SCOTLAND is leading the world in tidal stream renewable energy with more installed capacity than the rest of the planet combined, a new report from the London School of Economics has found.

Scotland also has more capacity under development than anywhere else in the world, despite huge projects underway in France, Canada, and the US.

The five expert authors of today's LSE report looked at how tidal stream energy – which uses the ocean’s currents, ebbs, and flows to generate power – can support “sustainable growth opportunities”.

They concluded that Scotland was “well-placed to lead the development of tidal stream energy” both within and outwith the UK.

READ MORE: Scotland has 'lion's share' of world's tidal energy potential – and chance to use it

Tidal stream energy also has the benefit of being in rich supply in areas which, historically, have been “relatively less productive regions of the UK overall”, the report said. These included Orkney, Northern Ireland, Cumbria, Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly.

“Capitalising on their innovative specialisms in this emerging technology could generate local benefits and contribute to regionally-balanced growth,” the report said.

However, Esin Serin, a policy analyst at the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute and the report’s lead author, warned that the UK needs to “act now” to avoid losing its head-start.

How much tidal stream energy can Scotland produce?

According to the LSE report, the UK has an installed capacity of 10.1 MW of tidal stream energy. When The National asked for a breakdown by region, we were told that all 10.1 MW were in Scotland.

The capacity comes from four projects which are operational in the far north of Scotland: MeyGen in the Pentland Firth, EnFAIT in Shetland, and Forward 2030 and ATIR in Orkney.

Compared to the rest of the world, Scotland’s installed capacity exceeds even the giants. As it stands, China is in second place with 1.7MW. The Netherlands (1.29MW), France (1MW), and Canada (0.7MW) make up the top five, while Japan has 0.5MW of installed capacity.

Scotland has “more than half of the entire operational capacity of the technology in the world as of 2023”, the LSE report states.

How much tidal stream capacity does Scotland have under development?

The National:

Currently, the UK as a whole has a further 40.8MW of capacity under development. The vast majority of this (35.2MW) is in Scotland, while the remainder (5.6MW) is at Morlais, in Wales.

Even without the significant Welsh project, the amount of capacity under development in Scotland outstrips other nations.

Canada (31.4MW) and France (31MW) both have huge tidal stream projects underway, while the USA has also invested in 5.1MW worth of projects.

But despite the lead, the report cautioned that there is much further to go. “Even the UK’s leading position represents a relatively small-scale sectoral development,” it stated.

“The 10MW of tidal stream capacity currently installed in the UK is less than 0.1% of the practical tidal stream resource that the UK and the Channel Islands have been estimated to represent (11.5GW).”

Innovation centres

Scotland’s north east was listed, alongside south west England, as being one of the UK’s two “stand out” regions when it came to innovation in the tidal stream sector, which was estimated through patent applications.

The report notes: “The former region is home to the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, which focus heavily on marine energy research, while the latter has fairly close proximity to marine energy research facilities in Wales and has a high share of UK clean patents overall.”

UK and devolved governments

Although it noted that the UK is “currently the global leader” in tidal stream technology, the report suggested that slow action from the UK Government – especially when compared to its devolved counterparts – risked ceding the lead.

The authors highlighted significant moves such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the US and the Green Deal Industrial Plan from the European Commission as examples of major economies creating “ambitious support packages aiming to make investments in clean technology supply chains more attractive within their own borders”.

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The report said that Tory Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (above) is “expected” to spell out the UK’s response in the autumn Budget, but cautioned: “There is growing concern that on the global stage the UK is becoming a less attractive place to invest in manufacturing supply chains for clean technologies.

“Global competition to capture industrial benefits specifically from tidal stream energy is also gaining pace.”

The devolved governments in Scotland and Wales however, are credited with giving tidal stream energy more prominence.

READ MORE: Orkney-based green energy firm secures £8m funding for tidal turbine

The report says that Scotland’s success in tidal stream energy is evidenced by the fact that it is “home to the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) where many of the world’s leading tidal devices to date have been tested in real sea conditions for the first time”.

It goes on: “The Welsh government also has a strong agenda for tidal stream energy with a stated aim of capturing at least 10% of the potential tidal stream and wave energy off its coastline by 2025.”

Serin, the lead author of the “Seizing sustainable growth opportunities from tidal stream energy in the UK” LSE report, told The National: “Pursuing tidal stream energy underpinned by a strong domestic supply chain would be a low-regrets approach for the UK, at worst building capacity to quickly scale up a low-carbon source of energy domestically while creating jobs across the country, and at best, also capturing high-value export opportunities from a growing global market.

“The Scottish Government has committed to setting out a vision for marine energy as part of its final Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, and Scotland-based companies have already started exporting their tidal stream technologies abroad. There is now an opportunity to build on Scotland’s expertise and drive further investment in the UK supply chain through a clear and consistent policy programme.

“In the face of growing international competition, it is important to act now to keep the UK at the frontier of tidal stream energy development and maximise economic opportunities from the sector.”