Another honour for the region: the South West has today been named as the UK’s first Marine Energy Park. Firmly placing the region on the international map for leadership in marine renewable energy, the South West Marine Energy Park will stretch from Bristol all the way along down to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The Marine Energy Park (confusingly also abbreviated to MEP) will create a collaborative partnership in the region between national and local government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter and industry including Cornwall’s landmark Wave Hub
The aim of the partnership will be to speed up the progress of marine power development and government ministers believe the new MEP status will drive the creation of 5,000 jobs in the region by 2017.
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker made the announcement on a visit to Bristol where he met with key members of the new initiative. “This is a real milestone for the marine industry and for the South West region in securing its place in renewables history as the first official marine energy park,” he said
. “The South West can build on its existing unique mix of renewable energy resource and home-grown academic, technical and industrial expertise.
“Marine power has huge potential in the UK not just in contributing to a greener electricity supply and cutting emissions, but in supporting thousands of jobs in a sector worth a possible £15bn to the economy to 2050. The UK is already a world leader in wave and tidal power, so we should capitalise on this leadership to make marine power a real contender in the future energy market.
With its geographical location vis-a-vis the Atlantic and the prevailing winds from the west, the region is well known for its strong winds and huge oceanic waves experienced by sailors and surfers alike. The largest waves are generally found off the north Cornish coast (Newquay is infamous for its surfing opportunities for example
), around the Isles of Scilly and out towards the Western Approaches, but it also has a very large tidal range, especially in the Bristol Channel which generates good tidal stream flows off north Devon. Mr Barker commented that wave or tidal energy has the potential to generate up to 27 gigawatts of power in the UK alone by 2050, equivalent to eight coal-fired power stations.
The South West Marine Energy Park prospectus
(pdf), commissioned by Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council, outlines how the region’s public and private sector will work together with the government and other key national bodies such as the Crown Estate.
The prospectus says the South West MEP will make it a priority to secure additional incentives for business investment including, business rate reductions, higher levels of capital allowances, Regional Growth Fund and other enterprise grants, inward investment, and access to financing from the Green Investment Bank
Long time advocate of renewable energy investment, Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson
has welcomed today’s announcement: "EU funding has already supported the Wave Hub and the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy, which together are allowing world leading research and development to take place here in the South West. By investing public money into renewables and new innovative technology we can encourage private investment that is tenfold, helping to create jobs. It will also help bring energy prices down as more efficient and less wasteful systems are created,” he said.
"This announcement is another demonstration of the Lib Dems working within the Coalition to deliver on our manifesto commitment to 'transform the electricity networks into a dynamic electricity grid that can better connect and integrate new, clean energy technologies’."
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