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Britain must harness marine energy: Panel

REUTERS LONDON BRITAIN must not lose its lead in the development of marine energy like it did with wind power, and should focus on reducing costs and setting ambitious deployment targets beyond 2020, a report by a parliamentary committee said on Sunday.

Seven out of the eight largescale prototype wave and tidal devices installed worldwide are in the UK but are not expected to make a large contribution to its energy mix before 2020.

“Britannia really could rule the waves when it comes to marine renewable energy,” said Tim Yeo, chairman of the energy and climate change committee which produced the report.

“In the eighties the UK squandered the lead it had in wind power development and now Denmark has a large share of the worldwide market in turbine manufacturing.

“It should be a priority for the government to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of developments in this technology and does not allow our lead to slip,” he added.

Marine renewables are seen providing 20 percent of current UK electricity demand and the government is targeting 200 to 300 megawatts (MW) of marine capacity by 2020, 1-2 gigawatts (GW) less than its forecasts in 2010.

The government revised its figures based on what it said was realistically obtainable by industry but RenewableUK, the voice of the marine and wind industry, said 300 MW is achievable by 2017 and utility SSE alone expects to commission 200 MW of projects around 2020.

Being overly cautious could negatively impact market confidence about the long-term future of the industry in the UK and allow other countries to steal the lead, the report warned.

It said the government should not rule out setting an ambitious deployment target for marine renewables beyond 2020 if cost reductions until 2020 remain on track.

Several firms are exploring marine energy’s potential.

Alstom and SSE Renewables formed a joint venture to develop a wave energy installation in Scotland and other demonstration projects are gaining momentum.

But marine technologies are still in the early stages and are a costly way to make electricity compared to other sources.

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