The failure of the £42m wave hub could damage the wider marine renewable energy industry in Cornwall.
That was the warning given to the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board which met this morning.
Wave Hub, which is situated off the coast of Hayle, was seen as a big step forward for marine energy when it was commissioned in 2010. The research project was seen as a way of testing out technology which could lead to major levels of energy being generated.
However while the device has been used as a test site for some technology it has not been used to the extent that was hoped and has not generated any electricity which has made it to shore.
Cornwall Council Cabinet member Bob Egerton recently stated that a decision on the Wave Hub, which is owned by the council after it was handed over by the Government, would have to be made within the next two years.
The LEP received a report on a refresh of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Marine Renewables Roadmap, a strategy which was first published in 2015 but has been hampered by events since then including Brexit and the Government’s approach to renewable energy.
Matt Hodson, who authored the report, said that there were many good things happening in marine renewables in Cornwall but that there had to be a balance between doing projects which were ambitious but which also meet the demand of the industry.
LEP board members said that it was important that the industry told people about what was happening in Cornwall and to take focus away from the Wave Hub.
Cornwall Council leader Adam Paynter said: “The government gave us Wave Hub and it hasn’t exactly taken off. The image now is around Wave Hub and that nothing is happening.
“An awful lot is happening but we don’t know about it. We need to be careful about image and being tarnished by one potentially failing project.”
LEP board member Roland Tiplady was more critical saying: “The perception in Cornwall is that it is a complete failure and a waste of £42million. What is the industry doing to correct that misconception?”
Steve Jermy, who works in the offshore renewable energy sector, said that the Wave Hub had been designed to find ways to use wave energy but that it was a problem that “nobody in the world” has been able to solve.
He said the problem was not the Wave Hub itself, but that the industry had been unable to find ways to use it.
Mr Tiplady questioned whether the money spent on the Wave Hub would have been better invested in known energy projects such as geothermal.
He said: “If you knew at the start that nobody had done it why would you risk £40m? If there is a chance that it will work, why is that message not going out?”
Mr Jermy said that if they knew ten years ago what is known now about Wave Hub then they would “probably not” have had the investment put into it.