The UK government has launched a far-reaching consultation on how best to support marine energy technologies such as floating offshore wind farms, tidal stream, tidal lagoons and barrages, and wave energy, with the evidence feeding into a set of policy proposals to be included in its upcoming energy White Paper.

“As an island nation we are perfectly placed to capitalise on clean marine energy, building on our world-leading position in offshore wind,” said energy secretary Alok Sharma.

“Examining how to make the most of our natural resources and support marine technologies that are cost-effective for the consumer will be crucial as we build back better, creating green jobs and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.”

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it was inviting views on how project costs could be reduced, environmental impacts minimised, and how supply chains are able to benefit in all parts of the UK. The month long consultation will close to responses on 30 September.

BEIS said marine technologies could benefit every part of the UK. For example, floating offshore wind farms could be suitable for the deeper waters off the coast of Scotland, Wales and South West England, while tidal stream projects that harness the energy of the tides could be suitable for Scotland’s Highlands and Islands region, and North Wales.

It will build on a recently concluded consultation into proposed changes to the contracts for difference (CfD) support scheme, including gathering new evidence as to how the UK might support emerging renewable technologies which are still in the pre-commercial stage of development but have the potential to reduce their costs over time.

Several respondents to the earlier CfD consultation noted that both floating offshore wind and the other marine technologies had the potential to achieve similar cost reductions to fixed offshore wind, and that they could enable the UK’s significant offshore energy resource to be used to full effect.

“We are therefore seeking further views on the scope and potential of these technologies, to better our understanding of the scale and location of projects that are in development, the opportunities they offer, the timescales for their development, and the challenges they may face in moving forwards. Some projects are well known to us, but others less so,” said BEIS.

The CfD consultation explored questions on the merits of introducing floating offshore wind as a separate eligible technology with its own administrative strike price, as distinct from conventional, fixed-bottom projects under the CfD scheme. Respondents also raised potential trajectories for floating wind deployment in the UK and globally, and what wider benefits and disadvantages floating offshore wind might bring to the UK.

BEIS said a number of respondents to the CfD consultation made a range of comments on other emerging marine energy technologies, notably wave and tidal stream. In light of these responses the government decided there is merit in seeking views from a wider range of marine technologies to look at what the scope is for innovative marine energy technologies across the UK.

“To have a sustainable future any new technology also needs to offer a plausible route to becoming cost competitive with other technologies,” said BEIS. “We therefore want to understand where the realistic scope for cost reduction arises for particular marine technologies, how innovative marine technologies can compete against other renewable energy options such as fixed bottom offshore wind, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various technology options.”

The floating wind market is poised on the cusp on industrialisation, with oil supermajors including Shell and Total in recent months joining European energy giants Equinor, EDPR and Iberdrola in a fast-evolving international sector that analysts expect will expand some 30-fold from the current 70MW installed worldwide by 2030, with over-20GW of commercial-scale projects now in early planning taking shape as the levelised cost of energy numbers are brought down to around €50/MWh, similar to conventional offshore wind.