scale arrays.

To examine how wave and tidal technologies can meet the new triple test criteria, RenewableUK and the Catapult have launched a major initiative to produce an evidence-based objective report which will be submitted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as well as the Scottish and Welsh Governments. With input from an industry steering group, it is hoped that the study will pave the way for greater government support for wave and tidal technologies.

Miriam Noonan, a Financial Analyst at the Catapult, is one of the study’s authors. “We really wanted to engage individuals and organisations across the whole industry, so we distributed a quantitative and qualitative questionnaire to developers, supply chain participants and financial institutions to build up perhaps the most complete and wide-ranging view of the industry that has been undertaken,” says Noonan. “We looked for qualitative responses from wave and tidal technology developers, supply chain companies, and other key stakeholders.

“The cost reduction element of the study focuses on tidal. We looked for cost data from a cross-section of tidal technology developers and a limited sample for wave developers.

“The qualitative questionnaire is looking to understand what progress has been made so far, and how we can identify a pathway for the industries going forward. We’ve identified the key cost reductions made to date to provide some comfort in the credibility of many of the near-term cost reductions that have been proposed. We also sought input from technology and project developers on the UK supply chain’s particular strengths and weaknesses. And we asked supply chain companies their plans and ambitions around wave and tidal, and how they see the UK continuing as a global leader in the market.

“It all feeds into a cost reduction trajectory that incorporates the effects of economies of scale and learning by doing, as well as a number of specific cost reduction innovations. From these findings, we’ve estimated the reduction in the levelised cost of energy (LCoE) as a result.”

The launch of the study, at RenewableUK’s Wave & Tidal 2018 Exhibition & Conference on 28th February, is sure to be one of the conference’s major talking points. “The hopeful outcome is that it’ll give a joined-up view of the industry with a message that all of the major players can get behind,” says Noonan. “With revenue support, the UK’s wave and tidal sectors will provide a positive economic contribution and new job opportunities across the UK, as well as helping the Government meet its clean growth targets.”