Fewer wave and tidal power projects were installed in European waters in 2022 than any other year in over a decade, leaving the EU’s ambitious ocean energy deployment targets “increasingly at risk”, according to latest figures from industry advocacy body Ocean Energy Europe (OEE).

The EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy, launched over two years ago, laid out the goal of having 100MW of ocean energy projects operating by 2025 and 1GW by 2030. But only 67kW of new tidal stream capacity was deployed in 2022 – the lowest addition per year since 2010 – and only 59kW of wave energy devices (WECs), taking total operational tidal plant to 13MW and 400kW of WECs.

“Europe’s industrial leadership in ocean energy is increasingly at risk. Despite ambitious EU deployment targets, fewer projects hit European waters in 2022 than in any year since 2010,” said OEE in its annual report.

“Meanwhile, global competitors like the US and China are catching up fast. If the EU is determined to come out on top in this new era of global cleantech competition, it cannot let its frontrunner position slip away.

“How the bloc responds to this test of its leadership in wave and tidal energy will be an object lesson for its wider Green Deal industrial vision.”

According to OEE figures, 30.2MW of tidal stream technology has been installed off Europe since 2010, 17.2MW of which has been decommissioned as projects successfully completed testing programmes, and some 12.7MW of WECs, 12.3MW has since been pulled out of the water.

Global ocean energy deployments since 2010 now tot up at 41.2MW for tidal and 24.9MW for wave, with Canada emerging as “a highly attractive market” for developers with a project pipeline of 32MW, said OEE, which noted China added more tidal energy capacity than Europe in 2022, via the addition of a 1.6MW turbine at the grid-connected Hangzhou demonstration project off Xiushan Island.

“Tidal stream installations off Europe [in 2022] were limited to small-scale projects, and were dwarfed by a single state-funded, large-scale Chinese device. In wave energy, last year was the fifth in a row where the rest of the world installed more capacity than Europe.”

OEE CEO Rémi Gruet said “the drivers of this new dynamic are clear – public funding and policy support”, pointing to the US’ current annual commitment of $110m for ocean energy and China “continuing to pour state funds” into large projects.

“It’s not too late [for Europe] – the EU Green Deal Industrial Plan can empower the European Commission to rapidly restore Europe’s leadership in ocean energy. These statistics should be a wake-up call,” he said.

“Europe has the technical skills, the entrepreneurialism and the creativity to be the world number one in ocean energy – but we need a clear plan.

“The EU’s Net Zero Industry Act should explicitly include the offshore strategy’s target of 1GW of ocean energy by 2030. And the sovereignty fund should support this target with a €1bn earmarked budget. This will give much-needed teeth to the EU’s offshore renewables ambitions,” said Gruet.