There is clearly a tremendous amount of energy in the oceans, and harnessing it for our energy system would be ideal. But how? Along the coastline of Europe, you can see that this question has long inspired innovation, with a host of ideas born and tested to make use of waves and tides. The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has been watching the sector for years, and its analysis shows the parts of the EU in which developers are active, and in which the ocean energy supply chain is developing. Most of the activity, predictably, takes place in coastal areas, but there are inland regions which are also engaged.
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Some concepts didn’t survive; others were more successful and have now advanced to full-scale testing. Expectations were and are very high, along with the pressure to deliver quickly. But you cannot rush science and technology development. This takes time, but can be more effective when developers build on the experience and knowledge of their peers, taking care not to repeat past mistakes. Knowledge exchange and (cross-sectorial) cooperation is therefore very important.
The European Commission has always supported this cooperation in Europe, via R&D framework programmes such as FP7 and Horizon 2020. The H2020 programme has several sub-programmes. The SME programme focuses on the stimulation of innovation, helping SMEs to bring new technologies to the market. Cost reduction of ocean energy technologies is one of the main goals of the H2020 Energy programme. One of its criteria is that each consortium includes beneficiaries from three different EU Member States or associated countries. This criterion has led small networks of ocean energy innovators to be set up. The Commission also gives financial support to ocean energy, via support programmes such as InnovFin EDP (a loan facility executed by the European Investment Bank) and NER 300 (a funding programme for innovative, low-carbon energy demonstration projects).
'Europe is the birthplace to innovative ideas which have the potential to reach the market, but knowledge exchange and cooperation are crucial to progress.'
Between 2007 and 2018, the European Commission supported a range of ocean energy projects through various financial instruments, making a total investment of EUR 864 million. The European Commission currently funds 18 projects via the Horizon 2020 programme. These 18 projects might better be described as ocean energy innovation hubs, through which networks of ocean energy developers are created. Developers from industry are working together in consortia with researchers and scientists. Innovative solutions are proposed and tested. New knowledge is built up.
Not all EU projects are focused on the development of new designs and concepts. For instance, in MaRINET2, almost 40 partners provide support to technology developers to test their devices in research facilities and in real sea conditions, improving the quality, robustness and accuracy of testing practices. MARINERG-I, a network of 13 universities/research institutes, is developing a plan for an integrated European Research Infrastructure: an independent legal entity, designed to facilitate the future growth and development of the offshore renewable energy sector.
The sector is also encouraged to discuss and develop a common vision of what is needed for the future. The European Technology and Innovation Platform on Ocean Energy, a network of stakeholders in Europe, recently produced a strategy document for the whole sector: Powering Homes Today, Powering Nations Tomorrow: Policy Solutions to Deliver Ocean Energy Industrial Roll-Out.
Europe is the birthplace to innovative ideas which have the potential to reach the market, but knowledge exchange and cooperation are crucial to progress. Networks of ocean energy developers and researchers are essential, and European hubs have therefore been created to make this a reality. These hubs are not working in isolation: there are many crossovers. Europe has become, as a result, one large hub of innovation and knowledge for ocean energy.
The WETFEET project focused on the development and integration of two different wave energy converters. The project considered cross-cutting aspects such as logistics and supply chain, as well as environmental and socio-economic issues.
12 partners coming from PT, IT, FR, UK, NL, AT
6 partners from industry, 5 universities and 1 research institute
EU contribution € 3 456 883