Around 71% of our planet’s surface is covered by water. Our seas and oceans hold almost 97% of the earth’s water reserves.
When you come to think of it, it might make more sense to call planet Earth planet Water, at least judging by the share it covers our surface. Up to now oceans and seas primarily served as ways of maritime transportation, allowing huge trade flows between the continents. Of course, fish and seafood are a major resource provided by the oceans. As for energy, subsurface ocean oil and gas reserves have been fueling our economies for many decades.
But there is a far bigger natural resource that has remained largely untapped, renewable energy from the oceans and seas, until now. On 20 September EDI organised the Micro MBA ‘Oceans of New Energy’ at the De Oude Bibliotheek (DOB) Academy in Delft, where we actively debated the potential of ocean energy. Robert Kleiburg, founder at Recoy, acted as the afternoon’s moderator.
With offshore wind, a first step has been made towards harvesting this enormous resource and developing a mature technology. Jan van der Tempel, CEO at DOB Academy & CEO at Ampelmann, explained how offshore wind became a mature technology. According to van der Tempel, government support schemes and policy objectives, in particular Danish, were crucial in the past two decades for this technology to achieve competitiveness with conventional power generation. However, offshore wind is not there yet. There is still plenty of room for efficiency increases and technological improvements, which can ultimately further bring down the cost of energy.
At the Micro MBA several experts discussed promising ocean energy technologies, such as tidal energy, wave energy and OTEC. Some concepts are already competitive, in particular in regions with high electricity prices, such as the Caribbean. One of the advantages of ocean energy is the higher rate of predictability, in particular of OTEC, but also of tidal energy. This could provide an additional competitive advantage, since wind and solar tend to be less predictable.
During the closing ‘fish bowl session’, the experts concluded that ocean energy has the same, if not a bigger potential, as offshore wind, provided that it enjoys equal financial and policy support as wind did. Coastal states are currently focusing mostly on offshore wind. For now it seems that the world is waiting for another Denmark to make ocean energy big.