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The BBC's David Concar
"The future of wave power now hangs on this machine"
 real 56k

Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 09:17 GMT
Making waves to generate cash
oceans
Climatic conditions in Scotland "are ideal"
A wave-powered electricity generator sited off the Scottish island of Islay will become the first in the world to feed into a national grid when it opens next Tuesday.

But scientists believe Scotland could end up missing out on thousands of jobs and business worth billions of pounds because the UK Government will not give its full backing to alternative energy generation.

The researchers think financial help from the state is desperately needed if wave and other green technologies are to be advanced.


As the world's stock of fossil fuels inevitably declines and our power stations approach the end of their working lives, that's really when we'd expect the renewable energy sector to come into its own

Elaine Hanton, HIE
The company behind the Islay project says Scotland has to act now if it is to reap the benefits.

Alan Thomson, of Inverness-based Wavegen, says the country is in an excellent position exploit the technologies with its ideal climatic conditions and the existing fabrication facilities capable of building large generators.

"There is a massive potential, global potential, and there is a real danger of it slipping through our hands.

"We're in danger of say, within 10 years, importing the same technology from overseas as we now produce domestically.

"Most other developed countries are now investigating their wave programmes because they see it as being a huge opportunity," said Mr Thomson.

Comprehensive study

Next week, the Commission for Wave Power in Scotland will tell the Scottish Executive what steps should be taken to ensure the country gets its share of what could be a 500bn market.

Scotland's Environment Minister Sam Galbraith admits a big financial investment in the national grid is needed and a comprehensive study should be carried out into how improvements can be made.

Wavegen
Wavegen: The company behind the project
"We need to enhance our renewable energy but there is a problem with the national grid on the West Coast in particular where the wave and wind power is available," said Mr Galbraith.

He added that the issue of improving the national grid had to be a UK-tackled one.

Green MSP Robin Harper said he was not comforted by Mr Galbraith's view.

"We need a really firm commitment on renewable energy - we don't have national guidelines on this matter yet and that is worrying," he added.

News of the potentially lucrative resource comes as Highlands and Islands Enterprise embarks on a study to examine how future energy markets, such as wave, wind and waste power, can be used to the region's advantage.

Technical constraints

The team of investigators, who will produce a report in the new year, will consider the technical constraints associated with connecting generation in remote areas to the electricity network.

Other countries are already well down the road to using natural resources as renewable energy.

In Denmark, the wind industry alone employs 15,000 people in both generation and manufacturing.

Elaine Hanton, of the HIE, said: "One reason why use of renewable energy in the UK has not taken off in the same way as Scandinavia is that, for the time being, demand can be met through existing supplies such as coal, nuclear and gas power

"Looking ahead, however, as the world's stock of fossil fuels inevitably declines and our power stations approach the end of their working lives over the next 10 to 20 years, that's really when we'd expect the renewable energy sector to come into its own."

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See also:

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