SCOTLAND’S marine energy sector can be proud of its many achievements to date, but there’s been a warning that they could all be in jeopardy without continued support from the Scottish, UK and European governments.

The caution came from Jenny Hogan, Scottish Renewables policy director, in a keynote address at its marine conference yesterday in Inverness, before an audience of industry leaders.

She said the past 12 months had seen some impressive industry achievements, with projects progressing swiftly, supply chain performing well and Scotland showcasing its “world-leading expertise” at an international conference on ocean energy in Edinburgh.

Three “world firsts” had been announced in Scotland in recent weeks – the first tidal array from Edinburgh-based Nova Innovation of its two turbines at Bluemull Sound off Shetland; Scotrenewables began testing the world’s most powerful tidal stream turbine at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) at Stromness, Orkney; and the largest free stream tidal power array unveiled by Atlantis MeyGen at Nigg Energy Park.

Wave Energy Scotland had also achieved a great deal since it formed less than two years ago. Hogan said: “It closed its third funding call last week for the development of innovative technologies which will form the basis of cost-effective generation in Scotland.

“The current programme involves 80 separate organisations across five different countries, and will enable developers to take projects from the earliest stage of development right through to proving and demonstration.”

However, she added: “All of this progress – in research, testing and deployment – has led to the marine energy sector as a whole investing hundreds of million pounds into the Scottish economy, with every £1 from public funds typically leveraging around £7 from private investment; and with the sector creating around 1,000 jobs in Scotland, with the potential for substantial further growth.

“We can be proud of all of these achievements. But they’re all in jeopardy without a viable route to a viable market. Further development is absolutely dependent on continued support from Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels, which have all played a vitally important role in the growth of the sector to date.

“Projects going in the water over coming months urgently need clarity on support. In particular, large-scale projects, like MeyGen, need a meaningful way to access long-term contracts for power.”

Hogan said Scottish Renewables had been working hard to put the case to Whitehall to make provision for supporting a minimum amount of marine energy capacity in the upcoming Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction round, due to be announced later this year.

But clarity of support was also crucial for smaller-scale, innovative technologies, that were looking to scale up from the lab or test centre.

“We need to keep working with government to find a way to keep these projects moving forward, and to strike the right balance between revenue and capital support,” she said. “Similarly, the post-RO [Renewables Obligation] world and CfD pose challenges for our test centres like EMEC, but they need continued support to remain competitive with test centres around the world.”

Hogan said Scotland had been at the forefront of marine energy innovation for many years, from design to testing, and now deployment.

“Our waters have the lion’s share of the UK’s marine energy resources so it makes perfect sense that we utilise that enviable advantage,” she said. “While the background of UK policy announcements has undoubtedly tested our resolve, the renewable energy industry in Scotland remains ambitious and it is clear that Scotland’s marine energy sector is delivering today.”

Scottish Renewables’ vision remained clear, added Hogan, and that was to see a thriving wave and tidal sector in Scotland that continued to lead the world in expertise, testing, technology development and deployment.