Ocean energy production could grow 20-fold this decade to reach 10GW of installed capacity, with tidal and wave plants providing mainstream power generation and spurring forward a global blue economy that will bring “major benefits” to small island developing states (Sids) and coastal communities, according to latest calculations from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
Currently accounting for only 530MW of installed capacity worldwide, tidal stream and wave projects now under construction could add another 3GW of plant in the next five years, but could expand to more than triple this figure with “the right incentives and regulatory frameworks in place”, said Irena, which today signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate with industry advocacy body Ocean Energy Europe to accelerate the sector.
“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,” said Irena director-general Francesco La Camera.
“Close cooperation with Ocean Energy Europe is absolutely vital to share knowledge with industry to ensure a widespread deployment of ocean and offshore renewables in the future.”
Ocean Energy Europe CEO Rémi Gruet stated: “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.”
Developed in an international commercial industry, ocean renewable energy, forecast to see growth to 2030 driven by projects in Europe (55%), Asia-Pacific (28%) and the Middle East and Africa (13%), is being looked to to decarbonise power production and generated “affordable and reliable access to electricity” as countries move to fulfil their Paris Agreement pledges and contribute to global climate action.
More widely, offshore renewables have the potential to help meet the energy supply for green shipping, cooling and water desalination.
“Following the steps of wind power and PV, innovative offshore renewables have seen huge cost reductions in recent years,” said Irena and Ocean Energy Europe in a joint statement. “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 [research and innovation] programmes, revenue support, and regional co-operation in marine spatial planning are now needed to bring these technologies to the commercial stage.”
Irena calculates ocean energy resources could generate between 45,000-130,000TWh of electricity a year.
A report from Ocean Energy Europe earlier this year found that installation of some 2.6GW of tidal and wave arrays over the next decade off Europe could spearhead development of a 100GW market by 2050.
The international ocean energy sector has suffered choppy water for most of the past decade, with tidal stream power ploughing ahead with plans to build a market-changing “multi-hundred-MW” tidal power plant off the west coast of France announced in 2018 by developer Simec Atlantis Energy, and, most recently, new funding for arrays off the east coat of Canada.