Powering the future
I have a few quid invested in the well-known forms of renewable energy. The more successful investments are in managed funds which benefit from venture capital tax breaks.
But I’ve hitherto been missing what is surely the UK’s best renewable energy resource: the sea that surrounds us. In particular the tidal flows that raise and lower vast amounts of water around our coast, completely reliably, every day.
Back in the 1990s when I worked with satellite images, one striking set showed the shallow waters of the North Sea off the Essex and Suffolk coast, where the phase of the tide can be seen from space due to the surface wave patterns caused by the rapid tidal flow in and out. Mile after mile of shallow water and powerful, reliable flows: westward as the tide rises, eastward as it falls. Why are we not installing underwater turbines to harness all that energy? In places there are wind turbines harnessing an altogether more fickle source, so there is presumably even the infrastructure to erect turbines and harvest energy!
Well, I haven’t found anyone building tidal stream technology in the North Sea, but there is a credible alternative suitable for certain coastal locations and capable of generating substantial amounts. And there is a project to build a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay. It looks like a win-win: they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to design a facility that serves not only to generate substantial power, but also to make an environmental and recreational virtue of it. It appears to have a good level of local support, judging by what I can find in sources such as comments at the local paper’s website.
And the project is open for investment. And it’s offering EIS tax breaks, which are even better than the venture capital breaks I enjoy on other investments. And due diligence gives me confidence in the management, not least the man in charge who has a very impressive track record and a lot of his own money at stake.
That’s a lot of very positive boxes ticked. Today I finally got around to filling in the application form and writing my cheque. I’m investing in our best future energy source.
 30% tax break up-front, with a lock-in of just 3 years, compared to 5 for Venture Capital. And further downside protection in that if the investment fails I can offset any losses against tax all over again.