Published: 26 July 2021

There is a compelling case for the benefits that tidal power can bring, not just for the planet and our renewable energy mix, but also for the coastal communities where tidal arrays are located.

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult has calculated that the costs of tidal stream energy will drop to below £90/MWh after the first 1GW of deployment, creating a £25bn UK export opportunity by 2050 and 26,600 jobs from wave and tidal by 2040*. Furthermore, 50-60% of this economic benefit will remain in coastal communities – boosting areas that have seen traditional ship-building, fishing and other industries decline.

It is already evident that locations like Ynys Enlli in Wales, Bluemull Sound in Shetland, Stromness in Orkney and the Cornish coast are the world’s hotspots for this green tech revolution. The world’s most advanced wave and tidal stream technologies are not being developed in London, Los Angeles or Tokyo, but in our seaside towns and villages.

A case in point: the first people in the world to power their homes and cars with tidal energy are in Shetland, where Nova Innovation created the world’s first offshore grid-connected tidal array and recently installed the first tidal powered car charging point.

This array is already delivering local economic value too. More than 80% of the content used to construct the site was supplied by UK companies (including 25% of supply chain spend in Shetland and Orkney). During its operation and ongoing expansion (under the EU-funded EnFAIT and ELEMENT projects), over half of its expenditure continues to go to local companies (and 100% in the wider EU).

ELEMENT partner IDETA has recently scoped out the local community benefit of tidal stream developments in Brittany in a new report for the project. Benefits identified for these communities are:

  • Job creation. If France can replicate the UK experience, local supply chain companies will see direct job creation. These would be primarily in manufacturing and fabrication, electrical equipment, repair and installation, civil engineering and water transport. Indirectly, increased economic activity in the region would also benefit hospitality, financial, real estate and other service sectors.
  • Local energy communities. By selling tidal powered electricity through green energy providers such as ‘Enercoop’ (a citizen’s association that provides 100% green energy to consumers in France) or by creating a local energy community, energy could be provided to vulnerable groups at a lower cost. These communities would also be able to store and sell excess energy to other parts of the country too, providing additional revenue.
  • Reduced energy bills. A third of households use electricity for their home heating: the current cost reduction trajectory of tidal stream energy means that these households could benefit from cheaper power in the future.

Read the full Regional Impact Analysis Report by Annig Lehnertz, Business Analyst at regional development agency IDETA.