Until today, despite the considerable investment, very little electricity has been generated using ocean power anywhere in the world. But the several hundreds international experts and world-leading companies in ocean energy that gathered in Dublin last week, at the 4th International Conference on Ocean Energy confirm that the tide is turning.
And right so: waves, tides and currents can provide a dependable supply of clean energy, which could greatly help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and European greenhouse gas emissions by about 65 Mt CO2 in 2020.
And more: in 2011, 35.000 people were directly and indirectly employed across Europe in offshore wind: we forecast that this number will grow to 170.000 by 2020 and to 300.000 by 2030! Thanks to its growth potential, ‘Blue energy’ can revitalise coastal communities and give birth to new economic realities.
But other sources of marine energy are not yet at the same stage of development: for wave and tidal power and for ocean thermal energy conversion, the challenge is to reduce technology costs to accelerate commercialisation and invest in grid connections and transmission capacity.
EU measures can be crucial in creating confidence to invest. EU funding programmes have provided over € 80 million since 2002 to support research and development into marine energy technologies. Hundreds of projects have tested a variety of technologies and several of them are showing excellent results: in the Basque Country, the Mutriku wave power plant consists of 16 turbines of 18.5kW each, with an estimated overall power of 296kW. Wave Star in Denmark has received funding to upscale and demonstrate a 500kW wave power unit in the North Sea. The La Rance Power Station in France, with capacity of 240MW, is the second largest tidal barrage plant in the world.
EU industry is a world leader in blue energy and now a last effort is needed to provide investor confidence and support the scale-up of demonstration projects, so that we will be able to harness the power of the sea to create Blue Growth.