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Marine Renewable Electricity Generation

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2019

7. What steps the Government are taking to support the development of marine renewable electricity generation. (909871)

It was a pleasure to meet the right hon. Gentleman and a cross-party group of colleagues only last month to discuss this matter. I commend the Marine Energy Council for the work that it has done, and indeed I see that it has published some interesting analysis today. We have provided £175 million of innovation funding to the sector. We all want it to succeed. We have the first pre-commercial array deployed off Caithness and, of course, we have the European Marine Energy Centre in his constituency.

I thank the Minister for the meeting last month. We are now engaging with the Treasury in respect of revenue support for the sector, and any support that she can give it will be very welcome. In the meantime, however, we have the prospect of the energy White Paper. Will she use her offices to ensure that the potential for marine renewable energy generation is fully recognised when that White Paper comes to publication?

I do not want to pre-empt the White Paper, but I think that one thing we will show in it is how the ongoing attempts to be technology-neutral can work across the piece to generate low-cost, low-carbon energy, and highly competitive technologies will be part of that. We remain interested in marine and tidal, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. Of course, we need to discuss with the Treasury any revenue support mechanisms, but I want to continue to engage with the sector on a long-term basis.

The Minister will be aware that the proposed Swansea Bay city deal would include a strong marine energy component centred on Pembroke Dock. She will also be aware that the growth deal is beset with concerns and questions about its progress, so will the Minister, along with Welsh Ministers, please look into the marine renewables part of the project to ensure that progress is made and opportunities are not lost?

Of course, it is striking that we had the very interesting Swansea tidal bid, which would have been the most expensive power station in the UK had we built it, and that that project has now come forward in a different form not requiring Government subsidy. There is huge potential to continue to work with the communities of Swansea and across Wales, and I will be delighted to keep working with them.

Fifty per cent. of Europe’s tidal and 35% of its wave energy resource are in UK waters, but the Government have still not provided the marine renewables industry with a secure route from experimental phase through to demonstrator phase through to full commercial development. Recent research from the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult shows that revenue support could enable marine renewables to create up to 50,000 new jobs and dominate more than 30% of a global market estimated at £76 billion by 2050. Does the Minister accept that the contract for difference auctions are not an adequate mechanism to support emerging technologies such as marine renewables at this stage in their development, and will she take action to provide a competitive funding pool in the energy White Paper to support the UK’s innovative marine technologies and enable the UK to gain its rightful share of this exciting global market?

I will attempt to do that, Mr Speaker. The hon. Gentleman will know, of course, that all these technologies basically started off in the same place. Arguably, marine and tidal have received more innovation funding. They have not been able to demonstrate a cost reduction pathway commensurate with, for example, offshore wind, but he is right to say that we need to look at ways to try to bring these technologies forward and we will continue to do so.