The SeaGen tidal energy system has become the first marine energy project to qualify for Britain's support for renewable energy, its developer UK Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) said on Tuesday.

MCT said the energy regulator accredited its SeaGen system for the support, known as Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs).

Up until now, marine renewable technologies have not gone beyond the R&D phase. SeaGen has changed all that, Martin Wright, MCT's managing director, said in a statement.

In May last year MCT put the world's first commercial scale SeaGen system in Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough.

The 1.2 megawatt (MW) turbine has supplied power to about 1,000 homes via the local grid.

We still have much to do to ensure that our technology is deployed on a truly commercial basis, Wright said. However, the ROCs accreditation is a positive signal that tidal energy will play a part in the country's future energy mix. MCT called on the government to provide more support to encourage investment in the nascent marine energy sector, including waves.

There is effectively no market to pull marine energy forward. It will be vital that the government...takes urgent action, Wright said.

In May, MTC said it needed about 30 million pounds to commercialize the technology, including transformation of the company itself into a larger entity.

SeaGen coverts sea current energy into electricity, using a pair of axial flow turbines. The high density of water compared to wind allows a much smaller system. SeaGen has twin 600 kilowatt turbines each of 16 meter in diameter.

(Reporting by Nao Nakanishi, Editing by Peter Blackburn)