The costs of developing marine energy projects to respect EU environmental policies are “disproportionate” compared to their size.
That’s the view of Stephanie Merry, Sector Advisor in marine renewables at the Renewable Energy Association (REA).
She believes developers have to conduct a lot of expensive assessments which leads to more investment and are a disincentive for small projects.
That’s because wave and tidal energy are both “very new technologies” which attract attention from regulators.
Ms Merry told ELN: “There are barriers in the size of the environmental impact assessments you have to do. I gave the example of the Isle of Wight which was £1 million and 21 volumes of assessment, which for a small 30MW project is disproportionate.”
That’s due to lack of knowledge, she said: “Regulators don’t really understand the technology because it is so new and they haven’t had to deal with it before. So they are very worried that they might not put sufficient regulation on the project and there’s always lots of possibilities they might get taken to court by the EU.”
Although two big companies Pelamis and Aquamarine Power have gone into administration, Ms Merry hopes the wave and tidal sector will grow in 2016.
She added: “We see foreign companies coming in and they are using the facilities of the European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkney Islands so they see there’s a future in these technologies.”
One of the big projects the sector is working on is the MeyGen plant in the Pentland Firth off the Scottish coast which is said to be the first array of six tidal generators.
Tidal energy firm Atlantis Resources said the 1.5MW turbine to be installed in the project will be tested under a six-week programme in England.
Ms Merry went on: “If that project is successful it will prove that the turbines can survive, they can deliver all those things that investors need to know in order to have confidence to put more money in.”