Although wind will undoubtedly be the primary source of UK renewable power, Dr Coles suggests that tidal power could be important in managing periods of low wind. Unlike wind and solar, tidal power is predictable and reliable, and its cyclic nature lends itself in particular to cheaper short duration energy storage, using lithium-ion batteries.
However, in order to unleash the potential of tidal power, Dr Coles rightly points out that funding is required - at similar levels to that already received by wind and solar - to enable innovation that will reduce costs and provide economies of scale.
The government's recently-published Energy Security Strategy appears to recognise this, and has ringfenced £20 million per year for tidal stream projects. And the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme - the government’s mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity - has recently awarded contracts for 41 MW of tidal energy, to Orbital Marine (for deployments at the Fall of Warness), Simec Atlantis (for development of the MeyGen site in Caithness) and Magallanes (for its project at Morlais off Anglesey).
According to Sue Barr, chair of the UK Marine Energy Council: “Tidal stream is forecast to be cheaper than new nuclear at the point of 1 GW of deployment, supports the UK creating sustainable jobs and supply chains in coastal communities and beyond, whilst boosting energy security through an entirely predictable baseload-style renewable energy resource.”
It is exciting to see increasing recognition of tidal power as a crucial part of the UK's energy security and net-zero plans, and we look forward to seeing the successful projects in the latest CfD scheme develop.