Collaborative power boosts UK renewables

Utilities Unbundled - Issue 14

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Andrew Jamieson, CEO of the UK's new Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, believes pooling R&D and innovation will commercialize offshore renewable energy faster.

“Our goal is to incubate nascent technologies and de-risk renewable innovations, to turn them into investable market opportunities.”

— Andrew Jamieson, CEO, UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult

Around the world, notably in the UK, there are exciting pockets of bespoke innovation in offshore renewable wind, wave and tidal energy generation.

Individually, these enterprises may lack the influence to make the industry and investors pay sufficient attention. Together, they could transform and accelerate this class of energy generation worldwide.

My role as CEO of the UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult – a new government-sponsored body which will house over 100 industry experts – is to create a catalyst for technology innovation, to get businesses collaborating.

Our goal is to incubate nascent technologies and de-risk renewable innovations, to turn them into investable market opportunities.

Nothing in the offshore renewable industry presents an insurmountable challenge. What's needed is an organized, united marketplace where people learn and share (mistakes included) rather than innovate in isolation.

Transforming potential

Offshore wind already has investors' attention, largely because of their familiarity with onshore wind farms. This makes the funding concept easier to grasp.

Tidal and wave technologies are a step away from “commercial proving.” The predictability of tidal, with its twice-daily generating peaks, has the potential to transform global energy supply. Wave power also offers great possibilities.

But their journey to market has been difficult. Investors tend to be milestone-focused and risk-averse. They want proof of concept before they invest to scale up new concepts.

Having begun the journey 10 years ago, only now are industrial heavyweights such as GE and Alstom bringing wave and tidal generation to the cusp of commercialization.

Imagine what could have been achieved with greater upfront collaboration between:

  • Government, to provide leadership and confidence
  • The supply chain, to innovate and deliver
  • Developers and owners of utilities, to demonstrate commitment to renewables

That's what Catapult is for – uniting these parties to take the UK's skill in R&D and technology and foster innovations through to successful market execution and beyond.

Backed by £1b (US$1.52b) in public and private sector funding, seven Catapults are being established in priority sectors. These have the potential to deliver the most value back to the economy in terms of job creation and commercial upsides.

We will collaborate across the value chain, and present financiers with something more compelling and tangible than hard-to-grasp concepts on sheets of paper. We will deliver evidence to create deeper market understanding of projects and related risks, giving investors confidence earlier in the capital funding process.

Delivering economic value

As pockets of innovation come together to create commercially viable offshore solutions, there will be standardization. Designs will be whittled down to just three or four top-performing types. Within that, innovation will flourish, allowing entry to new market participants and job creation, and ultimately lowering the cost of offshore renewable energy for consumers.

The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult is poised to play a leading role in delivering value worth hundreds if not billions – and that's a very exciting place to be.

This article was written by Andrew Jamieson. Contributor, Keith Harrison. For more information on this topic, please contact Duncan Coneybeare.

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