Ocean Energy Europe and Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on December 1 to deepen existing cooperation to accelerate the commercialisation of ocean energy technologies, by promoting the right policy incentives and innovative business models in Europe and globally, IRENA said.
Ocean Energy Europe CEO Rémi Gruet and IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera signed the MoU at the annual Ocean Energy Europe Conference & Exhibition on December 1.
According to two new studies by IRENA, oceans hold abundant, largely untapped renewable energy potential that could drive a vigorous global blue economy. Fostering a blue economy: Offshore renewable energy and the Agency’s Innovation outlook: Ocean energy technologies find that in addition to providing mainstream power generation, a blue economy driven by offshore renewables will bring major benefits to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and coastal communities, IRENA said in a press release.
Ocean energy can not only help to decarbonise power generation, provide affordable and reliable access to electricity, help countries to fulfil Paris Agreement pledges and contribute to global climate action, IRENA said, adding that offshore renewables can help meet energy needs for shipping, cooling and water desalination, laying the foundation for a broad-based blue economy and industry. They create jobs, improve health, strengthen people’s livelihoods and foster wider socioeconomic opportunities for a green recovery from COVID-19.
“Renewable energy from oceans has the potential to meet four times the global electricity demand of today, foster a blue economy, and bring socio-economic benefits to some of the most vulnerable areas to climate change such as SIDS and coastal areas,” La Camera said. “Close cooperation with OEE in platforms like IRENA’s Collaborative Framework and Coalition for Action is absolutely vital to share knowledge with industry to ensure a widespread deployment of ocean and offshore renewables in the future,” he added.
For his part, Gruet hailed the formalisation of a “fruitful collaboration between OEE and IRENA”. “Europe is a world-leader in the development of ocean energy, but the massive potential of these technologies is unarguably global in scale. Working on joint initiatives and exchanging information with IRENA will strengthen the advancement of these technologies on the international stage,” he said.
Today, ocean energy accounts for approximately 530 megawatts of installed generation capacity globally, IRENA said, adding that the tidal stream and wave projects currently under construction may add another 3 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity short-term within the next 5 years, most of it in Europe (55%), Asia-Pacific (28%) and the Middle East and Africa (13%). However, with the right incentives and regulatory frameworks in place, IRENA foresees the potential growth of ocean energy up to 10 GW of installed capacity by 2030 globally.
“Following the steps of wind power and solar PV, innovative offshore renewables have seen huge cost reductions in recent years. Tidal and wave energy already offer a viable alternative for remote diesel-powered island territories with high electricity costs. As economies of scale push costs down even further, these technologies will become affordable options alongside mature renewable energy sources. Strong R&I programs, revenue support, and regional co-operation in marine spatial planning are now needed to bring these technologies to the commercial stage,” IRENA said.
At the Ocean Energy Europe Conference, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said on December 1 said offshore energy can help Europe meets its climate targets. “Offshore energy – wave, tidal and wind – is about playing to our natural strengths that our planet is providing us. It’s the oldest trick in the book, really. And in Europe, we have seas and an ocean that are naturally full of renewable energy ready for the taking. We are well positioned to exploit this opportunity. Already the EU is the global technological leader in ocean energies,” Simson said.
The Commissioner noted that in 2018 EU countries represented eight out of the top ten global exporters in this area. “EU companies hold 66% of the patents in tidal and 44% in wave energy. EU DNA runs throughout projects across the world. This head start is an advantage if we want to become the world powerhouse of offshore technologies. But it’s not a given. We have a lot of work to do. To get to the levels of offshore renewable energy that we are seeking we need to change the entire system surrounding offshore energy in Europe. And that also means a change in thinking,” Simson said.
“A few weeks ago we launched our EU strategy on offshore energy to do just that. We have set our sights on 300 GW of offshore wind and 40 GW of ocean energy across our basins by 2050. And in the next ten years alone we want to produce at least 1GW of tidal and wave energy. Our strategy lays out our way forward for reaching these goals. How we can reduce costs. How we can support companies bringing new technologies from idea to market. And how we can optimise our regulation, where needed,” the Commissioner said.
“Overall, I see this strategy as the beginning of a new way of thinking in three main areas. First, from borders to basins. We expect to install 300 – plus 40 GW of offshore renewable energy. That translates to many more sites for production as well as many more connections to the grid. Close regional cooperation is going to be absolutely key. We are talking about building on our collective natural resource. Five basins. We must force ourselves to plan based on these basins, not individual Member States. This will be key for scaling up in a cost-effective way,” Simson said.
“Second, we need to shift our thinking from concentrated to connected. Connected means a number of things when it comes to offshore energy. Let’s look at the infrastructure first. Because without the right electricity grid to bring the power onshore efficiently and directly to consumers, our plans are a moot point. Right now we are working on the revision of the TEN-E regulation which will arrive later this year. It will propose a framework for onshore and offshore grid infrastructure development,” she said. “Thinking in a more connected way also means looking at those areas impacted by changes to our seas and oceans. Our energy needs should be aligned with our environmental principles as well as everything else that takes place in the sea – fishing, tourism, shipping and defence,” she added.
“Third, from energy to economy. This strategy is not just about the renewable energy industry. The industry supporting offshore is pan-European. Offshore energy might only be visible to the naked eye when we stand on the coast and look out to sea. But that growing value chain stretches all the way, inland even to those countries without direct access to the sea,” Simson said, noting that 2500 people are employed in the ocean energy in Europe. But there is potential for many times more.
Offshore energy as an industry offers new opportunities, yes for renewable energy, but also for the economy in regions most affected by the clean energy transition, the Commissioner said, adding, “And that’s even more relevant today than it was one year ago when we launched the Green Deal as Europe’s growth strategy”.