Sea energy could generate billions in exports, council told


WAVE AND tidal energy could supply a significant share of the future electricity needs of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, the British-Irish Council (BIC) has heard.

It could also generate billions of euro worth of energy exports and create tens of thousands of jobs, the council heard.

The European Commission will be pressed by the administrations involved in the BIC to focus more on “frontier technologies” of wave and tidal energy, and not just on aiding the development of offshore wind power, Scottish first minister Alex Salmond said after the council meeting in Guernsey.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said wave and tidal energy offered not just excellent prospects for economic growth among BIC member states, but also for the EU, adding that co-operation within the BIC would help “to mobilise the capital that will drive the technological developments necessary”.

Common regulatory rules and hugely expensive grid systems will be needed to harvest power from such installations in the future: “We will need a grid running down the Irish Sea for instance. We can do that collectively, along with private capital and European Union funds,” Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan said.

So far Scotland is in the lead on the issue, following the decision to spend £4 billion (€4.8 billion) constructing 10 projects around the Orkney Islands and on the Pentland Firth, which could lead to Scotland becoming “the Saudi Arabia of marine energy”, according to Mr Salmond, though the power to be produced from such installations will be much more expensive than that available from fossil fuels.

Mr Salmond said yesterday that the BIC should concentrate on ensuring the engineering and academic skills necessary to make wave and tidal energy work are developed to world-beating standards in Ireland, Britain and the Crown dependencies.

Meanwhile, the secretariat to serve the BIC is to be based in Edinburgh, it was agreed in Guernsey, following a dispute on where it should be located.