Marine energy park sets out its ambitions
The South West Marine Energy Park has unveiled its priorities for the sector as it finalises its first business plan.
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker announced in January that the region was to become the UK's first Marine Energy Park in a bid to bring together the various strands of marine renewables activity across the peninsula under a single banner.
The business plan will set out a raft of initiatives for the SWMEP to promote the marine energy sector at a national and international level, providing access to resources, funding and finance and opening up development opportunities.
Specific goals in its draft business plan include having 50 megawatts of wave and tidal projects installed, with more planned; creating a 'technology pathway' to accelerate the deployment of commercial scale wave and wind projects; growing the marine energy supply chain and attracting significant investment to the South West to develop ports and infrastructure.
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The park's board last week elected Peter Kydd, director of strategic consulting at Parsons Brinckerhoff, as its first chairman.
Mr Kydd said: "A top priority for the South West MEP is to attract finance and investment into the sector, and the board moved quickly to put in place a finance working group which will target investment from the private sector as well as UK government and EU funding.
"Already plans are in place to hold a South West/Guernsey finance seminar in the New Year to explore how the South West MEP can work with the investment funds managed in the Channel islands."
Johnny Gowdy, director at Regen SW, who will provide programme management for the park, said: "The South West MEP is a great example of a public/private partnership coming together to support industry growth. Success now will depend on how the partnership is able to work together to utilise the fantastic assets and natural resources that we have in the south west including our dynamic and innovative businesses."
The idea of the park is to bring together people and projects that will give the marine energy industry in the region a scale and voice that will help it to punch at or above its weight.
But there have been concerns that the virtual nature of the park, without a specific base, as well as funding constraints mean that the park will struggle to achieve these goals.
Plymouth City Council, a member of the board, has now said it has allocated £15,000 towards the park to match contributions from Cornwall and Bristol councils.
Total funding from private and public sector partners, including Plymouth University, has created a revenue pot of £100,000, which will enable the park to roll out its business plan, which is currently being finalised.
SWMEP is already working with the Government over national policy through its place on the Marine Energy Programme Board. Other foundation work includes strengthening the relationship with the Crown Estate and exploring how to help the commercialisation of ideas into energy-generating devices.
"We're entering a crucial phase which will determine not just whether the industry reaches commercial maturity but where investments will be made and the industry will put down roots. There is a lot to play for," added Mr Gowdy.