Speaking at the British Wind Energy Association’s (BWEA) Wave & Tidal 09 conference in Bath on 30 April, Climate Minister Lord Hunt said: “The marine energy sector has reached a pivotal stage with more and more devices ready to go into the water. The screening exercise in English and Welsh waters is a significant step forward in our plans to harness the power of our seas and secure a renewable and low carbon energy supply.”

The study will look into the energy potential of wave and tidal energy devices and timescales for commissioning and installation. The screening will serve to fill data gaps before putting in place a strategic environment assessment (SEA) for marine energy devices in England and Wales. The screening exercise and route map is expected to be completed over a 6 months period.

The wave and tidal scoping exercise will exclude the Severn Estuary where a feasibility study is already underway. Scotland has already produced a preliminary SEA, and Northern Ireland has announced the appointment of consultants to undertake an SEA of offshore wind and marine renewables.

Mixed response from UK renewables industry

BWEA welcomed the announcement with Conference Chairman Alan Moore at Wave & Tidal 09 saying: “This announcement is great news for an industry which is a growing UK success story. It will open Britain’s coastline and estuaries to clean, green energy that will help power a low carbon economy.”

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) was more lukewarm in its welcome however, expressing “disappointment” that the announcement was for a mere screening exercise to see if an SEA for wave and tidal is necessary.

“It’s good that Government seems to recognise the need for an SEA but we’d rather have heard that the work was actually going to start. The screening exercise is an unfortunate delay and the timescale needs to be expedited,” says Steph Merry, REA Head of Marine Renewable Energy.

“An SEA would make a huge difference to the development of commercial-scale wet renewables in England and Wales. The UK is currently a world leader in the development of wave and tidal stream devices. It is imperative that we keep hold of that lead in order to meet our renewable energy targets and to ensure jobs and investment in UK manufacturing now and in the future,” Merry adds.