Wave generators bid to keep up with wind power

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The Independent Online

Wave-powered electricity generators are calling on the Government to introduce special renewable obligation certificates, or "wet Rocs", to help them compete with wind-powered generators.

Wave-powered electricity generators are calling on the Government to introduce special renewable obligation certificates, or "wet Rocs", to help them compete with wind-powered generators.

They want the Government to guarantee a commercial market for wave-generated electricity, which, it is estimated, could supply 10 per cent of the UK's electricity needs.

The Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, announced last week that the Government would provide £50m funding over the next three years for wave power. At least £15m of that will be given to companies in the form of research and development grants. The Government has not decided how it will distribute the rest, but says "amendments to the RO [renewables obligation] system" is one option.

Under the existing system, electricity suppliers must buy a fixed amount of electricity from renewable generators, the largest by far of which are wind farms. By 2010, 10 per cent of all electricity must come from renewables, guaranteeing a market for wind power, which is not yet economic.

If suppliers miss their targets, they must buy in "certificates" for each megawatt per hour (mw/h) of electricity missed. The renewable generators receive the proceeds.

But the world's two leading wave-powered generators want the Government to introduce a similar scheme for them.

George Taylor, president and chief executive of OPT, the world's only publicly quoted wave generator, suggested that the Government introduce separate targets for wave power.

The buyout price for certificates could be set at three times that of existing certificates for wind, he said. It is currently more expensive to generate electricity from waves than wind.

Mr Taylor added: "Wave needs more additional support than wind. If you make it market driven, investors are more likely to invest in wave companies.

"Rather than continuing R&D, at some point you have to create a commercial market. The best way is through Rocs."

The British Wind Energy Association has proposed an alternative wet Roc system, where energy regulator Ofgem would give wave generators £100 for every mw/h of electricity that they produce.

Jimmy Ferguson, managing director of Wavegen, operator of the world's first commercial-scale wave-energy device, said: "We want someone to stand up and say there will be a mechanism introduced in the future, such as wet Rocs. Developers need to know there is a guaranteed market for wave power."

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