This report is the outcome of Task 8.1 “Analysis of Potential Markets for Ocean Energy Technology” of the DTOceanPlus project. The aim of this task is to develop a greater understanding of the potential markets for ocean energy technology deployment and exploitation. The focus includes both the present market status and future opportunities for commercialisation of both grid and non-grid applications.
Background context is provided on the global energy system, future energy scenarios, as well as challenges and opportunities for the energy transition. The current status of ocean energy sector is also summarised along with historical context. The core of this report offers an overview of the large potential that ocean energy technologies show, wave and tidal stream in particular. Prospective market opportunities for these technologies have been identified and reviewed. Although determining the potential revenue opportunities at such an early stage in development of the wave and tidal stream technologies is rather challenging, this report provides information regarding prospective or current market sizes, potential applications, geographical locations, and future outlook of the markets.
The largest opportunity for ocean energy technologies is the future market for grid power. Future scenarios for both global and EU electricity markets are given, together with projections for ocean energy growth over the short-to-medium term and the medium-to-long term. In addition to grid power, other potential markets for ocean energy are considered. A wide range of alternative markets have been identified, based on the US DoE ‘Powering the Blue Economy’ study and other resources, and these can be summarised as below.
- Isolated power systems/ islands/ microgrids. Ocean energy can provide energy to regions not connected to a central energy infrastructure and located close to the coast. Thereby, ocean energy can become a means for sustainable development providing access to affordable and clean energy and powering a series of basic services such as health, water supply, among others.
- Offshore oil & gas extraction, processing, and decommissioning. Offshore oil and gas platforms often partially meet their energy needs by burning the fuel extracted or through imports. There are a number of associated issues with this. In the case of energy imports, since platforms are normally installed in isolated locations, the fuel has to be transported with vessels or pipelines have to be installed. Additionally, with platforms having high energy availability requirements, turbines are forced to work at very low efficiencies (increasing the environmental impacts of the industry). Therefore, integrating local, clean ocean energy alternatives into the offshore O&G industry could support the reduction of its carbon intensity whilst increasing its energy security.
- Marine aquaculture and algae. Ocean energy can replace diesel generation in this industry and power aquaculture systems including monitoring equipment, circulation pumps, navigation lighting, and refrigeration equipment. Furthermore, ocean energy systems can be integrated into and co-developed with algal systems and meet power requirements that are similar to those from aquaculture: safety, navigation lights, maintenance equipment, refrigeration, etc.
- Desalination. Providing water for water utilities and isolated or small-scale distributed systems is an energy-intensive process traditionally powered by fossil fuels. Ocean energy systems are inherently located near desalination plants and, thus, can replace fossil fuels and contribute to decarbonisation efforts.
- Coastal resiliency and disaster recovery. Coastal areas are among the most frequently affected regions by weather extreme events such as tsunamis and hurricanes. Additionally, these regions are at high risk due to climate change consequences such as sea-level rise. Mitigation and adaptation measures are being set in place including shore protection structures. There are already successful cases where ocean energy devices have been integrated into these structures. The power generated from ocean energy devices can meet power requirements after a coastal disaster as well.
- Ocean observation and navigation. Other applications that would benefit given their co-location is ocean observation and navigation. Instruments, platforms and tools used to monitor and forecast oceanographic and meteorological data and ensure safe navigation receive their power via cables to shore power, solar panels, or batteries. Having this equipment meet their own power needs through their integration into ocean energy devices can be an attractive alternative.
- Unmanned underwater vehicles. These vehicles, usually used for observation, surveillance, persistent monitoring and subsea inspections, are currently limited in their range and duration due to the capacity of their batteries. Ocean energy has the potential to power underwater recharge stations and supply power continuously, if paired with battery banks, thereby reducing the reliance on expensive surface vessels and extending mission duration.
- Seawater and seabed mining. The alternative to extract valuable minerals from seawater has attracted much attention given their demand for modern-day technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles. Ocean energy can meet some of the power needs from seawater mining including electrolysers, absorbent exposure systems, and on-site logistical needs.
- Marine datacentres. Computer datacentres require significant amounts of cooling, so one solution is to locate them underwater, which offers the additional opportunity to power them by nearby ocean energy sources.
These alternative applications may form a market for some technology developers. They may also act as a ‘stepping-stone’ to reduce costs to a level where ocean energy technologies can be cost competitive to provide grid power. Furthermore, wave and tidal stream offer an additional benefit that can be exploited for the establishment of smart local energy systems and the contribution to the development of a blue economy by enabling synergies between the potential markets identified. Further and targeted research is required to estimate the specific total addressable market or potential revenue for the market opportunities identified and the prospective market barriers and enablers.