THE European Commission has unveiled a new action plan for the fledgling renewable ocean energy sector in Europe, which could create up to 20,000 jobs in the UK in the next two decades.
The drive to harness Europe’s “blue energy” potential is to be led by the establishment of an Ocean Energy Forum, and Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, today claimed that Scotland would have a major role to play in the Commission’s renewable energy initiative.
A European Commission spokesman said: “Ocean energy has the potential to create new, high-quality jobs. Indicative job estimates show that 10,500 - 26,500 permanent jobs, and up to 14,000 temporary jobs, could be created by 2035. Other estimates suggest that it could lead to the creation of up to 20,000 jobs by 2035 in UK alone and 18,000 in France by 2026.”
The proposals were outlined by Maria Damanaki, the European Fisheries Commissioner, and Günther Oettinger, the European Energy Commissioner, to help drive forward the nascent “blue energy” sector towards full industrialisation.
‘Seas can generate huge growth’
The term ‘ocean energy’ covers all technologies to harvest renewable energy from seas and oceans, except offshore wind. The European Commission claims its exploitation will contribute to lower carbon emissions across the EU as well as providing Europe with secure and reliable energy sources.
Ms Damanaki said: “As our Blue Growth strategy highlights, seas and oceans have the potential to generate huge economic growth and much-needed jobs. By helping the ocean energy sector to fully develop we can fulfil this potential through innovation while also securing clean, renewable energy for Europe.”
A Commission spokesman explained: “The ocean energy resource available globally exceeds our present and projected future energy needs. It could be harvested in many forms, for example through wave energy and tidal stream energy. Exploiting ocean energy would set the EU further on track to becoming a low-carbon economy and, by cutting EU dependence on fossil fuels, would enhance energy security.
“Moreover, ocean energy could help to balance out the output of other renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar energy to ensure a steady aggregate supply of renewable energy to the grid.”
The spokesman added: “Ocean energy is currently an infant industry. Wave and tidal stream technologies are by comparison more developed than other technologies. But with technological improvements and additional public support to be given in line with our guidance for the design of renewables support schemes for early stage development, the ocean energy sector may be able to grow to a similar scale as offshore wind.”
Scotland boasts ten per cent of Europe’s wave power potential and 25 per cent of its tidal power, and already leads the way in the development of marine energy technologies.
In the last year consents have been granted for the world’s largest wave farm – a development by Edinburgh firm Aquamarine Power – off the North west coast of Lewis, and for the largest tidal stream energy project in Europe – MeyGen’s array project in the Pentland Firth.
Mr Ewing welcomed the new European initiative. He said: “The establishment of the Ocean Energy Forum is a positive development, one which the Scottish Government has lobbied for over the last year.
“Scotland possesses world-leading offshore energy expertise. Working with the European Commission and Ocean Energy Europe, we are well-placed to make a vital contribution to the forum and Europe’s green energy ambitions.”
He continued: “Our country is blessed with a wealth of natural resources and we have a quarter of Europe’s tidal and offshore wind capacity and a tenth of its wave power. Scotland has an astounding potential for renewable energy and it is only with the full powers of independence that this potential can be fully realised.”