“In the years ahead wave energy could play a significant role across Portugal, given its steadfast commitment to innovation in this field. A clear illustration of this commitment is Corpower Ocean’s device demonstration at the Aguçadoura test site, highlighting Portugal’s unwavering dedication to advancing and deploying cutting-edge wave energy technologies.”
Short Introduction about your role.
I am currently the Chief Executive Officer of WavEC Offshore Renewables, an organization established in 2003 with a mission to foster the advancement and widespread adoption of offshore renewable energies. Throughout my career, I have maintained a strong emphasis on marine renewables and related fields, having had the privilege of working in industry, consultancy and research and development. Over the years, I have provided technical and strategic support to many technology developers, which has contributed significantly to my well-rounded expertise in this domain.
My main priority as CEO of WavEC is to effectively guide the organization through the changing landscape of the offshore renewable energy sector. With the recent surge in interest in floating wind power, the industry has undergone significant transformation. My role involves leading the necessary adaptations for WavEC to remain at the forefront of this sector. It is crucial for us to align ourselves with the emerging demands and ensure that we continue to be recognized as one of the sector’s leading players.
“I believe that there are, today, several key trends in renewable energy, which can be considered megatrends. One of them is the cost reduction, and the fast worldwide spread, of solar PV, making solar energy one of the most economically competitive energy sources at present. Another megatrend is the rapid growing of offshore wind, particularly the floating offshore wind sector, with many states making ambitious commitments to develop this clean energy source in the next years. A third trend, well aligned with the two mentioned above, is the integration of renewable sources with energy storage systems, which will be pivotal for grid reliability.”
From your perspective, what are the key trends in renewable energy today?
I believe that there are, today, several key trends in renewable energy, of which I would highlight three that perhaps, more than trends, can be considered megatrends. One of them is the cost reduction, and the fast worldwide spread, of solar PV, making solar energy one of the most economically competitive energy sources at present. The cost of solar PV has decreased by more than 3 orders of magnitude since its first commercial use in the late fifties. Only a decade ago, the cost of building a new fossil fuel power plant was considerably more economical compared to the construction of a solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant. For the sake of example, 10 years ago solar was about 200% more expensive than coal. This decline in prices is pushing rapidly the global cumulative solar capacity to increase. Several estimates foresee solar PV as the most competitive energy source (lowest LCOE) in a great majority of the world regions in a short term, even in places where the solar irradiation is quite low, when we move north or south of the equator (where the amount of direct sunlight in higher). This leads to the expectation that the expansion of solar PV into offshore environments will play a pivotal role in the future development of this sector.
Another trend, or megatrend, is the rapid growing of offshore wind, particularly the floating offshore wind sector, with many states making ambitious commitments to develop this clean energy source in the next years. As an example, recently, the Portuguese government publicly announced the ambition to reach an installed capacity of offshore wind of 10 GW by 2030. Nevertheless, for this trend to materialize, the successful establishment of floating offshore wind farms must be rooted in the development of a robust infrastructure and supply chain. This involves the establishment of appropriate port facilities for manufacturing, assembly, and maintenance, along with streamlined logistics for the transportation of turbines and other components to project sites. On the other hand, building a skilled workforce and fostering collaboration between different stakeholders within the supply chain is also critical. To some extent, it’s crucial for floating wind power to traverse a path of competitiveness akin to the trajectory that solar power plants have experienced. While undeniably challenging, it’s crucial to highlight that the endeavors in infrastructure and supply chain development offer opportunities for job creation, economic growth, and technology transfer.
Another trend, well aligned with the two mentioned above, is the integration of renewable sources with energy storage systems, which will be pivotal for grid reliability. In this framework, hydrogen is emerging as a key element in energy storage, offering solutions to address intermittency challenges.
In summary, these trends represent a transformative phase in renewable energy, founded on cost-effectiveness, offshore expansion, and enhanced energy storage capabilities, with green hydrogen playing a central role in shaping the future of renewable energy landscape.
“To play a significant role in future net-zero power systems, marine energy, particularly from waves and tides, must undergo widespread adoption. We have witnessed tremendous progress in Portuguese waters in 2023, with CorPower Ocean successfully deploying its first commercial scale device. This recent advance along with other developers around the world illustrates that wave energy technology is reaching a new level of maturity in terms of controllability, reliability, and survivability.”
What role is marine energy likely to play in future net-zero power systems?
To play a significant role in future net-zero power systems, marine energy, particularly from waves and tides, must undergo widespread adoption. We have witnessed tremendous progress in Portuguese waters in 2023, with Swedish wave energy developer CorPower Ocean successfully deploying its first commercial scale device. This recent advance along with other developers around the world illustrates that wave energy technology is reaching a new level of maturity in terms of controllability, reliability, and survivability. As this work progresses it will be equally critical to gain a comprehensive understanding of the technology’s potential environmental impact.
The exciting future promise of ocean energy is mirrored by Portugal’s National Energy and Climate Plan for 2021-2030, which has increased ocean energy targets from 70 to 200MW due to recent advances, from the likes of CorPower Ocean which is accelerating towards a bankable technology.
