The real value of ocean energy: an interview with Ocean Energy Europe CEO Rémi Gruet

 

Rémi Gruet is the CEO of Ocean Energy Europe. After working for 6 years in the private sector, Rémi Gruet spent a further 17 years influencing the European political agenda, working both inside and outside EU institutions – notably the European Parliament and European Wind Energy Association. He joined OEE in 2013 to promote innovative ocean energy. He is a leading authority on renewable energies, climate and environmental policy, and authored numerous reports, such as the recent “Ocean Energy Forum Roadmap” or “Powering Homes”. He is a visiting lecturer on EU energy policy at the University for Political Science in Lille, France.

“Together we push for ocean energy to be more visible, better funded and less hampered by red tape at European, International and National level.”

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

As CEO of the European trade body for ocean energy, I lead a team of great policy advocacy and communication professionals. Together we push for ocean energy to be more visible, better funded and less hampered by red tape at European, International and National level.

2.From your perspective, what are the key trends in renewable energy today?

The tremendous drop in costs of wind and solar energy has dictated the strategies of energy companies first and governments next and is clearly the main factor and trend behind the current energy revolution towards renewables. Those technologies are now cheaper than conventional energies, not by 10-20%, but by a factor 2 or 3 even depending on the markets and competing incumbent technologies. That fact makes it impossible for today’s companies to continue investing in coal for historical/social reasons, nuclear for ideological reasons, and gas for economic reasons. The only wise course of action for their Boards, is to rapidly divest their fossil assets while they are still worth something and focus on growing their renewable portfolios. This is well advanced for nuclear and coal, gas will be next.

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

Wave and tidal are of course innovative solutions that will help produce more renewable energy, and do so in a manner that fits better with the variability of wind and solar. As those two will be the bulk of global electricity production, we will of course also need more energy efficiency, storage, and most importantly demand-side management. Yet the predictability of tidal and the fact that wave can produce at different times from wind and solar, can soften production peaks and troughs, and will reduce the need for other ways of managing the grid. This will be even more vital the closer we get to 2050 and to 100% renewable electricity. 

“Wave and tidal are of course innovative solutions that will help produce more renewable energy, and do so in a manner that fits better with the variability of wind and solar.”

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

Financial mostly, and technological to a certain extent for wave energy. Tidal energy is easier to extract technically, and is only waiting for a market with decent revenue support to develop the next pilot and pre-commercial farms. One cannot expect innovative technologies to compete without support with incumbent technologies, all of which have been subsidised as well in the past, some still today, like nuclear.

On the wave side, extracting a circular movement like that of the waves is more complex than a direct flow of air or water. Many companies have put prototypes in the water though, and some great innovations need to be demonstrated as part of pilot farms to fully validate the technical side and improve economics. Corpower’s concept for example is a very promising one for sure. The role of Government here is not only revenue support, but also grant support, to make the early projects happen.

“Wave energy can supply vast amounts of energy across the globe. And as we understand the technology better, I am confident we will push well past the 337GW of estimated global capacity (wave + tidal, as per IEA-OES).”

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

The massive resource and the complementarity to wind I was mentioning earlier are the main drivers behind the development of wave energy. Wave energy can supply vast amounts of energy across the globe. And as we understand the technology better, I am confident we will push well past the 337GW of estimated global capacity (wave + tidal, as per IEA-OES).

Waves used for electricity generation are created by the wind, and perdure several hours after the wind has died out. This makes the technology an ideal partner for what will be the main technology on most grid systems worldwide. Smoothing out production curves will soon be an objective of all grid managers, if it isn’t already. 

“Massive resource and complementarity to wind are the main drivers behind the development of wave energy.”

6.Who would you want us to interview next and why? 

Commission President Ursula Van Der Leyen or Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson seem like ideal candidates! They are leading the Commission at a critical time and are trying to solve the above-mentioned flexibility equation for the EU energy system.  

7.What question would you like to ask him/ her?

How the Commission can support the uptake of those new renewable technologies using the package of energy and climate legislation that are being revised as we speak. And whether they will let other countries take away our lead in wave and tidal technology – China and the US have been knocking on the EU door pretty hard these last two years!

Remi’s three key tenets to improve the ocean energy environment

1: Market visibility – for investors

2: Financial support – for projects

3: Administrative streamlining

 

Name: Rémi Gruet

Job Title: CEO Ocean Energy Europe

Lives: Brussels

Career in summary: After working for 6 years in the private sector, Rémi Gruet spent the last 17 years influencing the European political agenda, working both inside and outside EU institutions – notably the European Parliament, and European Wind Energy Association. He joins OEE in 2013 to promote innovative ocean energy. He is a leading authority on renewable energies, climate and environmental policy, and authored numerous reports, such as the recent “Ocean Energy Forum Roadmap” or “Powering Homes”. He is a visiting lecturer on EU energy policy at the University for Political Science in Lille, France.

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