The Department’s £50 million marine renewables deployment fund was established to assist the continued development of wave and tidal-stream energy technologies.
I am surprised that the Secretary of State did not also tell us that since the fund was opened for applications in February last year, it has received only two applications, both of which were rejected. Does he share my concern that the fund might not be as effective as we would both wish in retaining the world lead in the development of marine renewables? Now that a year has passed, will he review the access criteria for funding applications, with a view to introducing more flexibility in the fund in order to allow more companies to get more devices into the water?
I suspected that the hon. Gentleman would raise that point—and I am worried that there have been only two applications. The difficulty is that in order to qualify for the grant a project has to have been operating in the sea for three months. In other words, the idea was to help projects that had significantly proved themselves to be a real possibility for development. There are other grants around, however, to help with development at a far earlier stage. I am reluctant to reopen this matter, because it is important that we encourage projects that have a real chance of success. If it appears that no projects have reached that stage, however, perhaps we ought to look at some other form of assistance. The hon. Gentleman and I both agree that marine generation of electricity is important, and there are good examples of such work being carried out in his own constituency. The reason why this grant is difficult to get is that it sets quite high criteria for eligibility.