Scottish Government revives £10m tidal energy fund

The Scottish Government yesterday re-launched a £10m prize fund to boost commercial prospects for tidal energy in Scotland, as recent advances in tidal technologies have sparked renewed investor interest in the sector.

The original Saltire Prize for wave and tidal technologies ran from 2008 to 2017, but no one claimed the £10m prize fund. 

Now the prize has been narrowed to focus solely on tidal technologies, and renamed the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund. 

It seeks to find and fund projects working to cut the cost of tidal energy, and which demonstrate a "positive social and economic impact on Scotland, including collaboration across the supply chain", the Scottish Government said.

Projects which are successful in gaining funding must be deployed in Scottish waters no later than March 2020, it added.

Hopes are high that this time around the funding could be snapped up, as several firms are already working in Scotland to develop tidal energy projects. Nova Innovation is currently working on a €20m project to extend its Bluemull Sound array to six turbines.

Meanwhile, SIMEC Atlantis runs the MeyGen project - the world's largest tidal energy plant - and is now also planning install a 2MW undersea turbine. The GFG Alliance, owned by the billionaire Gupta family, took a 50 per cent stake in Atlantis in 2017 with a plan to transform the tidal power firm into a "global green power enterprise". 

Scotland's energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said Scotland "continues to lead the world in developing and supporting marine energy technology".

But despite "momentous steps forward" from the industry in recent years, Wheelhouse warned full commercialisation was taking longer than expected due to political uncertaintyover Brexit, as well as the government's 2016 decision to remove a ring-fenced subsidy for marine energy.

"We believe that tidal energy can not only play an important role in our own future energy system, but it has substantial export potential," he added. "The Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund therefore provides a timely and appropriate approach for the Scottish Government to support the current needs of the sector and to help ensure Scotland's huge marine energy potential is realised, while my officials and I work with the sector on wider support for innovation and deployment of this exciting technology."

Dr Sam Gardner, deputy director at WWF Scotland, welcomed the funding. "It's great to see this vote of support in the burgeoning tidal renewable energy sector," he said. "Scotland has been blessed with huge renewable energy opportunities that we must fulfil if we're to scale up our response to climate change and end our reliance of fossil fuels."