The global ocean energy sector is at a turning point, with over 45 wave and tidal prototypes expected to be ocean tested in 2010 and 2011, after only a dozen were installed in 2009, according to a new IHS Emerging Energy Research market study. If these initial projects are successful, the global ocean energy project pipeline is poised to begin scaling. IHS estimates that more than 1.8 GW of ocean projects in 16 countries are currently in the pipeline.
The ocean energy industry’s recent development has attracted a slew of established energy companies with renewable growth ambitions, including leading European utilities and global technology suppliers—many with hydro and offshore wind experience. Boosted by government and policy support, the U.K. is currently the world’s leading market for ocean energy, with 300 MW of projects in the pipeline seeking to be installed over the next five years, despite the recent announcement surrounding the cancelling of the Severn Estuary tidal scheme.
However, the U.K. government hopes to add 1.3 GW by 2020, driven by its need to meet legally binding 2020 renewable targets. Ireland, France, Portugal, South Korea and Australia are also key ocean energy markets and will remain the industry’s primary focus for the next decade, according to the study.
Of the various forms of ocean energy, tidal energy is poised to mature first, with the promise of providing predictable, lower-cost electricity and a standard design. Tidal is attracting major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) into the ocean energy industry’s supply side.
“The strong synergies between tidal turbine manufacturing and the hydro power industry have attracted major power sector OEMs,” said IHS Senior Renewable Power Analyst Marianne Boust. “Over the past two years, all three of the major hydro power turbine vendors - Andritz Hydro, Alstom Hydro, and Voith Hydro - which account for over 80% of the total global hydro turbine supply, have jumped into the tidal sector.”
“Large hydro players see tidal as a synergistic growth opportunity, with at least 150 GW of installed capacity potential globally. Traditional hydro players are critical to catalyzing faster development and commercialisation of the tidal industry,” added Boust. Greater involvement by large OEMs will help the ocean energy industry overcome its technological challenges and drive down costs.
Several key players active in Europe’s scaling offshore wind industry, are also turning their attention to ocean energy as they scale their renewable portfolios. Major European utilities led by Iberdrola-ScottishPower, Vattenfall, RWE and SSE have an extensive presence in offshore wind, and each has broadened its offshore activities to include ocean energy. While a few have taken equity stakes in ocean technology promoters, most are now shifting to fund project development joint ventures.
“Continued policy support and the entrance of established energy players competing alongside maturing technology promoters signal the ocean industry’s potential to advance along the learning curve and to emerge as a scalable renewable energy alternative during the next decade,” Boust concluded.