Ocean energies are the next generation of renewable energy technologies. Being very predictable, they will help integrate even higher levels of wind and solar energy into the grid, and at a lower system cost.
For this reason, the Ocean Energy Forum, a stakeholder group set-up by the European Commission, stepped up its activities this year.
The main output of this Forum, a strategic road map outlining technology priorities, financing options and consenting barriers will be presented by the European Commission to Member States’ energy ministers at a political summit in Dublin this October, on the fringes of the Ocean Energy Europe 2015 conference.
Its message to EU states will be clear: “Here’s what we can do, and here’s what we need to do it”, with a view to turning the roadmap into a public-private partnership to develop the sector in the following years
Getting the support framework right over the next decade, could see ocean energy covering 10% of EU electricity demand by 2050, a highly attractive prospect for the EU.
Over the next few years, the ocean renewable energy industry will deploy pilot farms, with Scotland leading the way.
These early projects will set a path for the industrial roll-out of up to 100GW of deployed capacity around Europe by 2050.
The EU is now moving to support ocean energy in a meaningful way, adding further momentum to sector’s steady march towards commercialisation.
The European industry will converge on Dublin this October to hammer out a development strategy and forge partnerships that will take progress to next level. Why is this happening now?
Securing Europe’s energy supply
The bloc continues to rely on imports for its energy needs to the tune of €400 billion a year and, as the EU’s anti-trust charges against Gazprom show, dependence on a handful of exporting countries is becoming increasingly problematic. With gas production in the UK, Netherlands and Norway in decline, action is needed.
Relying on indigenous resources for energy production is without doubt the most straight forward way to secure Europe’s energy supply.
Renewables are the only long-term, viable fuel source which can power Europe in the coming decades.
Brussels is becoming increasingly interested in ocean energy because it has the potential to generate gigawatt hours of electricity, covering up to 10% of European demand by 2050.
Grid integration – more renewables at a lower cost
The idea that electricity grids cannot handle high levels of renewables is repeatedly being proven to be a myth. German wind and solar energy covers 60% of electricity demand on peak days.
The German grid only experiences 15 minutes of outages a year, compared with four hours per year in Poland’s coal-fueled grid. Increasing the range of different technologies supplying to the grid only makes this process easier.
Staying ahead of the game – turning technology advantage into a new industry
Today, 45% of wave energy companies, and 50% of tidal energy companies are based in Europe.
The knowledge and IP built up around these companies means that Europe enjoys a considerable technological advantage today.
This is already baring economic fruits: the Canadian west coast has the best tidal stream resource in the world, yet deployments there are being dominated by European player.
Today, EU companies are in prime position to dominate a global market estimated at €108bn annually by 2050.
The world is moving forward on renewables and they have become the cornerstone of any low-carbon economy today, not just in the future. The US is targeting a 32% cut in power sector emissions by 2030, and China is investing heavily in renewable energy: the transition to a low-carbon energy system is well under way.
To stay ahead of the game, Europe needs to continue to invest and support renewable energies, and particularly in the areas where it already enjoys an advantage. The EU is in dire need of industrial success stories, and ocean energy can be one of those.
Regional development – real opportunities in coastal areas
By nature of its resource, ocean energy is developed in coastal areas, many of which have been hard-hit by economic restructuring in recent decades. Putting ocean energy farms in the water will complement Europe’s regional growth agenda by generating well-paid jobs and sustainable economic.
Ocean energy developments provide under-used ports and harbours with an opportunity to innovate and specialise as hubs for blue growth.
European governments, such as in Scotland and West Normandy, have clearly recognised this, and are amongst the leading supporters of the sector.
Furthermore, a parallel route to market is emerging in the ocean energy industry. Projects are underway in islands, where strong ocean energy resources are an alternative to costly imports for oil-powered generators. The high local electricity price makes the economics of these projects work.
What is the EU doing?
Given the head start that EU technology companies enjoy in ocean energy, the sector has the potential to become a truly European success story.
Brussels has recognised this and support for the sector has never been stronger, with very real consequences: funding for ocean energy under EU programmes such as Horizon 2020, NER300 and structural funding has increased significantly in the past years. The European Investment Bank is, for the first time, looking at the ocean energy sector in a serious manner with a view to providing access to risk finance.
Securing the support needed to get the ocean energy sector off the ground cannot be garnered in Brussels alone. The bulk of the support will need to come from those EU countries who have the most to gain.
Bringing this public support together, in a coordinated manner so that it leverages a maximum of private investment is now vital.
For booking details:Ocean Energy Europe’s annual conference & exhibition – http://goo.gl/JHjpVZ