Bristol Energy and the South West Marine Energy Park

Bristol Energy – a municipal energy company

Bristol Energy is one of the UK’s first municipal energy company. It is wholly-owned by the council and it has pledged to provide local people with low carbon electricity and support energy efficiency. Opened in 2015, the company aims to supply energy at competitive prices, with its tariffs expected to save customers an average of £250 a year, and to invest in community-based renewable generation. Bristol Energy forecasts a 12% return on the council’s investment after five years, rising to 35% after 10, with money reinvested for social good. Being the first city in the UK with its own currency, the company has partnered with Bristol Pound to encourage more people in the city to keep their money local.

The South West Marine Energy Park

The South West Marine Energy Park (MEP) is a truly collaborative effort to make the most of the significant tidal, wave and offshore wind resources off the South West coast and in the Bristol Channel. It was established by a core partnership led by: Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council; the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly and Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnerships; Regen SW, Plymouth University and the University of Exeter; working with (the former) Department of Energy and Climate Change and representatives from the marine energy industry. The wider South West MEP partnership now consists of over 50 public and private sector organisations, including representatives from supply chain companies, technology developers and industrial partners.

The variety of energy resources within the park means that there is a broad portfolio of investment opportunities for projects in offshore wind, wave and tidal stream technologies, with future projects using floating wind and tidal range technologies. The close proximity of resources and infrastructure, together with a strong industry base and research facilities, creates a unique environment to support the development of new technology while also providing the scale and range of market opportunities needed to attract investment and sustain industrial growth.

Regen SW has identified that there are at least 350 companies active, or with a high degree of potential, in the Marine Energy Sector. It is difficult to calculate the value of the sector within the overall economy, but a rough estimate suggests that the Marine Energy sector currently provides employment for between 300 and 500 people in the South West mainly working for technology developers, marine operations companies, consultancies, marine sciences and environmental, legal and financial, research and some manufacturing. The economic analysis produced by the ORRAD report has identified that the sector could eventually support over 5000 people in the South West in the period from 2017 – if the South West can realise its natural resource and economic potential.

A leading initiative by South West MEP is Wave Hub – the largest consented demonstration area for marine energy technologies in the world, including the FaB Test nursery site in Falmouth Bay and a world class hydrodynamic test facility in the new Marine Sciences building which will open later this year in Plymouth. These facilities, added to the research capability and extensive facilities available through the region’s universities and in the private sector, ensure that the South West is able to provide a ‘Technology Pathway’ to support the development of new technology from concept design, prototype and component testing through to full scale demonstration.

Photo: University of Exeter via Flickr