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Alternative Markets for Ocean Energy

Start: 2020 | End: Permanent
The oceans have an impact on the overall health of the planet and its sustainable development. Oceans and seas cover over two-thirds of the Earth’s surface and about 40% of the world’s population lives near coastlines. The ocean contributes to the global economy, with some estimates valuing the “gross marine product,” which could be as high as $2.5 trillion based on direct outputs (e.g., fishing, aquaculture), services enabled (e.g., tourism, education), trade and transportation (e.g., coastal and oceanic shipping), and adjacent benefits (e.g., carbon sequestration, biotechnology).
The growth of the blue economy will result in the increasing use of marine space and the potential for conflict with existing ocean uses, which can be partially addressed through implementation of marine spatial planning (MSP). MSP seeks to manage competing marine uses while balancing environmental, social, and economic interests to support sustainable development of the oceans. However, there is also potential to consider collaborating uses of the marine environment. One such combined potential use of the marine space is aquaculture and Ocean Energy.

Power for aquaculture is generally provided by diesel generation and occasionally by renewables, such as solar with battery storage. Aquaculture as a protein source already has significantly lower emissions than traditional meat based/western diets. However, by replacing fossil fuels with marine renewable energy, the aquaculture industry could become an even more sustainable option for consumers and reduce the likelihood of potential harm to air and water quality via emissions and oil spills.

There are a number of potential synergistic opportunities for co-location of aquaculture and wave energy devices: for instance, wave farms could provide shelter in their lee to an offshore aquaculture facility; and aquaculture sites could provide suitable opportunities for technologies to test and demonstrate at smaller scales. However, there are some challenges also such as the ideal environment for offshore aquaculture may not always present the best resource for a marine energy conversion system and this may pose a significant challenge for some ORE technologies.

Under this Task several market opportunities will be explored: ocean energy in islands, co-location with aquaculture and dessalination.

Ocean Energy in Islands
Islands and remote coastal areas face energy challenges that require attention. These regions tend to meet their energy needs through exchanges with mainland via submarine cables or their own fossil fuel-based generation facilities. Both alternatives pose problems that include vulnerability to the volatility of fuel prices, high carbon footprint, low fuel mix diversity and risks of disruptions in supply. Moreover, these regions are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and sea-level rise, which amplifies the challenges that they already face. Resilience and mitigation as well as sustainability are key concerns in islands and remote coastal areas. Low-carbon economies and clean energy technologies pose a relevant opportunity for these regions to address some of their concerns and challenges. Particularly, these regions are looking at seizing their renewable energy potential to face the challenges of the energy trilemma: security of supply, environmental sustainability, and energy affordability.

Ocean energy technologies can be an appealing option for these energy markets, offering advantages compared to other renewable energy technologies such as low visual and environmental impacts and predictability. Furthermore, islands and remote coastal areas tend to coincide with good resource potential for some of these technologies and, due to the high costs of incumbent energy technologies, ocean energy could face fewer difficulties to compete with more mature technologies in these markets.

Ocean Energy and Aquaculture
The main aim of this project is to provide an understanding of the potential of ocean energy to co-locate with aquaculture and to supply energy for the sector. By developing and adapting ocean energy devices to provide power for aquaculture operations, the marine energy industry could move the route to commercial-scale development along further, while gaining much-needed revenue.
Ocean Energy in Islands and Remote Coastal Areas

Potential challenges to the adoption of ocean energy technologies in these markets have been identified and include: socio-environmental issues such as misinformation and social acceptance, regulatory and political barriers due to the relatively nascent nature of the ocean energy sector where support mechanisms are missing, infrastructure (both hard and soft) not in place in these isolated regions, and a lack of financial incentives to aid the economic feasibility of the technologies.
To overcome some of these challenges, the report "Ocean Energy in Islands and Remote Locations" discusses opportunities to enable the integration of ocean energy technologies into the energy systems in islands and remote coastal areas and create synergies between the economic and energy sectors.

Ocean Energy and Aquaculture
The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the Australian Blue Economy Collaborative Research Centre (BECRC) have investigated the energy requirements of the offshore aquaculture industry and considered the feasibility of co-locating offshore aquaculture with ocean renewable energy (ORE) as part of efforts related to the blue economy. Based on this work, PNNL and BECRC proposed to address the OES study on the energy requirements of offshore aquaculture as a market for ocean energy. PNNL and BECRC are coordinating ongoing research in the United States (US) and Australia, as well as collaborating with other OES nations to coordinate similar research that may be underway and encourage additional efforts. Recommendations will be made to help progress opportunities for aquaculture (including finfish, shellfish, crustaceans, seaweed, and integrated multi-trophic systems) to be powered by ORE through co-location of the two industries.


The OES is organised under the auspices of the International Energy Agency (IEA) but is functionally and legally autonomous. Views, findings and publications of the OES do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or its individual member countries.