Maria Damanaki and Günther Oettinger, the European commissioners for maritime affairs and energy respectively, today (20 January) presented an action plan to spur faster development of renewable energy at sea.
The plan will first establish an Ocean Energy Forum of stakeholders, in the coming weeks. It also calls for a roadmap to be drawn up by 2016 and a European industrial initiative on blue energy to be implemented by 2020.
“Ocean energy has a significant potential to enhance the security of supply,” said Oettinger. “Developing a wide portfolio of renewable energy sources including ocean energy also facilitates their integration in the European energy system.”
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The European Commission’s impact assessment accompanying the action plan says that as many as 40,000 jobs could be created in the ‘blue energy’ sector by 2035. By 2050, the sector aims to generate 100 gigawatts of energy per year.
The action plan does not focus on offshore wind turbines, which generate electricity from air. Instead it focuses on technologies that harness energy from the water itself. These include wave energy and tidal stream energy.
The Commission says the sector is facing numerous challenges including high technology costs, difficulty accessing finance, infrastructure barriers such as grid connection issues, complex licensing procedures and concerns about environmental impacts.
Ocean Energy Europe, a trade association which represents the sector, welcomed the news. “The prize for securing global technology leadership in ocean energy is huge, but the challenges faced by the sector are significant,” said Sian George, the group’s CEO. “The Commission clearly recognises this and has moved to help the industry bridge the gap to commercialisation.”