Wave energy potential and policy without boundaries: An interview with Portugal’s Secretary of State for Energy, João Galamba

João Saldanha de Azevedo Galamba was born in Lisbon in 1976. He has been Portugal’s Secretary of State for Energy since October 2018.

 

“Wave energy systems are emerging technologies with very strong potential. Some estimate, if we could harness this type of energy, it could supply at least 10 percent of the world’s energy consumption.”

 

1.Can you provide a short introduction about your role?

As Deputy Minister and Secretary of State for Energy of the Ministry for the Environment and Climate Action my role is to develop an energy policy in Portugal with no boundaries, reinforcing synergies and international cooperation, promoting economic growth and quality of life in Portugal. Our policies are based on a decarbonized approach, with an intelligent and resilient energy system, putting citizens in the centre of our action, ensuring the fairness of the energy transition in all cities and regions, while positioning Portugal, as well as our companies and industries, to be more productive and competitive on a global scale.

Portugal’s sustainable growth approach is founded upon a more competitive and resilient development growth model reducing the consumption of energy resources and, at the same time, creating new employment opportunities, increasing wealth creation and fostering new knowledge development.

This trajectory is anchored on Portugal’s National Energy-Climate Plan 2021-2030. This path, to a carbon neutral economy, requires joint action in several strategic areas connecting our society, with priority being given to energy efficiency, greater diversification of renewable energy sources, increased electrification, reinforcement and modernization of infrastructures, development of interconnections, market stability and investment, reconfiguration and digitalization of the energy markets. In addition, there must be incentives for research and innovation, promotion of low carbon processes, products and services, and improved energy services better informing consumers choice.

2.From your point of view, what are the key trends in renewable energy today?

The key trends in the renewable energy sector could be summarized in a word – diversification – because the more successful policies will be a combination of several solutions. We can reinforce the installed capacity of renewable energy, but without a platform or tool able to measure all the variables and constraints in an aggregated and integrated way, it will not be possible to optimize the system, particularly considering the sector coupling challenges. Aggregation, integration and connectivity of the several solutions and approaches, putting citizens as key agents of change in the energy system are the key trends and challenges for the energy transition.

 

“The key trends in the renewable energy sector could be summarized in a word – diversification – because the more successful policies will be a combination of several solutions.”

 

3.What innovations and solutions would you like to highlight as most promising for the future energy transition?

The energy sector is in an ongoing revolution, with disruptive and innovative solutions and new approaches emerging, that need to be closely monitored and tested in real context to evaluate their contribution to the energy transition. In addition, there is a great deal of innovation concerning load flexibility and use of batteries as key enablers for a better integrated  renewables systems with the capacity to store and offer several ancillary services to stabilize the electricity grid. For this reason, batteries are an important factor in the energy transition and sustainable mining is a precondition for the “clean” battery value chain.

The digitalization of the energy sector is also a crucial factor for decarbonization by increasing the energy efficiency and the use of renewables, optimizing the energy mix composed by variable production sources while allowing an improvement on the quality and security of supply.

In the decarbonization process, electrification is not a panacea, a one size fits all solution, renewable gases, particularly green hydrogen, are important facilitators to achieve the objectives of the Green Deal, contributing to the pursuit of decarbonization and to a genuine international hydrogen market, as an energy carrier and for storage, especially on those sectors where electrification is not feasible or not cost-effective. To achieve its full potential, it is very important to make progress and take the next steps to make it price competitive and create a market, while maintaining investment in research and innovation to develop the necessary infrastructures.

An integrated view of the energy sector is crucial, in order to address the sector coupling challenges and opportunities optimizing synergies in all the value chain, creating an efficient, resilient and competitive energy market.

“Integrating wave energy, and all other offshore systems,  in our renewable energy mix as a complementary source would very relevant for Portugal, since, besides having the natural resources to explore, wave energy is more predictable and stable when compared to other renewables sources, which are more subject to fluctuations.”

 

4.What are the challenges for these innovations and what can society and governments do to bring them to fruition?

The future of the energy sector is challenging, thus we need to apply our best efforts to foster the adequate technical, economic and regulatory framework so that we can optimize the different solutions in the transition to climate neutrality by 2050. The challenge is demanding, but should not overwhelm us, instead the emphasis should be directed at the opportunities that lie in this challenge, namely by decarbonizing several sectors of our economy.

The States rule is to foster, not hinder innovation. Therefore new technologies, services, products and processes should not be blocked, but should instead be put in more flexible environments such as regulatory sandboxes, where they can be rolled out after being tested and deployed on a larger scale.

“The energy sector is in an ongoing revolution, with disruptive and innovative solutions and new approaches emerging.”

 

5.What value do you see in wave energy in the future?

Wave energy systems are emerging technologies with very strong potential. Some estimates speculate that, if we could harness this type of energy, it could supply at least 10 percent of the world’s energy consumption.

Integrating wave energy, and all other offshore systems,  in our renewable energy mix as a complementary source would very relevant for Portugal, since, besides having the natural resources to explore, wave energy is more predictable and stable when compared to other renewables sources, which are more subject to fluctuations.  It further benefits from a timing profile which is complimentary to wind and solar production. Many countries, considering these wave energy characteristics, even those that are not near the sea, are looking to expand their expertise in the sector.

Portugal, having such a large sea area, is already starting to see some of its potential become a reality. There are several projects running and others in the development phase, for these new types of renewable offshore energy. If we could have more European and international partnerships for these innovative research projects, the chances of success would surely increase.

Coastal communities have much to benefit from the emergence of a strong offshore sector, contributing to its social acceptance. Joint programs and cooperation between regions and countries, involving partners of different types and scale, would decisively contribute to the development of the values chains in these types of technologies.

Ports and coastal areas from natural industrial clusters which will help promote the energy transition, as cornerstones for the adoption of energy technologies, with the necessary backbone of infrastructure to build an integrated energy system, that would both decarbonise and ensure energy security.

For this reason, adequate maritime spatial planning is essential to identify the best location for electrical connections/interconnections, either from sea to land or cross-country. Both types of grid infrastructure are fundamental to (first) generate and transport to land and (second) make it accessible to the regions where it is consumed, at a national or international level. And this challenge occurs not only in offshore but also to other forms of renewable energy production.

The ocean offers huge energy generation potential. Some of it may be brought to land through electrical interconnections; other part could be generated and stored at the sea through other energy carriers (such as hydrogen) or even consumed there. System integration and cross-sector knowledge transfer are thus additional challenges that must be addressed at academic, entrepreneurial and regulatory levels.

 

Name: João Saldanha de Azevedo Galamba

Job Title: Deputy Minister and Secretary of State for Energy, Portuguese Government

Lives: Lisbon, Portugal

Career in summary: João Saldanha de Azevedo Galamba was born in Lisbon in 1976. Mr Galamba graduated in Economics from the Faculty of Economics of Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He completed the academic part of the PhD in Political Science at the London School of Economics, having taught Political Philosophy in the Government department. Mr Galamba worked at Banco Santander de Negócios, at consultant DiamondCluster International, at the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union and at the Mission Unit for Integrated Continuous Care. He has been member of parliament in the XI, XII and XIII Parliamentary terms. He was coordinator of Socialist Party on the Budget and Finance Committee and Vice-President of the Socialist Party Parliamentary Group. He has been Portugal’s Secretary of State for Energy since October 2018.

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