Jan 20 2014

European Commission to Focus on Marine Renewables

The European Commission today announced an action plan for marine renewables, including the creation of an energy forum and strategic roadmap by 2016, and a European Industrial Initiative by 2020. The Communication on Ocean Energy was launched at a press conference hosted by The European Commissioner for Fisheries & Maritime Affairs, Maria Damanaki and the European Commissioner for Energy, Gunther Oettinger.

The new Ocean Energy Forum will “devise workable solutions” to issues the industry faces, such as the difficult investment climate to the challenges of maintenance in the marine environment. “Improving the affordability, reliability, survivability, operability and stability of ocean energy devices is essential,” says the communication, which focuses on the ‘blue economy’ and the economic opportunities provided by Europe’s seas.

To this end, an impact assessment accompanying the document notes that as many as 40,000 jobs could be created by 2035, with Europe’s marine renewables  industry aspiring to install 100GW of generation capacity by 2050. However the lack of strong grid connections to resource-rich areas, supply chain weaknesses and regulatory impediments are hampering growth. Few commercial-scale devices are currently deployed and the industry must shift from demonstration and prototype to commercialisation.

The proposed Forum could be a crucial aspect of this process. The Forum will bring together industry, politicians and academics with financial institutions to create a support framework for new projects.

Sian George, the CEO of Ocean Energy Europe told EurActiv

Ocean energy projects are seen as quite high risk and attracting large investment is challenging because of ocean energy’s offshore nature… The private sector has been taking the lion’s share of the risk for a number of years and we are really pleased to see the commission taking a strategic position in coordinating future investment and support from member states, the commission and industry

A strategic roadmap would set “clear targets for the industrial development of the sector as well as a timeframe for their achievement” the Commission says.

A second phase (2017-2020) would see the creation of a European Industrial Initiative to mobilise investment through public-private partnerships. Remi Gruet, policy director for the EU-funded Ocean Energy Association, noted the significance of the focus on marine renewables:

The Commission has only done a very few communications about single energy technologies; biomass in 2004 and offshore wind in 2008… The fact that they’re doing it for ocean now reflects a need to invest today in a technology that can deliver parts of the European energy mix tomorrow.

The communication does however note that research is needed to address any environmental risk that marine renewables may pose.

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