Updating how we work with the emerging wave and tidal sector

As manager of the UK seabed we are listening to our customers and updating the way in which we work with the UK’s emerging wave and tidal sector.

14 September 2015

Ocean waves

The UK has some of the best wave and tidal current resources in the world. Unlocking this potential presents a significant opportunity to help the country maintain a diverse and secure energy mix, realise renewable energy targets, and position the UK as a global leader in innovative technology.

However, progressing new technology, especially for offshore development, has many challenges and this is a long-term game.

For our part, as manager of the UK seabed, we have an active role to play in helping unlock value from this natural asset, including offshore renewables. In supporting the wave and tidal current sectors, our activity ranges from primarily awarding and managing leases for seabed rights, through to helping bring the sector together to share knowledge and best practice.

We recognise though that as the wave and tidal current industries evolve, we need to continue to listen to our customers if we are to keep up to date with the developing market and maximise the value of our contribution.”

Greater flexibility

To date we have leased over 40 sites for wave and tidal current projects, which includes a number of test and demonstration sites and zones to enable industry to develop the technology. In 2014 we enabled locally based organisations to manage and sub-let parts of the seabed for the first time and invested directly as part of a funding syndicate in the UK’s first tidal array project, Meygen – an important stepping stone on the path to commercialisation.

We recognise though that as the wave and tidal current industries evolve, we need to continue to listen to our customers if we are to keep up to date with the developing market and maximise the value of our contribution.

More recently, we have undertaken a process to enable existing customers to map and align their agreements to their current development plans and aspirations, thus making their contracts fit for purpose and providing greater clarity for the future on project milestones.

In addition, industry has been telling us that further opportunities for some technology types are required. This need has been identified where the existing test and demonstration sites or zones are not fulfilling specific site conditions of a particular technology type or where there is a local development opportunity at a small scale which industry demand has indicated is up to 3 MW. As a result, we have announced new leasing which will launch this September for small scale projects­, under 3 MW, as identified by industry.

For all projects, it is clear that timing is critical to enable the progress of the technology to align with project development and financing. We’ve therefore created greater flexibility in small scale leasing so that developers can make an application when they are ready rather than in a restricted timeframe.

Success is a team game

For the emerging wave and tidal current energy sectors, without the benefits of scale, there is much to be gained from working together to share knowledge. We are seeing the industry increasingly self-organising and we continue to seek opportunities to utilise our unique overview for the benefit of the sector, working closely with organisations across industry, government and stakeholders, to help identify common challenges and put them on the agenda. This includes engaging with industry forums and co-ordinating our activities with public bodies to bring new development opportunities to market.

In this early phase for the sectors, it is important that learning is shared about technological development, the cost and resource implications of project development, and the financing of projects. The Wave and Tidal Knowledge Network, originally established by us and now taken forward by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, is instrumental as a tool for disseminating information, knowledge and data across the sector.

Building upon the successful model developed by the offshore wind industry, we have recently launched the Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme (ORJIP) for Ocean Energy, working with Marine Scotland and Welsh Government. Aquatera Ltd, and their delivery partners MarineSpace and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), are implementing a programme of work to better co-ordinate the research and efforts of the sectors in addressing consenting risks and to avoid duplication of efforts.

Alongside market appetite to develop these technologies, we will continue to work with industry to help unlock value from the seabed and support the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy over the long term.

Sian Wilson, Technology Manager