Martin Hannan: Sea power’s the wave forward

The UK Climate Change Minister Greg Barker visited Pelamis Wave Power in Leith in 2011. Pic: Jane Barlow
The UK Climate Change Minister Greg Barker visited Pelamis Wave Power in Leith in 2011. Pic: Jane Barlow
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The news that local marine energy company Pelamis had gone into administration did not shock me. It was known that Pelamis was having difficulty in getting the funds to develop its world-leading wave power technology, and given the uncertainty surrounding the energy sector at the moment, it was not entirely surprising that investors in a new branch of energy science were thin on the ground.

For various reasons, however, the news upset me, and not just because I detest it whenever Edinburgh companies and their employees face the prospect of an uncertain future.

I have been observing Pelamis from afar for several years, and the company’s results at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney – the world’s top marine energy testing facility – were very encouraging. It really did seem to have an idea which, given time and funding, would lead to a commercial success.

Here is an Edinburgh firm that is leading the world with a technology which, in time, could provide renewable energy from the most abundant and inexhaustible material on the planet – sea water. Now the future looks grim, though I know Blair Nimmo, the administrator from KPMG, and if anyone can turn things round, it is he.

EMEC managing director Neil Kermode summed it up in one sentence when he said that the Pelamis announcement “is undoubtedly a big setback in the mission to learn how to harvest energy from the sea, but the prize is still there”.

He is so right. If we can just get wave and particularly tidal power to the point of commercial use then Scotland could be floating on a gold mine. Our seas could power all of these islands and a good part of Europe, too.

It really galls me that private capital is seemingly not prepared to take a long-term view of what is happening to our planet. But then, what do you expect from ‘get rich quick’ capitalists? They sicken me, as does the Westminster government whose messing around with the energy market, and the uncertainty that is causing, is one of the root causes of Pelamis’ problems.

Short-termism is the curse of these days. In politics and financial circles alike, very few powerful people can see beyond the end of their nose. That’s the real reason why Pelamis is in trouble.

We can no longer depend on a future where our power comes from oil, gas and coal. Even though Scotland has more of these fossil fuel resources than anywhere else in western Europe, we will run out of them sometime in the 2000s, though later rather than sooner.

Whether you believe in man-made climate change or not – and if you don’t, I think you have an ostrich mentality – it is a matter of common sense that we should be looking at clean, secure power sources that are renewable.

Wind, wave, and tidal power are the future for Scotland. Last month, for instance, wind power alone generated an amazing 126 per cent of Scotland’s electricity. That means that once every household in Scotland had been provided with 
electricity, there was enough left to export power for about 800,000 houses.

Energy from the sea could do much more. Scotland must keep searching for the prize, and that means giving Pelamis a future.

Fare old mess on the buses

What on earth has been going on at Lothian Buses? The Evening News has yet again led the way with a series of revelations about the internal strife at our municipal transport company which is very unsettling, not least because 2013 was its “best year ever”, as Lothian Buses boasted back in May.

That transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds, above, is taking over as chair of the company following the resignation of Ann Faulds tells me one thing – that Edinburgh City Council as the largest shareholder is seriously concerned about the future of Lothian Buses.

That should worry us all.

FROM TAP TO BOTTOM

The Tories threw the “kitchen sink” at the Rochester by-election, but they, Labour and the Lib Dems collapsed. Forget sinks, they need a plug to stop them disappearing down Ukip’s

drain.

Going nowhere fast, I’m afraid

Regular readers will know I have a frequent moan about the roadworks in Edinburgh which always appear to be unplanned and haphazard. They look highly organised compared with what’s going on in Midlothian at the moment.

All I’m saying is avoid the A701 between Straiton and Penicuik like the plague. How any council could allow such a roadworks mess is beyond me.

MacAskill’s made us a better nation

Having known Kenny MacAskill for some years, and indeed having been his SNP constituency convener for a brief time, I am saddened that he is no longer in the Scottish Cabinet.

I didn’t agree with everything he did as Justice Secretary, but of this I am sure – Kenny, pictured, always did what he thought was best for the people of Scotland.

The fact that Angus Sinclair was finally convicted of the World’s End murders was down to Kenny’s piloting of the Double Jeopardy Act through Holyrood – no such law, and Sinclair would never have been convicted of that heinous crime. Both he and Mike Russell, instigator of the Curriculum for Excellence which will eventually pay great dividends for our kids, have made Scotland a better nation.

Thanks, gentlemen.