I have been arguing for two years that if the country wants to generate electricity from the sea then they should build it where the waves are. This week, the government announced that Cornwall would be the location of the UK’s first Marine Energy Park. It’s an important achievement for Hayle because Wave Hub and the new industrial units currently under construction on the North Quay will be the crucial ingredient of this new industry.
About 25% of all the wave and tidal technology development in the world is happening in Britain and now Hayle is at the heart of it. Cornwall’s marine resource is second to none with a powerful Atlantic swell but not so powerful that the sea’s energy cannot be harnessed. It has been estimated that wave power could eventually meet 15% to 20% of Britain’s power needs producing enough electricity to power 11 million homes. There is also economic potential. If wave power succeeds, the industry could be worth £2 billion by 2050 creating more than 16,000 jobs. Some estimates suggest that the wave and tidal power industries together might provide as many as 10,000 jobs by as early as 2020.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This will not happen overnight because it is an embryonic industry. There is no shortage of things that can go wrong and many obstacles remain. We now need to focus on the hard work of making this industry a success. Firstly, we need to get pioneering electricity generators to choose Cornwall and plug their wave devices into Wave Hub. We must ensure that there is financial support to help them through the research and development phase. That is why Hayle should have first call on the new £10 million development fund created by the government to progress wave power technologies.
Secondly, it is hard enough getting new industries off the ground without having bureaucratic burdens on top of everything else. So we need to be willing to simplify the myriad of risk assessments and licensing processes that so often kill good ideas before they can even begin. Finally, we need to link up the ground breaking academic work going on at the University at Tremough with the pioneers who will be developing devices at Hayle.
I have been concerned that in the last ten years, Scotland has been doing more to encourage this industry than the British government but that is now changing. Last year, the government increased the subsidy it pays to developers in Cornwall – so that they now match what is paid in Scotland. This latest decision to designate Cornwall as the first Marine Energy Park means that we have now overtaken Scotland as the UK’s leading centre for wave energy, so let’s make it a success.
George Eustice can be contacted at email@example.com or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.