The Marine Renewables Industry Association, the representative body for Irish wave and tidal energy interests, has expressed its disappointment that Scotland’s astute political management, ambition and sheer hunger for jobs has seen it emerge as the clear winner of the first round in the battle to dominate the emerging global wave energy industry. The statement from MRIA was prompted by the recent announcement of some 50MW of wave projects in Scotland thought to be worth more than €250m of investment.
However, based on Ireland’s natural advantage of a better wave energy resource, world class research and development facilities and some of the world’s leading marine energy developers, Peter Coyle, chairman of the MRIA, believes that Ireland could win the second round of ocean projects and become the world centre of this job-intensive new industry if political will and urgency are shown. There is independent quantitative evidence to show (SQW Report commissioned jointly by the Belfast and Dublin Governments) that if the Irish Government puts the necessary structures in place, Ireland stands to gain up to €10 billion in extra income, and up to 52,000 jobs from marine renewable by 2030.
The development of a global wave energy industry is expected to roll out over three stages. Stage one focuses on identifying and developing the most suitable technology and infrastructure to harness wave energy using full-size devices in small-scale pilot projects of 10 MW. In stage two, growth and investment will see the most viable technologies scaled up and ready for full-scale commercial deployment, again using full-scale devices, but this time on medium-scale wave farms of 50-100MW.
Stage three is when the technology is ready to roll out all over the world. According to Peter Coyle, the reality is that whichever country wins round two will become the global centre of the wave energy industry.
In recent days Aegir Wave Power, a subsidiary of Swedish energy giant Vattenfall, and Aquamarine Power have announced a total of 50MW of seabed leases with potential for wave energy development off the west coast of Scotland. Both Vattenfall and Aquamarine Power had previously expressed an interest in developing wave farms in Ireland.
However, Peter Coyle says that it is currently impossible for any major developers to locate in Ireland (and to create jobs) in any significant way, as from a Government point of view, Ireland is simply ‘not yet open for business’. He points out that the most important issues hampering the industry could be resolved with very little financial input from the Irish Government, highlighting in particular how quickly and efficiently Scotland published and executed a process to secure wave farm sites.
The MRIA has set out an action programme (MRIA’s Response to the Republic of Ireland’s Draft Ocean Renewable Energy Development Plan) which focuses for the next five years largely on administrative actions which do not cost money.