Karmenu Vella is the European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. He was born in Malta on June 1950. Mr Vella graduated in Architecture and Civil Engineering, and later obtained a Master of Science in Tourism Management from University of Sheffield. He was first elected to Parliament in 1976 and continued to be was re-elected in the elections that followed for nine consecutive times. During his political career he has been appointed Minister for Public Works, Minister for Industry and Minister for Tourism twice. Mr Vella had also held various senior posts in the private sector.
Europe is committed that renewables should make up at least 32 % of the European Union total energy consumption by 2030. And the Commission has gone a step further. Last November we presented our strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050 – A Clean Planet for All.
A climate-neutral European economy would mean a massive increase of our clean electricity production, including from the ocean. In addition to offshore wind, it is clear that new generations of renewables – and ocean energy in particular – will have a big role to play in the years and decades to come.
Ocean energy could offer stability and complementarity in our energy mix. For wave and tidal energy technologies, the industry sees a potential installed capacity of 100 GW in Europe and creating up to 400 000 jobs by 2050. Thermal energy from the sea is another interesting option to explore.
Thanks to its investment in research and development, Europe is today the clear global leader in wave and tidal energy technologies. EU waters offer favourable natural conditions to harvest renewable energy offshore. We have the engineering abilities and skills. In the context of the SET Plan Ocean, Member States and the Commission have set ambitious but reachable cost-reduction targets for the next decade.
The deployment of these technologies and the building up of a manufacturing and maintenance industry could boost economic development well beyond coastal areas. The operation and supply chain is already pan-European and involves many Member States, with innovative SMEs and large manufacturers, benefitting from its links with other mature industries, such as the offshore, mechanics, shipping or aerospace business where Europe has leading companies. European companies are already exploring export potential.
It might not be possible for one Member State alone to build the critical mass and the economies of scale that will bring ocean energy technologies to market. However, when we put all the projects in Europe together, we can jointly build the home market that European businesses need to grow.
In the coming years, the European Commission wants to direct funding and financial instruments even more strongly towards promising low-carbon technologies like ocean energy. But we also need cooperation. Between different parts of national administrations. Between Member States. And between the national and the European level.
Policy predictability is key. Because we know that ocean energy investors and developers need visibility and certainty in public policy – for instance through targeted support measures and objectives to open up a business perspective. To anticipate and de-risk future consenting process, we will continue our support for projects that monitor the interaction of ocean energy devices with marine life.
Over the past years, I have met many passionate entrepreneurs in the ocean energy sector. They have demonstrated incredible innovation and made remarkable progress.
When I look at the future of this sector, I see a stable and reliable supply of clean energy. I see new jobs and investments in coastal regions and beyond. This requires strong and continuous political leadership. The European Commission will continue to pursue a strong European ambition and global leadership in ocean energy.