Tidal must rise to the top of the energy policy agenda

Stuart Murphy, Founder, TPGen24

The last few weeks have certainly demonstrated the fragility of our energy and fuel security. I think one journalist termed it as a ‘live test’ of what happens when you decide to put all your renewable eggs in one basket and expect a single solution to meet ever-increasing demand while decarbonising the grid.

There’s no doubt the proliferation of offshore wind has been a success, but as we’ve recently seen, like solar, it can only ever be part of the picture. By way of their reliance on optimal meteorological conditions, they’re inherently intermittent. This means that when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, they’re redundant, unable to meet base load demand.

Of course, one day of still or overcast weather here and there is inconvenient but not a major issue. However when we have consecutive weeks of calm skies then it becomes a serious problem, particularly when the only thing you have to fall back on is gas, coal and imported fossil fuels.

It presents a massive challenge but also a huge opportunity to redress the current problems within our energy mix, and continue the positive work already done to decarbonise the grid.

While many lines of media attention have been given to the aforementioned wind and solar, as well as nascent hydrogen, less has been given to tidal energy.

It’s a great shame as this woefully under-explored resource is the only true renewable which has the potential to offer a scalable solution to delivering continuous base load electricity without dependence on optimal weather conditions.

Fundamentally, tidal solutions will operate day-in-day-out as long at the moon continues to rise and fall. However, the resource can still be prone to the same intermittency as other systems if not properly designed, as it will still be subject to the rise and fall of the tide.

Fortunately, emerging smart technology is changing the rules of the game. Renewable technologies, including my own TPGen24, are now demonstrating how you can deliver base load consistently and cleanly. This should come as welcome news to Greta, as it’s a resource which can finally turn all those political words and phrases into action.

We now urgently need business and policymakers to overcome our apprehension to tidal, much of it synthesised from a number of high-profile, failed, past projects, and give serious consideration to harnessing its huge potential.

For example, it’s well known Wales and the West Coast of England have some of the world’s best tidal ranges, making it all the more baffling why we haven’t explored tidal technology in earnest.

The green energy opportunity is huge, but there are also other benefits beside. More jobs, greater investment, economic regeneration, transport infrastructure renewal, all associated positives which could arise from a tidal project. Further it has the potential to revive some of the hardest hit communities in our country, reversing decades of decline.

The Prime Minister’s address to the Conservative Party Conference proved disappointing, full of toplines and platitudes but without a huge amount of substance, especially around energy policy.

As COP26 approaches and we face yet more fuel and energy shortages, it’s time for the Tidal Energy community to make its case loudly to business, the government and the public.

Ultimately, it’s the only form of renewable reliable enough to put an end to our reliance on coal, gas and on imported power from sources unknown, while meeting our ever-growing demand for affordable electricity.