SCOTLAND’S position as wave power world leader could be lost after Brexit, it is claimed.

Scottish Renewables, which represents the green energy sector, says economic and environmental benefits are at risk unless long-term funding is secured to replace EU funding.

The claim comes as a new study into the Brexit threat to the developing industry is published. The Carbon Trust estimates the method could deliver enough energy to cover around 20 per cent of the UK’s total annual electricity needs, based on usage in 2015. But the paper, by Strathclyde University and Imperial College London, says the technology could sink without the financial support of the bloc.

It has taken £200 million in research and development funding since 2000 to get the industry to its current position – but despite its lauded potential, it has yet to become commercial.

While the researchers say the UK has become “much better placed” to deliver a commercial wave energy device, they claim this could be derailed by Brexit as innovation funding and international collaboration falls away.

The report recommends that Scotland must now develop its own long-term strategy, stating: “With the UK Government significantly reducing its support for wave energy and the threat of EU funds being withdrawn after Brexit, the Scottish Government could find itself acting alone in developing wave energy technology.

“Consequently, a strategy must be put in place that presents a credible path towards delivering a commercial wave energy device in Scotland that is resilient to the potential withdrawal of UK Government and/or EU funds.”

Hannah Smith, of Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland, and specifically Orkney, is leading the world in the development of wave energy devices. Wave Energy Scotland, set up by the Scottish Government in 2014, has refocused the industry’s efforts on collaborating to optimise technology – a model that’s attracting interest from all around the globe.

“Outside that model, however, there is no route to market for wave power technologies, and we need government to provide a viable mechanism to ensure the sector’s continued development.”

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Wave and tidal stream technologies could participate in the latest auction, but we didn’t ring-fence budget for them at the expense of other, potentially less expensive technologies. We will continue to work with the marine industry to examine ways to reduce the cost of this technology.”

Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “I wholeheartedly share concerns outlined in the report on the very significant threat that Brexit signals for the industry, and I firmly believe that collaboration with our European partners is the best way to accelerate the delivery of a commercial wave energy industry.”