European Commission has conducted a Research and consultation work on tidal energy. The conclusions are that additional support for this emerging sector could enable the EU to reap significant economic and environmental benefits. The impact assessment particularly highlights the following issues:
- The ocean energy resource available globally exceeds our present and projected future energy needs. In the EU, the highest potential for the development of ocean energy is on the Atlantic seaboard, but is also present in the Mediterranean and the Baltic basins and in the Outermost Regions. Exploiting this indigenous resource would help to mitigate EU dependence on fossil fuels for electricity generation and enhance energy security. This may be particularly important for island nations and regions, where ocean energy can contribute to energy self-sufficiency and replace expensive diesel-generated electricity.
- The ocean energy sector can become an important part of the blue economy, fuelling economic growth in coastal regions, as well as inland. Pan-European supply chains could develop as the industry expands involving both innovative SMEs and larger manufacturing companies with relevant capabilities in, for example, shipbuilding, mechanical, electrical and maritime engineering but also environmental impact assessment or health and safety management. Increased demand for specialized ships is also to be expected, for instance. These are likely to be constructed in European shipyards.
- The position of European industry in the global ocean energy market is currently strong. This is evidenced by the fact that most of the technology developers are based in Europe. Growing competition from China, Canada and other industrialized nations is, however, expected. The UK’s Carbon Trust estimated that the global wave and tidal energy market could be worth up to €535 billion between 2010 and 20508. Creating the conditions under which the sector could prosper now would enable the EU to capture a sizable share of the market in the future. Innovation through research and development can allow the EU to generate export opportunities for both technology and expertise. It is critical, therefore, to ensure that the EU can maintain its global industrial leadership.
- Ocean energy has the potential to create new, high-quality jobs in project development, component manufacturing and operations. Indicative job estimates from the impact assessment show that 10,500-26,500 permanent jobs and up to 14,000 temporary jobs could be created by 2035. Other, more optimistic sources estimate 20,000 jobs by 2035 in UK alone9 and 18,000 in France by 202010. A substantial proportion of these employment opportunities will arise in the Atlantic coastal areas, which currently suffer from high unemployment.
- Scaling up the deployment of ocean energy could contribute to Europe’s decarburization goals. Developing all sources of low-carbon energy in a cost- effective manner will be important to deliver on the EU’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050.
- Ocean energy electricity output is different to that derived from other renewable energy sources. This means that ocean energy could help to balance out the output of other renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar energy to ensure a steady aggregate supply of renewable energy to the grid. Ocean energy would therefore be a valuable asset in the EU’s energy portfolio.
- Ocean energy devices tend to be entirely or partially submerged and therefore have a low visual impact. As the scope for expansion of land-based renewable energy generation becomes constrained, the marine space offers a potential solution to public acceptance issues related to visual impact, which may hinder renewable energy developments on land.
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