Harvest the benefits of the ocean energy sector – the governments were once again called on to – and take marine energy into consideration as one of the answers to some challenging policy questions. The industry has – on the other hand – been advised to speak with unified voice, focused more on solutions than on problems as the government and investors need more proven facts and figures to show more support, according to the leading industry players.
Speaking at the Marine Energy Event in Amsterdam, held as part of Offshore Energy Exhibition and Conference (OEEC), the targeted audience of leading marine energy professionals discussed the latest development in the industry, highlighting the first successful demonstration projects and their implications for the future of the sector, as well as the investment and policy challenges the emerging marine energy industry is still facing.
“Ocean energy is probably an easy fix to all the changes that we’ll have to do in the production system in the next ten years. This is an easy solution we should go for,” said the first speaker of the event, Xavier Guillou, Policy Officer at European Commission’s DG MARE.
Restating the continued commitment of the European Union to support further development of ocean energy, Guillou pointed out the already existing financial support mechanisms for ocean energy technology and project developers such as Horizon 2020, and various structural and innovation funds.
Guillou also spoke about the financial needs of the sector in the EU, identified in the recently published market study on ocean energy, whose optimistic’ scenario with the current level of political support estimated about 3.9GW of cumulative marine energy installed capacity is expected globally until 2030.
The value of government support for successful project delivery was showcased on the example of the world’s largest tidal energy array known as the MeyGen project, developed by UK company SIMEC Atlantis Energy, whose Head of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Tom Walsh, talked about the multiple financial instruments offered by the UK and Scottish governments, as well as EU, that were used to fully develop the project’s initial phase.
“With phase 1A of the MeyGen project fully operational, the SIMEC Atlantis team now has access to a comprehensive set of verified operation performance data from a real world, tidal energy array. We are now fully focused on rolling out future, large scale arrays and are leveraging this unique dataset to drive cost reduction throughout the system,” said Walsh.
“The costs of tidal energy are already falling rapidly, we look forward to accelerating this process as we rapidly drive towards parity with established, renewable technologies,” he added.
The connection between government support and successful raising of private equity for project delivery and technology development was brought to light by Martin Edlund, the Chief Executive Officer of Swedish marine energy company Minesto, which completed the initial commissioning sea trials of its utility-scale ‘tidal energy kite’ off the coast of Wales earlier this year.
“To move this industry forward, investments are needed, and Minesto has over the years been fortunate enough to have an in-depth collaboration with different entities related to the European Union.
“The major strength for the sector is the availability of this support. We’ve matched European Union funding with private equity – but without the support and the lead from the EU for the sector, we would not have been able to attract the private funding on the level that we have,” said Edlund.
In the five years ahead, according to Edlund, a major shift from technology development to deployment of smaller arrays will take place.
“It’s going to be stepwise. We’re not going reach into bankable funding streams, and debt financing easily for the first years. We will have to carry the burdens of the first projects in different ways than standard funding or financing model. That will almost definitely include the participation of the wider offshore energy sector,” Edlund added.
Leading ocean energy industry investor and consultant, Andrew Smith of DejaBlue Consulting, offered the investor point of view, shedding more light on investor demands from the industry.
Breaking down the sector into three interconnected elements – the industry, the policy makers, and the investors – Smith said: “The industry needs to tell governments that it offers solutions to some really challenging policy problems.”
Smith emphasized the importance of strong level of public support, as the sustainability and climate change will inevitably drive in the investors.
Tell the story, support the story, and build the story, and then, present it to the governments offering solutions and not problems – marine energy technology and project developers have been encouraged by Smith.
He also spoke about the value of collaboration within the marine energy sector, especially between the R&D and commercial which should be endorsed from ‘day one’.
Providing some guidelines for the industry, Smith noted: “If you are developing a technology really think about what is new about what you are doing – do you need to spend time, effort and money on a bespoke element if a tried and tested one – and thus a bankable one – already exists?”
Direct call for consultation, and potentially collaboration, has been conveyed to the marine energy industry by the government official Matthijs Mahler, who represented the project bureau investigating the feasibility of tidal power plant Brouwersdam on behalf of the Provincie Zuid-Holland.
Namely, the Dutch authorities have organized market consultation for the development of the Brouwersdam barrier between Lake Grevelingen and the North Sea as a tidal power plant, inviting commercial parties to show interest for the project looking to use the flood barrier an alternative clean energy source by exploiting tidal energy for power production.
More to marine energy, than tides and waves
The event also saw another marine energy source presented to the public – ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). The technology was described by Berend Jan Kleute, Chief Technology Officer at Dutch clean energy technology developer Bluerise, who also gave an update on the company’s OTEC projects throughout the world.
Testing tidal devices in an estuary was explained Marlène Kiersnowski, Development Manager of the SEENEOH test site, located on the Garonne River in the French city of Bordeaux.
Kiersnowski emphasized the importance of putting more devices into the water, and demonstrating that the technology is working, and in her own words – ‘working well’.
Also, according to Kiersnowski, it is important to start small to be able to scale up – at least in the SEENEOH’s philosophy.
The SEENEOH site manager presented the case studies from the site, showing HydroQuest and DesignPro Renewables tidal turbines currently under trials at the center, also revealing that a working group has been established to explore the possibility o SEENEOH becoming the operator of another tidal test site – the Paimpol-Bréhat site, located off Brittany in France.
The worldwide export potential of European ocean energy technology and expertise was highlighted by Andre Hoogeveen, Chief Operations Officer on behalf of BAM, a partner company of Tidal Bridge which is developing a floating bridge equipped with tidal power plant in Indonesia.
Turbine configurations that could equip the tidal bridge include Tocardo’s T2 turbines, Schottel Instream Turbines SIT250, and Fishflow Tidal Turbines deployed in arrays, according to Hoogeven.
The event, moderated by ocean energy specialist from Dutch Marine Energy Centre (DMEC), Peter Scheijgrond, was wrapped up with the closing word from Piet Ackermans, Chairman at Dutch Energy from Water Association (EWA), delivered after the closing discussion panel, guided by DMEC’s Director Britta Schaffmeister, who brought together all event speakers to the stage to offer some guidelines to the marine energy sector.
“We need to continue to find our place within the energy mix, and continue to innovate and work together as well,” said Tom Walsh from SIMEC Atlantis.
Minesto’s chief Martin Edlund stated his was a listed company, recommending others to “jump onboard now, and not to wait,” bringing the panel to the close.
Prepared by Amir Garanović