The abundant resource, particularly in the case of wave energy, and its inherent predictability places marine renewables as a potential contributor to net-zero power systems. This can be accomplished more easily in specific environments. Islands, for example, where typically electricity costs are very high, and off-grid applications are prime candidates where marine renewables are poised to play a valuable role. This could signify a phase of maturation before these sources become a viable option for large-scale utility production.
Some uncertainty in the future of marine energy sources arises from the fact that offshore wind energy (particularly floating wind) is nowadays a more attractive investment option, relegating the marine renewables to second place. On the other hand, there is a silver lining in the establishment of a resilient infrastructure and supply chain to support the floating offshore wind industry. In the broader context, this infrastructure can also benefit the marine renewables sector. Given the substantial overlap in challenges faced by both sectors, this shared foundation can catalyze advancements in the development of marine renewables.
“It’s worth emphasizing that the progress in floating wind energy holds significant promise for enhancing wave energy technology. The fast expansion of floating wind that Portugal is experiencing can open new possibilities and accelerate the development of wave energy.”
How can wave energy contribute to Portugal’s net zero ambitions?
Wave energy in Portugal, while holding great promise, has encountered challenges in meeting expectations. Nevertheless, the years ahead hold the potential for a significant role of wave energy across the country, given its steadfast commitment to innovation in this field. A clear illustration of this commitment is the ongoing Corpower device demonstration at the Aguçadoura test site, highlighting Portugal’s unwavering dedication to advancing and deploying cutting-edge wave energy technologies.
It’s worth emphasizing that the progress in floating wind energy holds significant promise for enhancing wave energy technology. As mentioned before, the fast expansion of floating wind that Portugal is experiencing can open new possibilities and accelerate the development of wave energy. The required adequacy of infrastructure, ports, and equipment to meet the needs of floating wind power could benefit wave energy as the requirements will, in principle, be similar. In addition, there are potential advantages on the co-location of wave and offshore wind farms, not only due to the increase of power production but also due to the so-called “shadow effect”, which takes advantage of the WECs’ wakes to produce an area of lower wave height inside the offshore wind farm which can enlarge the weather windows for O&M activities in the wind turbines.
The potential of wave energy to contribute to Portugal’s net-zero ambitions remains highly promising. How can we maximize the full benefit of ocean energy quickly and efficiently?
Ocean energy delivers advantages across three key dimensions: i) it can take a central role in mitigating the impact of climate change by providing a clean and sustainable energy source; ii) It has the potential to enhance energy security through the introduction of new types of energy sources into the energy mix; and iii) it fosters energy independence and self-reliance, ultimately diminishing the reliance on external fossil fuel resources and thus mitigating vulnerability to supply disruptions.
To amplify the beneficial effects on these three pivotal aspects, all of which highly relevant in today’s world, there is an imminent requirement to accelerate development for the swift and widespread adoption of these energy sources. For this to occur, it is crucial, among other factors, to undertake the following:
- To allocate resources to research and development of more efficient and cost-effective advanced ocean energy technologies and encourage the growth of startups in the ocean energy sector through grants, mentoring, and access to resources.
- Offer financial incentives and subsidies to attract private investments and promote the deployment of ocean energy technologies, in order to mitigate the lack of investment attractiveness mentioned above.
- Invest in the necessary infrastructure, such as ports and grid connections, to facilitate the deployment of ocean energy projects.
- To promote international collaboration to share expertise, resources, best practices, and lessons learnt in previous ocean energy projects as well as to foster collaboration among governments, research institutions, and the private sector to pool resources, share knowledge, and accelerate innovation.
- To streamline Regulatory Processes: Simplify and expedite the permitting and regulatory processes for ocean energy projects to reduce delays and uncertainties.
- To raise public awareness about the benefits of ocean energy and build support for these technologies.
“There are potential advantages regarding the co-location of wave and offshore wind farms, not only due to the increase of power production but also due to the so-called “shadow effect”, which takes advantage of the WECs’ wakes to produce an area of lower wave height inside the offshore wind farm which can enlarge the weather windows for O&M activities in the wind turbines.”
What would be your three key tenets to improve the ocean energy environment?
There are several key tenets with potentially large impact to improve the ocean energy environment. Of these, perhaps the 3 most important are: First, to establish robust onshore and offshore infrastructure, including ports and support ships, which, as said before, could be a positive side effect of the development of floating wind farms. Second, to create dedicated test sites for the testing and demonstration of ocean energy technologies, accelerating innovation and ensuring reliability, survivability, and cost-effectiveness. Third, promoting innovation based on collaboration, cooperation, and knowledge sharing. The wave energy sector needs a shift in mindset, embracing best practices and drawing valuable lessons from previous experiences. Due to the lack of sharing knowledge and past experiences (both failures and successes) the “wheel has been reinvented” many times. A thoughtful approach is still not widespread in the sector, where an IP-dominated business model has traditionally prevailed.
Who would you want us to interview next and why?
There are several people who would be very interesting to interview and get to know their thoughts and vision on this topic. However, given the delicate geopolitical situation we are experiencing today it could be quite stimulating to interview the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres.
What question would you like to ask him/ her?
In your opinion, how can the use of endogenous resources in the development of the renewable energy sector help to address the United Nations’ most pressing concerns, such as promoting sustainable development, taking action on climate change, maintaining international peace and security, and protecting human rights?