OVERSEAS competition will wash away the UK’s “global lead” on marine power without government support, a leading player claims.

Simon Forrest, founder and chief executive of Edinburgh tidal energy pioneers Nova Innovation, says failure to support the sector will see foreign competitors capture the market in the cutting-edge technology.

The company, which partnered with Tesla to create the world’s first grid-connected “baseload” tidal power station in Shetland, aims to dominate the international market.

However, the company fears government inaction could blow its chances in the same way as wind in the 1970s and 80s.

While some specialists like Glasgow-based Howden exported turbines to the USA during the California wind power boom, a lack of domestic support meant they were unable to compete with rivals form Denmark, who took advantage of their country’s supportive policy and financial frameworks.

Wind-related goods are now worth almost as much to the Danish economy as the defence sector is to the UK.

Ahead of an event at the SNP conference today, Forrest told The National: “At the moment, we hold the trump cards in marine power – the resource is abundant, it’s completely predictable, we have a global lead and we have got the supply chain. What we don’t have is revenue support to take us to market. That’s what Denmark did with wind, and we didn’t. Having built up this lead, we will lose it to Canada or Japan.”

More wave and tidal energy devices have been deployed in UK waters than in the rest of the world combined, according to green body Scottish Renewables.

Scotland is home to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, the world’s leading wave and tidal energy test and demonstration centre.

Earlier this month Babcock International and Edinburgh University announced they are to create the new Fastblade facility at Rosyth. The

£2.4 million centre, which will focus on accelerating the development of tidal energy equipment, will be the first of its kind in the world.

Studies suggest around £450m has already been invested in the UK marine energy supply chain, primarily from the private sector.

Forrest, who co-founded Nova Innovation nine years ago, says the electricity produced by tidal devices is “predictable” and the subsea nature of the turbines means complaints associated with wind infrastructure, such as visual impact, are minimised.

On public sector backing, he stated: “The Scottish Government has been magnificent, the EU has been great.

“We have struggled over the last while with the UK Government because of Brexit and general UK energy policy.”

Hannah Smith, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland genuinely has a world lead in marine energy: more wave and tidal devices have been deployed here than in the rest of the world combined.

“Government support is vital to allow these innovative technologies to both develop – as wave energy is doing – as well as to compete in the energy market, as tidal is now showing it clearly can.

“While the Scottish Government’s support for these technologies is in no doubt, it is vital that the UK Government understand what is at stake here. The lessons of onshore wind are stark – fail to invest now and risk losing a UK success story which has enormous global potential.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the UK Government is “absolutely committed to ensuring our renewables sector continues to thrive” through its Clean Growth Strategy, with £90m invested in developing marine technologies since 2010.