Britain’s leading role in the development of experimental marine and tidal technology was under threat on Friday as it emerged that SSE, one of the major investors, is talking to partners about scaling back its investment in key schemes.
The move follows similar ones by other major players and comes in the middle of a fractious debate about renewables and the future of the wider power market following Ed Miliband’s promise to freeze energy prices and break up big power firms if Labour wins the 2015 election.
The lobby group that represents wave and tidal power said the difficult regulatory environment has depressed forecasts of how much capacity could be deployed and slowed the progress of the sector.
“Without a clear route to market and a coherent plan for attaining volume in the sector, the UK risks being overtaken in this global race for our next decade’s most exciting low carbon market,” said David Krohn, wave and tidal development manager at RenewableUK.
“Wave energy is still in the early years of its story and we need perspective and patience as our industry matures. It is never good when a major player pulls back, but context is important here.
“Wave developers are working hard to develop and refine the technology. To do this they need to have long-term support and volume. Wave array projects need to be in the water as soon as possible, not in five years’ time, so we can get the learning done now.”
SSE confirmed it was reconsidering its four major projects off the Orkney Islands and in the Pentland Firth off Scotland but denied it was pulling out. “We are reviewing our portfolio but we have not at this stage reached any conclusion,” said a spokesman.