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Europe is spearheading the world’s ocean energy technology, and has today a strong pipeline of projects for a total capacity of 1 GW.

But it did not accomplish this overnight. According to a recent Commission study, the continent has been spending €3 billion on ocean energy over the last decade. This is the kind of investment required to develop the new technologies, test them both in the lab and at sea, and scale them up to commercial level.

About two thirds of this massive research and development effort was sustained by developers and by the private sector. The remaining third was mobilised by the European Commission and the EU countries to support the developers, adapt harbour infrastructure and generally lay the right conditions for this emerging sector to grow.

The next decade could see the total installed capacity rise to almost 4 GW, with financial needs that would grow accordingly and could reach 9.4 billion euros. Most of the money is expected to go into tidal stream installations; this is to date the more “mature” technology, and promises to offset the high upfront capitals with low operational costs.

The technology is therefore likely to raise more and more money through private loans. The need for public funding, mainly to leverage private capitals and finance research, would thus shrink to one fourth of the total investment.

If access to and cost of capital remain crucial to move towards the commercial phase, the study shows that there can be no route to market without a stable and predictable public policy on ocean energy and marine space. This was also the case for other renewables, especially offshore wind energy, which provide useful experience to build on.