Ocean energy could be "mainstream" in Europe by 2050 and supplying up to 100 gigawatt of power, according to a new industry report.
The Marine Renewables Industry Association (MRIA) predicts there could be 10 pilot projects installed across Europe by 2020, including the ESB's five-megawatt "WestWave" project.
It has revised an earlier forecast that the industry could be up and running by the 2020s, but predicts significant advances in two decades’ time.
Five years ago, an SQW Energy study for the Sustainable Energy Authority of
forecast that the island of Ireland ocean energy sector could be producing a net present value of €9 billion, creating “several thousand jobs” by 2030.
Green Party former energy minister Eamon Ryan had set a target of 500MW supplied from wave and tidal energy conversion by 2020.
The report quotes the German engineering company Siemens’s estimate that this island’s offshore and onshore wind, wave and tidal resource accounts for one-third of all such potential in western Europe – but acknowledges that there are still “technical challenges” to be overcome offshore.
State policy here is “generally strong”, as outlined in the offshore renewable energy development plan published in February 2014, it notes.
The MRIA calls for a pre-commercial technology fund to be set up to meet a financial gap in the stage between research and commercial development.
It recommends that Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and the National Treasury Management Agency's Strategic Investment Fund team up to design it.
The report advises co-operation and collaboration with Scotland to avoid unnecessary duplication and to make best use of available resources.
The association pays credit to State financial support for the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland collaborative research project at the Beaufort laboratory complex in Cork, and says that the Galway Bay test site SmartBay is also making a “key contribution”.
It says that work is also "in hand" to develop the full-scale test site at Belmullet in Co Mayo on a phased basis.
Northern Ireland has already selected two 100MW tidal projects in its first offshore leasing round.