The Covid-19 pandemic has unearthed many questions about the resilience of our economic and financial systems and has highlighted the need for international cooperation to secure a better and brighter future. Amid the global economic downturn, one clear direction of travel has emerged: a green recovery.
Today, on World Oceans Day, it is worth highlighting ocean-based renewable energy – including offshore wind, tidal, wave and floating solar power – as the next transformative force to reshape our energy systems and power a green recovery.
Up to 1,400 GW of offshore wind energy could be delivered globally by 2050, providing one-tenth of the world’s electricity. This is an enormous scaling-up from the 30 GW of offshore wind already installed around the world, which has drawn more than $150 billion of investment over the last decade. These opportunities have been unlocked by massive cost reductions, making offshore wind a mature, scalable, affordable and clean energy technology.
The ocean covers more than 70 percent of the planet, with many areas that have untapped potential for offshore wind. The development has been concentrated in OECD markets, but other countries like Vietnam, India and Brazil have immense ocean resources and opportunities.
OREAC’s ambition of 1,400 GW by 2050 goes far beyond current global forecasts, yet it would be entirely possible with a collective effort by government and industry. Market leaders like the UK, Germany and China have demonstrated that strong frameworks which prioritise policy stability, market transparency, and environmentally responsible and collaborative development enable offshore wind to thrive and coexist with other ocean uses such as fisheries.
By supporting local job creation in manufacturing, construction and services, offshore wind has a critical role in economic growth. For example, an emerging offshore wind market like Taiwan is on-track to generate 20,000 local jobs and nearly $30 billion in inward investment by installing 5.5 GW by 2025. Sector jobs can particularly support the revitalisation of coastal towns and communities, and strengthen the mitigation efforts of low-lying, climate-vulnerable countries.
Based on IRENA methodology, around 24 million full-time jobs could be generated if offshore wind capacity reaches 1,400 GW by 2050. This job creation potential covers the full value chain of offshore wind, from procurement to construction to maintenance to decommissioning.
According to a report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel), ocean-based renewable energy could deliver around 10% of the global CO2 emissions reductions required by 2050 to sustain a 1.5-degree pathway, essential if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Offshore wind provides most of this decarbonisation potential and deserves greater attention from lawmakers charting plans for sustainable development.
Later this year OREAC will launch its roadmap for 2050, which will outline the actions needed to support industry and lawmakers in achieving the 1,400 GW vision. This report will serve as an important guiding document for industry, government and other ocean stakeholders to harness the power of ocean-based renewable energy to decarbonise our energy systems while contributing to the prosperous coexistence of ocean energy projects with other ocean uses and maintaining the integrity of the marine environment.
The worst may not be over – if economic activity is encouraged to return unchecked by sensible climate-related considerations, our recovery could steer us deeper into the climate crisis. Instead, leaders must forge a path from global recession to clean growth. Putting ocean energy at the heart of that pathway will deliver the clean, affordable power and economic stimulus that the world needs now more than ever.
The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy
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