HC Deb 25 October 1976 vol 918 cc12-4
8. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what progress is being made towards the conversion of sea wave energy into electricity.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon

This Department, on the advice of the Advisory Council on Research and Development for Fuel and Power, has set up a research programme to examine the feasibility of large-scale extraction of sea wave energy. Details of this programme were given to the House on 29th April this year. The work is being directed by the Wave Energy Steering Committee which reports to our Chief Scientist.

Four particular types of device have been chosen for study, each depending on a different mode of operation. These are now at different stages of development, but it is expected that at the end of about two years sufficient information will be available to allow a decision on whether or not to proceed to larger-scale models and eventually prototype work.

Mr. Jessel

If the experiments go well, what proportion of British electricity requirements does the Minister foresee ultimately coming from this system?

Dr. Mabon

I know that there is a certain amount of hilarity about this in the House, but the amount of energy in the seas around the United Kingdom is in the range of two to four times the present-day output of electricity. It is difficult to predict the development rate at which we shall be able to exploit wave energy, but the figure of about 4,000 mW electrical equivalent by the end of the century has been judged by scientists as a reasonable forecast, so I think that the hilarity should be restrained.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that an official report declared the viability of tidal power in the Severn Estuary more than 50 years ago? Will it take equally long for nothing to be done about sea wave energy?

Dr. Mabon

There is a tide in the affairs of men—. As the Science Research Council, Harwell and other notable institutions are examining this matter very seriously, and as the Government have great energy, something will be done.

Mr. Donald Stewart

In view of the early work done in Scotland, will the Minister confirm that research will continue in Scotland, bearing in mind the significant wave reactions off the Western Isles?

Dr. Mabon

Yes, but that is nothing to the Labour typhoon that is about to sweep away the SNP.