Let’s have a New Year revolution in tidal energy

Post-COP 26, there is increased interest in tidal energy and, according to Stuart Murphy, the resource is the only way that the UK can guarantee 100% green base-load electricity in the future and overcome the intermittency issues associated with wind and solar.

We’ve come to that time of year when thoughts turn to the New Year. Resolutions, both personal and professional, are starting to be made and I’m currently reviewing my own business portfolio to see where we can grow, and make a difference, in 2022. 

Against the backdrop of autumn’s 2021 energy and fuel crises, my mind turns to our renewable energy infrastructure. Particularly, its real lack of diversity and, as we saw in September and October, security. Those events perfectly showcased the risks of being beholden to intermitted resources, primarily, offshore wind and a bit of solar, to green our grid. 

It cannot go on like this. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, we’re regularly falling back on fossil fuels (gas and coal) or expensive imports (from sources unknown). We need a new strategy for green energy generation - and fast. 

The fact is, clean baseline [also known as base load] is the goal and yet we’re still so far off achieving it. So, I’m now calling on all those in the civils, infrastructure and utilities sector to undertake a collective resolution to make 2022 the year this becomes a business priority. 

With wind and solar inherently intermittent, we must explore systems which can operate reliably, consistently and perpetually, day-in-day-out. I believe we can only achieve this through further exploration and investment in tidal renewables, specifically tidal range energy [TRE]. 

We’re at the high-water mark and it’s time we adopted a better understanding of the crucial place tidal should have within our energy infrastructure, as it’s the only truly reliable energy resource we have. And it’s the only realistic, scalable solution for achieving green baseline. It will mean we will no longer be reliant on fossil fuels, or beholden to international government to prop up our supply when demand spikes. 

Not only this, it will be integral for the development of another nascent, but equally ground-breaking innovation, hydrogen capture. One of the most exciting technological developments of the last 100 years, green hydrogen as an alternative to petrol, diesel and kerosene in transport will be revolutionary. 

However, before we start getting too excited, there are a number of hurdles to jump, including challenges around sustainable capture and scalability. Currently it takes a huge amount of energy to produce this ancient element in large quantities. 

Tidal range could potentially change all that as the offshore, off-grid power source for capturing facilities, with the energy generation system in-built and a ready access to the large amounts of water needed for production. It’s the kernel of an idea, but one which could kick-start the industry and help phase out fossil fuels for good, by decarbonising vehicles and heavy machinery. 

It’s a massive opportunity for the UK civils and infrastructure sector. Tidal range and hydrogen will deliver more job opportunities, greater local investment, urban renewal and other socio-economic benefits across the UK, particularly in some of the most deprived coastal areas. This type of critical infrastructure can also provide a boost for housebuilding, destination creation prompting new transport links and utilities provision. We need to start realising these endless possibilities now. 

Ultimately, we cannot afford to continue down the road we’re currently travelling. A crossroads is coming up, beyond which there is no return. So, I urge Infrastructure Intelligence readers, as they start to plot out their resolutions for the coming year, to think long and hard about what’s needed to achieve 100% green baseline and clean fuel, and the role tidal range and hydrogen can play to save our planet too. Who knows, it might be the start of a much needed and highly lucrative infrastructural investment programme, one which will pay huge dividends tomorrow and forever. 

Stuart Murphy is the founder and inventor of the tidal range project TPGen24.