Strategic plan for Europe’s ocean energy

Alice Mason
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During this year’s Ocean Energy Forum, a new roadmap was released which identifies actions that should be taken to facilitate the emergence of a market for ocean energy in Europe.

The Ocean Energy Strategic Roadmap sets out a strategy to deliver 10% of Europe's electricity from wave and tidal energy by the year 2050. This includes the need for a €250m investment package and a €70m insurance fund to attract investors and offset risk.

With over 45% of wave energy companies, and over half of tidal energy companies, being based in Europe a common vision is needed through the continent to make it a success story.

“The EU is in a precarious energy position. The bloc continues to reply on imports for 53% of its energy needs, costing €500bn a year. Dependence on a handful of exporting countries is becoming increasingly problematic,” the roadmap states.

“Renewables are the only viable source to power Europe in the coming decades. Based on projections, ocean energy has the potential to generate 350TWh of electricity by 2050.”

The Ocean Energy Strategic Roadmap advices the EU, Member States and the ocean energy sector to work together to implement its highlighted actions. These include identifying the most suitable sites for early deployments and supporting pre-commercial farm there, creating a packaged approach for financing farms and increasing collaboration to reduce costs.

It stated: “Action 1 – Industry and Member States to establish a European phase-gate scheme to validate sub-systems and early prototypes in less mature ocean energy technologies.”

“Action 2 – EU and National Authorities should set up a €250m Investment Support Fund providing flexible capital and enabling further private capital to be leveraged.”

Action three related to how the EU and National Authorities should set up a €50m-70m Insurance and Guarantee Fund for ocean energy demonstration and pre-commercial projects, covering risks that are currently not covered by either insurance products or manufacturers guarantees.

Finally, the fourth action surrounds relevant planning and consenting authorities de-risking environmental consenting through an integrated programme of measures. This guidance will ensure that best practice and experience in consenting ocean energy projects is shared and used to improve streamline processes.

Rémi Gruet, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe, explained: “The action plan provides concrete proposals for public-private cooperation which would turn Europe’s technology leadership into a new industrial sector, providing growth and jobs for Europe. The industry looks forward to working with decision-makers to deliver on this plan.”

The roadmap does not include the offshore wind market but its definition of ocean energy does cover the other technologies technologies, with each variation depending upon ocean resource and location. Wave energy converts derived energy from the movement of waves, while tidal steam turbines harness the flow of the currents to produce power. Tidal range uses the difference in sea level between high and low tides to create power, and finally Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) exploits the temperature difference between deep cold ocean water and warm surface waters to produce electricity via heat-exchangers.

The roadmap stands as a guide for what action the forum and the chairs believe should be taken to make the most of our tidal energy supply, it was formally delivered to the European Commission on 8 November 2016.

At the annual Ocean Energy Europe Conference, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for environment, fisheries and maritime affairs showed his political support for the roadmap.

He said: “Ocean energy is not just good news for our climate. It's also great news for job creation. We are speaking about a potential global market of up to €53bn a year. Thanks to today's roadmap, we have a convincing path for investors to follow.”

The roadmap studied a series of key case studies, the first it touched upon was the MeyGen project which is currently the largest tidal project under development in Europe.

It will deliver 398MW of tidal power once fully constructed and is currently in Phase 1A which will see the installation of four 1.5MW turbines offshore as well as the construction of onshore infrastructure.

Three of the turbines will be supplied by Andritz Hydro Hammerfest and one Lockheed Martin-designed turbine supplied by Atlantis. The project finance was secured through a mix of debt, grant and equity finance which saw an overall capital expenditure of €51.3m.

Another case study it focused on was the Clean Energy From Ocean Waves (CEFOW) project which aims to deploy 3MW of installed capacity. The project is led by Fortum and delivered in cooperation with a consortium of industry and academic partners.

It is largely financed through a EU Horizon 2020 grant which shares 69% of its overall €24.7 capital expenditure.

Mr Gruet added: “The Commission asked us to come up with a plan for commercializing ocean energy in Europe, and the sector has delivered. We are now in discussions with the Commission, the EIB and Member States on implementing this plan in the near term.”

He concluded: “Ocean energy represents a significant opportunity for Europe: the creation a new, clean, indigenous, industry which could provide 10% of Europe’s electricity and 400 000 EU jobs by 2050. As the ocean itself, the ocean energy market reaches well beyond EU borders, and our technology leadership means we can dominate those export markets. The opportunity is real and Europe needs to seize it with both hands.”

Despite the roadmap only being an outline and the views of its authors, Ocean Energy Europe is working with the EU and Member State governments to try and implement the actions detailed in the Ocean Energy Strategic Roadmap.

The plan includes the need for a €250m investment package