Tidal stream power has the potential to deliver 11% of the UK’s current annual electricity and play a significant role in the government’s drive for net-zero, according to new research.
Scientists from across the UK say that harnessing the power of the ocean’s tidal streams can provide a predictable and reliable means of helping to meet the country’s future energy demand.
However, if that is to be realised, it will require government funding to accelerate innovation and drive down its cost so that future projects can provide cheap electricity. And such opportunities, the authors say, are not presently available given the way the government’s renewable energy funding schemes are configured.
In the past, access to government funding has helped install 18 MW of tidal stream capacity, around 500 times less than the UK’s current offshore wind capacity. This relatively modest funding support to date has put the tidal stream sector on a steep cost reduction trajectory.
However, cost reduction has slowed since access to funding has been removed. Extending such support is essential to enable it to become cost-competitive with gas turbines, biomass, and nuclear.
The study also explored the potential environmental effects of such future developments and found no evidence to suggest that the next phase of tidal stream development will cause significant detrimental environmental impact. The physical environmental impacts are expected to be an order of magnitude less than those created by climate change.
The study – published in Royal Society Proceedings A and led by the University of Plymouth – has been released just a day before world leaders meet at the COP26 conference in Glasgow to discuss the need for global agreements on clean energy.