TIDAL Energy has the potential to become a huge power resource for Scotland, but patience is required to allow the technology needed for its exploitation to become reliable.
Andrew Lever, director of innovation at the Carbon Trust Scotland, expects significant progress to be made in exploiting tidal energy in Scotland over the next 10 years, citing the MeyGen project in Caithness as a world leading move into the sector.
Mr Lever, who also noted that two licences had recently been granted for offshore farms in Scotland, said the country's rich tidal resources mean it is well placed to take advantage of energy source. He warned it is a "technology that requires some patience and development", but declared that "if it can be tapped and be achieved, it offers a great export opportunity and a great addition to the energy mix."
Mr Lever was speaking after addressing the All-Energy conference at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, which attracted more than 5,600 delegates on its first day on Wednesday.
He used his speech to highlight the strides Scotland is making towards a low-carbon future, including the creation of Wave Energy Scotland, an offshoot of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, as well as some of the challenges it faces in realising that goal.
Asked later to assess how proactive the business community in Scotland is in becoming more energy efficient, he said more could be done to help firms understand how much energy they are consuming. He drew comparisons with the past, when households could tell how much energy they were consuming by simply observing how much coal they had in their possession.
"I think it's as much about people understanding and being educated... [about] where they are using energy and how they are using energy," Mr Lever said. "That's what I was trying to encapsulate in terms of the visibility of energy. There's a low-cost opportunity for people to understand that better.
"But there are a number of solutions and software and energy management [tools] that are relatively low cost to implement that can give you that visibility but also an element of control that ultimately reduces consumption."
Mr Lever highlighted smart meters as a low-cost solution for businesses to become more energy efficient, but added: "It's how you present the data.
"That's the key aspect. [Taking] the analogy with coal, people were able to see how much energy physically they had and budget appropriately for that."
Asked whether energy policy had been sufficiently prominent during the election campaign, Mr Lever diplomatically responded that a range of approaches had been highlighted in debates.
"As always, it divides opinion
on what the right solution is," he said.
"There is a certain logic towards having a diverse energy supply. From a Carbon Trust perspective, we are always very keen that we do push towards a more sustainable energy future, and undoubtedly that means low carbon."
The influence of politics on energy policy was also highlighted by professor Paul Ekens of University College London, who focused on the challenges and opportunities involved in the transition to a low-carbon system in the period to 2050.
Mr Ekens said the options and choices for developing policy are "essentially political... which is why they are difficult". This is illustrated, he said, by the Conservative Party's opposition to the further development of onshore wind farms in England, in spite of it being the cheapest form of low-carbon technology, and the rejection of nuclear power in Germany