The end of March this year saw a flurry of activity in the Welsh marine sector. All eyes seemed to be on the industry to lift economic prospects, not just in South Wales but across the whole of the UK.
The Prime Minister arrived in the City of Swansea, signing the Swansea City Bay Regional Deal, pledging to mobilise up to £1.3bn in a host of low carbon and sustainable initiatives along the south Wales coast including the £76 million Pembroke Dock Marine project. Then followed the £324,000 backing of what will be the world's largest wave energy site, the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone, by the Welsh Government.
Marine Energy Wales stated that marine developers active in Wales will invest £1.4bn over the next five years if the right incentives are in place. Quite an end to the month. But how much can Welsh Marine Energy really boost the economy?
Published ahead of the Marine Energy Wales Conference in Swansea, there were forecasts for major growth for wave, tidal stream and tidal lagoons with appropriate market and development incentives. Total direct investment in marine in Wales has risen to £68.3m. That represents an increase of over £23m from 2015. The marine sector directly supports 137 full time equivalent jobs, 101 more jobs than two years ago.
Speaking at Marine Energy Wales on 30th March, Welsh cabinet secretary for infrastructure and economy Ken Skates reiterated the potential: "We have a truly excellent hub of supply chain businesses and facilities in Wales that are ready and able to take advantage of opportunities in the sector. We therefore aim to build on Wales' reputation, working in partnership with industry, to ensure we are not only 'open for business', but are once again seen as a global centre for energy. Not only as a generator of marine energy but as an exporter of knowledge, technologies and services."
Plenty of positive messages from government and business alike, giving much hope for the development of the sector in the future. There is much potential in Wales, the UK, Europe and beyond with potential for the UK to provide 35% of Europe's wave power.
However, perhaps the most poignant words were from David Jones, Director of Marine Energy Wales. Who offered a word of caution amongst the enthusiasm. He rightly said that once the UK lead in wind power. But, policy support was withdrawn at a key stage. Denmark is now in the lead, with a workforce of 28,000 generating £5 billion a year in exports.
According to Marine Power Systems we need:
- Policy stability and consistent financial support, with marine energy firmly in the UK's Industrial Strategy and wider global energy ambitions
- Joined up communications across the industry and meaningful public support
- Investor confidence and action
Marine Power Systems are focused on the development of a quarter scale WaveSub for deployment at the FaBTest site in Cornwall, this summer, when they will open a new round of fundraising to develop the full-scale, multi-MW technology required for the deployment of large wave farms from 2020.
Their mission is to make affordable, reliable and scalable wave energy technology to power communities across the world. They are doing this by addressing the core challenges facing the industry: energy capture; survivability; transportation, operation and maintenance and reduced capital costs.
Source and top image: Marine Power Systems
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