FRANCISCO GARCIA LORENZO
About the role of ocean energy in European islands
What are the benefits of developing ocean energy in island communities?
Island communities are the perfect match for the development of ocean energy from several points of view. First, the predictability of the tidal resource, relying on astronomical phenomena, unlike the meteorological variables to which solar and wind energy are vulnerable. This is hugely helpful for the process of energy transition in weak and off-grid networks, making it easier to manage integration of renewable energies, in terms of meeting consumer demand and deploying associated energy storage systems.
Most island communities have an energy mix that depends almost exclusively on diesel generators. This leads to significant greenhouse gas emissions and very high energy costs, both for the purchase of fuel and for logistics (transport, storage, etc.). Ocean energy is an emerging and promising market, but still at the beginning of its economy. As a consequence, cost is not yet competitive compared to mature, renewable energy power plants. But in such a niche market, this first-stage economy can be achieved in a self-sufficient way.
Last but not least, island communities are a microcosm of global systems. The success of a project in these places demonstrates the acceptance and appropriation of tidal energy while demonstrating the replicability of this type of project on a larger scale.
The main benefits of ocean energy development on the islands are an improvement in sustainable land management, an increase in installed capacity from renewable sources and a boost to economic activity in the marine and maritime sector.
The integration of renewable energies in island areas is currently limited by territorial and environmental restrictions. It is, however, essential to expand the energy mix of renewable energies in the insular territories to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels. While some types of renewable energy, such as solar photovoltaic and wind, present problems, ocean energy is the obvious solution, integrating renewables while complementing sustainable land management.
Increasing installed capacity with marine renewable energies has the direct benefit of reducing emissions and complying with the energy policy agenda of member states. Increased activity in the marine-maritime sector also creates employment in island areas, consolidating an already productive sector. The direct relationship between the technological development of ocean energy generation systems and port environments is evident. The islands already offer specialised companies in this sector that can facilitate the phases of manufacture, testing, operation and maintenance of this type of technology. The integration of ocean energy would therefore offer a welcome boost for this existing sector.
'2019 is a milestone year for the ocean energy sector and islands across Europe are leading the way to success.'
When can we expect islands to benefit from ocean energy as a key energy source in their mix?
The main pilot projects and technological development in ocean energy are being carried out on islands. The insular territories are therefore the first to benefit from ocean energy.
Within the energy policy agendas of the outermost regions of Europe, marine renewable energies are a key element of forecasts for 2030. In Spain’s Integrated Energy and Climate Plan, for example, ocean energy capacity is expected to increase from zero today to 50 MW in 2030. The majority is expected to be installed in island territories.
In June 2015, SABELLA  deployed a device for the first time in the Fromveur Passage and connected it to the grid on Ushant island in France. After a year, the turbine was retrieved for a full check-up and to run several optimisations, largely to allow for the production of a clean electric signal, suitable for the grid. The turbine was redeployed in 2018 for a further three-year campaign. The final stage on Ushant will be reached in 2022 with the PHARES project, led by AKUO Energy: the commercial deployment of a hybrid energy mix with solar panels, one wind turbine and two tidal turbines, together with battery storage. This project will prove the competitiveness of renewable energy production with ocean energy baseload, compared with existing diesel generators.
It is realistic to plan a significant deployment of similar projects in three to five years from now, in several islands all over Europe and abroad, at a cheaper cost than existing fossil fuels. Depending on tidal currents, target costs range from EUR 150 to EUR 250 per MWh.
'Ocean energies are a real opportunity to create value for European islands and a chance for these territories to recover their maritime history'
Who, and how, will benefit from it?
The primary beneficiaries of these projects are island communities. Such projects will create jobs and also a sense of ownership and pride. This is based on two pillars: the creation of new activities for the implementation of the project and its follow-up operation on the one hand, and the development of the attractiveness of the territory beneficial to tourism on the other.
Moreover, on a regional scale, significant local input will be required to set up ocean energy power plant, spreading the economic benefits over a broader area. If the island doesn’t have its own port facilities or the naval means to support industrial and offshore operations, the closest port will enjoy a substantial positive impact of its own.
Those who will benefit include the business and port services sectors, government and society.
Ocean energy, and the activities derived from its management and maintenance, will create significant demand for companies providing services such as mooring, environmental engineering, electricity and electronics, logistics, and diving. These specialised companies are key to the development of ocean energies, and employment in the islands will benefit as a result.
Public administration will also benefit, in terms of energy demands in key island infrastructure, such as those related to water. The water-energy binomial is very present in the insular territories; most of the demand for potable water is met by the desalination of sea water. Associating wave energy facilities with the production of desalinated water is an option worth exploring.
How will this initiative be implemented?
In order to achieve the 2030 goal to integrate ocean energy into our electrical systems, RD&I projects are being developed to devise technologies, and strategies for their integration, complying with the requirements established in the electrical network codes.
At the same time, if these initiatives are to be implemented, we need to develop administrative procedures to facilitate the connection of this type of technology to the network and to improve existing energy transport lines in the insular territories.
SABELLA intends to promote a Fuel Free Island energy model tailored for far-flung communities. Building on the success of the project in Ushant, SABELLA will have the opportunity to propose a hybrid solution based on ocean energy, in line with the European Commission’s ambitions in the Clean Energy for EU islands initiative, launched in Valletta, Malta, in May 2017.
 SABELLA has been at the forefront of the ocean energy industry since the early 2000s, testing the D03-30 prototype in 2008, and the D10-1000 in 2015. SABELLA promotes ocean energies in islands; this niche market has specificities which are perfectly suited for ocean energy. This mutually beneficial relationship between islands and ocean energy can form the basis for a new industry sector in the European Union, while bringing resilience to these remote territories.