France is hoping to send a message about its potential role in the world’s hydropower sector with the announcement of preliminary studies that will ultimately lead to the launch of tidal energy tenders.
Speaking at the Renewable Energies Union’s Annual Symposium in Paris, Remi Gruet, CEO of multinational think tank Ocean Energy Europe said the move is intended to position France as a global leader in marine energy manufacturing.
“The stage is set for France to become the powerhouse of a global tidal energy industry,” Gruet said. “It has one of the most powerful tidal resources in the world, it has world-leading tidal technology, and it has an existing offshore supply chain ready for action.”
The studies will focus on zones along France’s northern coast near Brittany and Normandy, with the ensuing tenders for development expected to bring industry.
“The French government has clearly recognized this opportunity, and it will be up to the sector to demonstrate the readiness of the technology and the progress achieved in the first pilot farms,” Gruet said. “We look forward to discussing the design of the tender to ensure fast deployment and best use of public finances.”
France’s northern coast has been a target for years now, with officials meeting with a number of representatives from the Scotland’s European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in 2013 to explore the potential for test beds near Brittany and Normandy.
The same year, Alstom and French utility GDF Suez announced a proposal for tidal energy research in the Normandy region, and a partnership including Fortum, DCNS and AW-Energy said it planned to conduct research in Brittany. DCNS — now Naval Energies — announced it planned to begin construction of a marine tidal turbine plant in Cherbourg in July to support a US$146 million project near Alderney Island.
The race for industry
Ocean Energy Europe did not specify the economic spoils that could be claimed by France should it establish itself as the global leader in marine hydrokinetic manufacturing, though France is not the only European country making strides toward that goal.
Similar efforts are also being undertaken by Wales, which has stated the global market could equate to more than $6.8 billion in exports by 2050. Meanwhile, a 2015 report from Marine Energy Pembrokeshire noted that investments into the supply chain had already contributed $27.6 million for tidal stream energy; $22.4 million for tidal range energy and $1.5 million for wave energy into the Welsh economy alone.
Scottish Member of Parliament Alistair Carmichael also urged his country to build upon research conducted at its EMEC and Shetland Tidal Array to establish Scotland as a commercial leader.