The abundant potential to develop marine energy is stunning. Harnessing waves, tides, currents, and even thermal gradients, could technically produce more than half of all the nation’s electricity needs.
Demonstration projects and research over the past decade, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Navy, show that innovative marine energy technologies could be the missing link for meeting our nation’s clean energy goals and decarbonizing our electricity grid.
What’s more, these technologies complement wind and solar technologies. As these variable renewables play an increasing role in the U.S. electricity mix, marine energy resources have the potential to prove particularly valuable to future energy markets.
What’s needed now is a commitment—by both the marine energy industry and by the U.S. Federal Government—to accelerate commercialization of these technologies.
Huge Potential for Development
The results of a new marine energy assessment report developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for the U.S. Department of Energy are astounding. The total marine energy technical resource in the United States is equivalent to 57% of the nation’s electricity generated in 2019. Utilizing just 1/10th of these resources would:
- Equate to nearly 6% of electricity generation.
- Produce enough electricity to power 22 million homes.
- Represent more than 3 times U.S. solar generation.
- Equal ¼ of the U.S. coal fleet.
Indeed, the nation’s marine energy resources are large, predictable, and geographically diverse.
Call to Accelerate Commercialization
Marine energy technologies are experiencing rapid innovation. Deployment of these technologies at scale in the United States will benefit the nation by:
- Increasing localized economic development opportunities.
- Creating thousands of high-value jobs.
- Promoting exports in technology manufacturing and related services.
However, without a unified focus on accelerating commercialization, these benefits will be delayed, if recognized at all.
The National Hydropower Association’s Marine Energy Council is the U.S. national trade group dedicated to promoting technologies and related services to harness clean, renewable power from marine energy resources.
Leading the charge for commercialization, the trade group is calling for domestic marine energy deployment targets of at least 50 MW by 2025, 500 MW by 2030, and 1 GW by 2035.
Meeting these deployment targets will support the Biden/Harris Administration’s efforts to “Build Back Better” and increase economic growth, create thousands of high value jobs, support the clean energy transition, and promote exports in manufacturing and related services.
The National Hydropower Association’s Marine Energy Council also calls on the U.S. Federal Government to take actions to help meet these deployment targets. Federal policymakers need to:
- Increase financial support for research and development.
- Reduce market barriers.
- Create financial incentives for technology deployment.
Specifically, substantial new investments in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office and the U.S. Navy Energy Program will accelerate the pace of technology demonstration, reduce costs, and increase adoption.
The Time Is Now
Marine energy offers the opportunity to provide lower cost power while dramatically reducing harmful emissions. These resources offer significant near-term promise for widely distributed, previously underserved, or economically distressed waterfront communities. Marine energy can give these localities control over their power supply, increase grid reliability and security, dramatically reduce harmful emissions, and help achieve climate change goals. Marine energy technologies will also facilitate off-grid “Blue Economy” market opportunities.
Together, industry and government can partner to “walk the final mile,” leading the U.S. to successfully transition to a 100% clean energy grid.