PARIS (Reuters) - France needs to hurry up and establish the regulatory framework for renewable marine energy, allowing companies to experiment with wave and tide power if it wants to catch up with industry leader Britain, a government report said.
Marine energy is still in its infancy relative to other sources of renewable energy like wind or solar power, with no large-scale commercial facility yet in operation.
Britain has been making big strides in marine energy, however. It has 12 large-scale prototype devices with a capacity of 9 megawatts (MW) generating clean electricity, more than the rest of the world combined. It is also the first country to lease sea beds for almost 2 gigawatts of capacity.
France controls the world's second largest sea area. It also has Europe's second biggest tide potential after Britain with an electricity production capacity of 3,000 MW to 5,000 MW, which is the equivalent of 3 to 5 average-sized nuclear reactors.
The report published jointly by the French ministries for industry and energy on Friday said France needed to push on with its own pilot projects as global competition intensified.
French industrial heavyweights Alstom, Areva GDF Suez, EDF Energies Nouvelles, Nexans, as well as other small and medium-sized companies were awaiting the government's green light to press ahead with marine projects, it said.
"Those companies are waiting for the state to display its strategy to enable them to prepare for their own development schedule and secure the financing of the projects," the report said, adding that commercial development of marine energy capacity could be in place as early as 2016.
Britain is already aiming to install 100 to 200 MW of wave and tidal energy by 2020. However, industry experts say making the leap from prototype to full-scale commercialization will be a challenge, especially in the current climate of economic slowdown and competition from Asia.
(Reporting by Muriel Boselli and Marion Douet; Editing by Clelia Oziel)