1 Feb 2012 - Cornwall, England is Poised to Lead the World on Wave and Tidal Power
Cornwall, England, is poised to lead the world on wave and tidal power as the Government today reveals the region as the UK's first marine energy park.
The "virtual" park, spread across sites in Devon, Cornwall and Bristol, could fuel a ten-fold growth in marine industry jobs in just five years.
Energy Minister Greg Barker said he expects the region to export devices to China and South America, and supply power to thousands of British homes.
Mr Barker envisages the South West as the marine equivalent of Silicon Valley, the California technology community that gave birth to Apple, Microsoft and Google.
"The South West was not getting the proper recognition as the leader in the sector, not just in the UK but globally," he told the Western Morning New of today's announcement.
At a summit in Bristol, Mr Barker will unveil the South West Marine Energy Park, the name for the collaboration between councils, entrepreneurs and universities.
While the wave and tidal power industry is small, the Government hopes for fast growth by strengthening ties between major ports, academia, offshore energy schemes such as Cornwall's Wave Hub, onshore testing tanks and state funding.
Currently, around 350 companies in the region underpin up to 500 marine energy jobs in the South West. Forecasts suggest there could be 5,000 jobs by 2017.
Mr Barker will today officially publish the park's prospectus, drawn up by industry group Regen SW and commissioned by Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council.
The document was a response to the Department for Energy and Climate Change throwing down the gauntlet to the region to develop a practical plan for growth.
Mr Barker said he believed creating a "cluster" of like-minded businesses in one region is the single most important policy that will allow the sector to thrive.
The Conservative minister said he was inspired by Eric Schmidt, chairman of search engine giant Google, at a London meeting convened by Chancellor George Osborne.
The South West will be an "investment destination", Mr Barker said, the thinking being most British and overseas money in the sector will be poured into the region. The new industry could worth over £70 billion to the UK economy by 2050.
Mr Barker said: "I asked Eric Schmidt what was the single most important thing behind the success of technology companies on the West Coast.
"I expected him to say cut tax rates or more subsidies. But he said it was a coherent cluster – physically bringing them together. That really energised my vision."
The South West Marine Energy Park will gravitate around the "hub" ports of Falmouth, Hayle, Plymouth and Bristol, but will reach across the Westcountry.
In less than a decade, £100 million has been invested in the region's world-leading research and demonstration facilities.
They include Wave Hub, a wave energy "nursery" in Falmouth bay, research facilities at Plymouth and Exeter universities and the National Composites Centre at Bristol.
Much more is planned. A business park is under construction in Hayle, two Olympic pool-sized testing tanks are soon to open in Plymouth and a tidal demonstration site at Lynmouth in North Devon is being considered.
Expertise and technology can be sold to North and South America, Korea, Japan, China and Australasia, where wave and tidal power is starting to take hold.
Marine park partners also include Exeter and Plymouth universities, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Heart of the South West LEP.
Aside from marketing, a key advantage of the new park status will be to put the region at the head of the queue for Government cash.
Some £20 million has been ring-fenced in the marine energy development fund, an extra £1 billion has been added to the Regional Growth Fund and the £3 billion Green Investment Bank is expected to open shortly.
A second marine energy park is planned in the north of Scotland, but many think the South West has now stolen a march on its closest rival.
Ministers last year moved to end Scotland's more favourable investment conditions by doubling the amount of subsidies lavished on the sector in England and Wales, creating parity for so-called Renewable Energy Certificates across the UK.
Mr Barker said the marine energy industry could eventually generate enough power to equal eight nuclear stations, but that only a tiny fraction of that is being unlocked from the ocean at present.
He told the WMN: "We have only just begun. We are swimming in the shallow end. A huge proportion of our power will come from the South West. But it does not stop there. There is a huge global market here."
Tim German, renewable energy and partnerships manager of Cornwall Council, said the region had risen to the challenge with the publication of its prospectus.
"We have got it all in the South West," said Mr German of the region's combination of powerful waves and large tidal range, entrepreneurs and academics. "This is a recognition of that, and it allows us to work together to keep the industry in the UK."
Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: "This is excellent news and clearly demonstrates that Plymouth's messages about wanting to rebalance the economy and the south west becoming the centre for marine renewable has been heard at the highest levels in Government. We still have a great deal more to do but it appears that we are on the right track. This is yet another example of how having 90 per cent of the MPs in the south west from the coalition parties is making sure our voice is being heard."
Councillor Vivien Pengelly, leader of Plymouth City Council, said: "The opportunity for growth and increased commercialisation in marine renewable energy, which underpins the ethos of the South West Marine Energy Park, represents a major opportunity to help Plymouth's economy generate investment and jobs."
Johnny Gowdy, programme director at Regen SW, said: "The launch of the South West Marine Energy Park is a recognition of the great resources, research facilities and businesses we have in the region.
"It also puts the South West in a position to attract future investment, and to be at the forefront of the new global marine energy industry."
Claire Gibson, general manager for Wave Hub, the world's largest offshore marine energy test facility, said: "Today's announcement reinforces the prominence of Cornwall and the South West in the UK's offer to the marine renewable energy industry.
"Wave Hub is a cornerstone of the new Marine Energy Park and we look forward to playing our role in accelerating the commercial development of marine renewables."
George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, said: "This announcement is fantastic news and provides a firm footing for Cornwall to overtake Scotland as the world leader in developing marine energy technology. We must now work together to build on this success".
Peter Child, managing director of A&P Falmouth, said: "We are delighted to see this commitment to marine renewable energy in the South West from the Government and are now focused on supporting the South West to realise its objective to become a leading region in marine renewable energy."
Chris Pomfret, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: "The LEP supports the development of the South West Marine Energy Park, a project that uses the natural environment in a sustainable way to help drive private sector-led growth, investment and job creation within the marine industry."
Tim Jones, chairman of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: "Plymouth has world-quality marine credentials.
"To see such a powerful alliance coming together to tackle this challenging opportunity deserves support from all those committed to delivering a prosperous future.
"This approach also speaks volumes for the strength of partnership working, this is a brilliant concept which can boost the sub-regional economy."
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