Ocean energy is ready for its takeoff in the European Union

The area will reach 5 GW of installed power on oceanic platforms, by 2030

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THE DEPLOYMENT of power capacity by ocean energy will multiply in the European Union by 90 in the next ten years. At the end of 2018, the installed power in generation technology by waves and tides in the seas and oceans of the EU was 38.9 megawatts (MW), 69.7% of the capacity of this technology in the whole planet. By 2030, the European Commission estimates that there will be an installed capacity of 5 gigawatts (GW) in the European economies, an intensification driven by technological acceleration, decarbonization policies in the area and an expected investment of 18,000 million euros.

The forecast on the development of ocean energy appears in the second report of the European Commission and the Joint Research Center on blue economy. It was published on May 16, 2019, coinciding with the European Day of the Sea conference held in Lisbon. For the European Union, the blue economy «is indispensable for our prosperity and our well-being in the future», according to Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The mature sectors of the blue economy, such as coastal tourism, ship construction and repair, port services, aquaculture, oil and gas extraction and maritime transport, provide the EU with an annual added value of 180,000 million euros. euros and employ more than four million people, according to 2017 figures indicated by the European Commission in its report.

Alongside these traditional activities, others emerge such as offshore wind energy, ocean energy, blue biotechnology, services associated with protected marine ecosystems or the spatial planning of seas and oceans that form a new blue economy in which growth and Preservation of the natural capital of the ocean go hand in hand.

Europe is a net exporter of ocean energy technology. Its researchers are «well positioned to exploit the growth of the sector on a global scale,» according to the Commission

The EU’s strategy on the sea is reflected in a Framework Directive whose objective is «to ensure that high economic growth» is directly related to «the preservation of our seas and their resources for the next generations», as explained by Mr. Vella.

In the field of clean energies in the sea –offshore wind and oceanic by waves and tides– the European Union is at the forefront in technology research and installed capacity. 58% of developers of tidal energy technology and 61% of wave energy technology are established in the European Union, according to the 2019 report on blue economy prepared by the European Commission and the JRC.

Much of the technology of the subsector of ocean energy –by waves and tides– is in the R&D phase. Between 2003 and 2017, the total investment accumulated in these activities has been 3,500 million euros in the European Union. Of this amount, 2,800 million have been contributed by the private sector. «We have seen increasing interest since 2008» [in ocean energy], the Commission notes in its report. In the absence of statistical records in such a new industry, the report estimates in more than 674 R&D companies, 430 supply companies and 2,250 jobs the size of this subsector today.

50% of ocean energy patents in the European Union are wave technology, 45% corresponds to current technology, 3% to water columns, and 2% to thermal ocean energy conversion. European developers are protecting their inventions in all key ocean markets outside the EU, such as the United States, China, Japan and Korea. In the field of patents registered in international markets, the European Union is a world leader. Europe is a net exporter of ocean energy technology. Its researchers are «well positioned to exploit the growth of the sector on a global scale,» according to the Commission.

The European Union has invested 440 million euros between 2007 and 2018 in projects that develop technology to convert, transport and store the energy of waves and tides. Its momentum has mobilized 900 million public and private sources for this emerging industry, according to the Commission. Some of these projects are being developed in outermost regions, as is the case of research and prototypes of Plocan and EnerOcean in the Canary Islands.

Research into new sources of energy at sea is a race against the clock, due to the advance of global warming. The Commission estimates between 12,000 and 40,000 million euros the economic impact of climate change in 2050. Between 500,000 and 740,000 EU citizens will be directly affected. The European Union is the region of the world that is investing most in the development of clean energy at sea. Only through the financial instruments of the European Investment Bank, 20,000 million euros have been contributed to the blue economy in the last ten years, according to the report of the European Commission.

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