Ocean energy is abundant and renewable. It can play an important role in the energy mix as it is very predictable, contributing substantial value to the energy system.
Under the right conditions for both technological development and project deployment, the potential contribution of ocean energy is estimated to be of around 10% of EU power demand by 2050.
There are five main ocean energy sources:
- tidal stream
- tidal range
- salinity gradient
- ocean thermal gradient (OTEC)
The technologies to capture these resources are at different stages of development in Europe.
Challenges and opportunities
Over the past ten years, over 20MW of tidal stream and wave devices on different scales have been tested in European waters, however all these devices remained at pre-commercial stage and only minor examples exist today of ocean energy systems in operation.
Considerable progress is required for this sector to realise its potential contribution to energy supply, industrial leadership, economic growth and mitigation of climate change.
Progress is needed in the following areas:
- demonstration and validation of the technology
What the European Commission is doing
The European Commission has supported ocean energy research and development for many years through funding research projects. These are in particular focused on the demonstration of reliability of ocean technologies and their capacity to survive in aggressive sea conditions so reducing the risk for project developers and investors.
EU support also aims to make ocean energy cost-competitive with other technologies and demonstrate market potential.