Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Ocean Energy Forum.
Since this Forum was set up just over a year ago, our long-term goal has stayed the same – namely, the development of the economic capacity of the ocean within the European energy sector.
We know that in the future we will depend much more on the resources of our seas and oceans, not only for food, but also for other essential items such as medicines, raw materials, and of course, energy
One of the key challenges that lie before us today is to make sure we avoid making the same mistakes in the sea as we did on land.
We have to ensure that there is solid stewardship of the oceans, not only in the EU but also worldwide. This will help create a strong framework within which new activities can emerge. Ocean energy is at the centre of this framework.
Today I want to mention three points.
- How seriously this new Commission takes ocean energy
- How the Commission views the developments in the sector
- And how we can plan the next steps together
Two major initiatives have already taken place since this Commission took office in November; the Juncker Investment package, and the European Energy Union.
In February the Commission set out its vision for a true Energy Union. While we have been drafting our plans, Energy security has come to the fore. This is one area where ocean energy can assert its strategic importance.
Waves are abundant on the European coasts. A number of sites with vast tidal ranges and powerful tidal streams are present.
Using these indigenous energy resources certainly makes sense. They can shield our economies from the whims of the international energy market.
But the main driver for developing ocean energy is by far its promise to deliver clean, renewable energy. If we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95% before 2050, ocean energy will have a definitive role to play.
And as very predictable sources of energy, waves and tides have a distinct advantage over other forms of renewables.
A second important initiative by this Commission is President Juncker’s bold investment plan. This Plan will unlock public and private investments in the real economy of at least € 315 billion over the next three years. It is designed to match Member State priorities.
Ocean energy fits very well into this plan. Those Member States that have invested in offshore renewable energy are already seeing returns. Companies are establishing new operations around key ports and hiring new people.
I was very pleased, therefore, to see Ocean Energy related projects on the list of project submissions from Member States.
Of course, the Commission isn’t alone in noticing the great potential of ocean energy. The promise of a clean energy generated by our waves and tides also resonates strongly within the European Parliament.
I am pleased that we have a group of influential Members here with us today and I am eager to hear their views.
The Investment Plan, and the Energy Union are, I hope you agree, a solid foundation for our work. But how has the past year been for the sector?
It is often said that what the commercial sector craves most is stability – Stability in economic, social and legislative terms. Stability instils confidence. Where there is confidence there is investment.
However, it has been a stormy year for the sector. Both the wave and the tidal segments have been rocked by financial hardship. The wait was too long for some investors and they have been forced, too often, to withdraw their support.
But, to quote Elon Musk of Tesla, "if things are not failing, you are not innovating enough." In other words, yes there are setbacks, but there also advances.
The last year also tells a number of success stories. Tidal stream pilot arrays will be put into water in Normandy, Brittany and Scotland.
Meanwhile in Wales a first-of-a-kind tidal lagoon is taking steps towards obtaining planning approval and financial close. This project will not only provide some 150,000 homes with electricity but also offer opportunities for aquaculture and water sports, among other things.
Tidal lagoons were virtually unheard of when work on the Ocean Energy Forum started a couple years ago. A few weeks ago the project made headlines.
We should therefore keep our minds open and make sure that research programmes have the space to fail. This is how we boost innovation in the long-term. We are often surprised as new technologies leapfrog past market leaders.
You have already done a lot of work over the past year. In Dublin you identified the practical steps. In Paris you presented the strategy. Now it is time to shift gears and have technical discussions on a more structured basis. The secretariat we have established will help facilitate this. They will help the working groups plan and organise the work in order to bring it together in a strategic roadmap.
So what lies ahead? A lot of work remains to be done. And there are obstacles we have to overcome, but we do have a vision. The offshore wind sector has set us an example.
There is no doubt that ocean energy can also become a vibrant industry employing hundreds of thousands.
Time is of the essence, however. We must step up the pace. To stay ahead of competitors we must intensify our cooperation across the EU.
In the wave sector, for example successful trials in Australia are advancing their influence. This is mirrored across the globe as interest in tidal energy increases.
We need to sustain the momentum so that EU companies can keep their technological lead.
Identifying investment sources is critical. But fostering a climate for investment and developing the right projects is just as important. Cost reductions are essential to make projects attractive.
This is why the Commission supports the work of the Forum. We are looking forward to the strategic roadmap that the forum will produce. This document will pave the way for further development of the ocean energy industry in Europe.
The input will come from you, from industry, public authorities, NGOs and researchers. Ultimately, we don't build these devices or put them in the water. You do. We are here to help, but without your effort, it won't work.
We can help create the stability that builds confidence. I urge you to remember that that confidence should encourage cooperation as much as investment.
Europe shares a vast coastline. That coastline has a vast potential. I look to you to make sure that we reap the benefits.
 the inventor of the Tesla electric car