Marine Power Connection Charges Irk Scots

Marine power might appear to be moving ahead swimmingly in Scotland, but a trade organization there is charging that excessive grid-connection charges from the U.K. Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets – known as Ofgem – could threaten the sector’s growth.

Scottish Renewables, which calls itself “the voice of the renewable energy industry in Scotland,” said “Scotland’s wave and tidal sector face charges of £56 million every year to connect their projects to the grid while developers south of the border would receive millions in subsidy.”

Scotland marine power development

image via Scottish Renewables

The organization pointed specifically to 1,600 megawatts (MW) of wave and tidal projects planned for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters. The projects, Scottish Renewables said, “face an annual grid charge of £56 million, compared to an £11 million subsidy if they were sited off the south west coast of England – home to Wave Hub, the only other test site for marine renewables in the U.K.”

Scottish Renewables head Niall Stuart said Scotland is “home to 25 percent of Europe’s tidal resource and 10 per cent of its wave resource,” but added that if Ofgem charges, which are currently under review, aren’t adjusted downward, the result would be “development going elsewhere, despite Scotland’s fantastic wave and tidal resource.”

The issue of U.K. policy potentially holding back Scottish marine-power development is especially interesting given Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s vision that tapping its renewable energy potential – including offshore wind power, in addition to marine power – is the key to Scotland becoming fully independent from the United Kingdom.

Scottish Renewables’ complete analysis of the connection charges issue is available online as a PDF.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.