The Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC) was formed in response to the 2019 call for ocean-based climate action by the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel), and represents ocean energy in the global dialogue on a sustainable ocean economy. The Ocean Panel is a unique initiative of 14 serving world leaders, supported by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean and working with diverse stakeholders to accelerate bold, pragmatic solutions for realising a sustainable ocean economy.
OREAC is spearheaded by the Global Wind Energy Council and includes other leading players in the global offshore wind sector: Ørsted, Equinor, CWind, GE Renewable Energy, Global Marine Group, JERA, MHI Vestas, MingYang Smart Energy, Mainstream Renewable Power, Shell, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, TenneT and The Crown Estate. Additional supporting organisations include the World Resources Institute, UN Global Compact, the Chinese Wind Energy Association and Ocean Energy Systems.
Our 1,400 GW vision for 2050
In 2018, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) undertook a comprehensive assessment of the climate change mitigation potential of a range of ocean-based activities. The Ocean Panel found that ocean-based solutions could contribute around 21% of the total emission reductions needed by 2050 to reach the 1.5°C global warming target set by the Paris Agreement.
The Ocean Panel determined that, of all ocean-based solutions to climate change, harnessing ocean-based renewable energy like offshore wind can deliver nearly half of the identified decarbonisation potential. It also calculated that investment in offshore wind yielded an average benefit-cost ratio of 12:1, providing increasing economic, environmental and health benefits as technology and integration costs continue to fall.
In response to the Ocean Panel, OREAC’s vision sets out the scale of this potential for ocean renewable energy. Our vision is to have 1,400 GW of offshore wind generating capacity installed worldwide by 2050. Oceans would then supply around 10% of the world’s electricity. Every region of the world would have a thriving and sustainable ocean renewable energy industry. By doing so, countries would replace fossil-fuel generation, and enable widescale electrification of heating, cooling, industry, hydrogen production and transport.
What does 1,400 GW of ocean-based renewable energy mean?
If we achieve our vision of 1.4 TW of offshore wind by 2050, this would mean that ocean-based renewable energy could supply 10% of the world's electricity by 2050.
Offshore wind has the greatest potential of the ocean-based renewable energy technologies. Our vision is for the 1.4TW be delivered by to be achieved by offshore wind alone. This is beyond the level of recent forecasts.
The World Bank estimates that this is still less than 10% of the technical potential for offshore wind in 48 emerging markets. Other ocean renewable technologies could provide father carbon savings and economic benefits to countries if these technologies are brought to commercialisation.
Offshore wind can fill the gap left by retiring fossil fuel capacity and meet demand from the electrification of transport and heating. It can reduce reliance on imported energy, which can be subject to significant price fluctuations.
For countries that have grids built to transmit power from traditional fossil fuel generation to population centres, offshore wind may drive changes to enable these systems to evolve towards carbon neutrality.
This whole system transition could include grid reinforcement, new mechanisms and technologies to balance electricity supply and demand, and much closer links between electricity, transport and heat systems.
Offshore wind can be built at an industrial scale, with the costs of offshore continuing to fall year-on-year and stimulating local economies.
Offshore wind creates demand for a wide range of components and services, leading to new jobs and local economic development. It offers a clean growth pathway, transitioning the workforce and industrial sectors to meet future needs, while providing a sustainable means of meeting growing energy demand. IRENA estimated that a 500MW offshore wind project creates directly 2.1 million person days of work or about 10,000 person years over its life.
Offshore wind presents an opportunity to revitalise coastal towns, cities and communities, where new investments can regenerate areas which have previously faced economic decline. The industry has also worked to ensure a just transition of workers from other sectors in decline, such as fishing.
Once commercialised, other ocean renewable energy technologies can be equally as beneficial.
The HLP concludes that ocean renewable energy could contribute almost 10% of the carbon emission reductions needed to keep temperature within 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels in 2050.
Fossil fuels release on average 460 tonnes of CO2 per GWh of electricity generated. If our vision
of 1.4TW of offshore wind in 2050 is realised, it will generate 5,400TWh annually, saving over 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. That is equivalent of taking more than half (800 million) of the world’s cars off the road.
Offshore wind can help to cut significant amounts of atmostpheric pollutants. In 2018, The American Wind Energy Association estimated the reductions in air pollution from the 96 GW of onshore wind generated $9.4 billion in public health savings, just in that year. The impact of 1.4TW offshore wind in 2050 would be about 20 times higher.
Offshore wind also saves water. Fossil fuels consume on average 15 million litres of water per GWh. Wind farms require very little water, so 1.4TW of offshore wind could save 78 trillion litres of water per year.
How can we realise the 1,400 GW by 2050 vision?
By working together with industry, governments will be able to better understand what the industry needs to invest and develop projects, which can create long-term, sustainable economic benefit and continue to drive down the cost of energy.
Industry welcomes strong government leadership to help it deliver rapid benefits. It may take eight years or more from the start of development to operation of the wind farm and the policy building blocks need to be in place early.
Governments can offer stable and attractive policy framework with good visibility of the size of the industry over at least ten years. By providing a competitive and stable mechanism to give some certainty over future revenue, governments can give investors acceptable returns, while ensuring enough competition to deliver offshore wind at the lowest sustainable cost to the country.
Governments can best achieve their objectives for offshore wind if they give robust and timely leasing, permitting and PPA decisions. Institutions involved in environmental management, leasing sites, permitting and providing market support mechanisms need to be sufficiently resourced.
All coastal nations have important, existing maritime industries. It is vital to establish a sustainable offshore wind industry that delivers maximum positive impact while ensuring the impacts on other marine users and the environment from wind farm development are carefully managed.
Voices of individuals and organisations affected by offshore wind farms must be heard. It is vital that the industry engages with communities and businesses. Governments can provide a channel for these voices and the industry will proactively engage.
Competition typically drives efficiency and innovation. Long-term, this reduces costs for governments and consumers and enables local suppliers to compete, regionally and globally.
The Power of Our Ocean
To support the rapid, global scale-up of ocean-based clean energy, in December 2020 OREAC published ‘The Power of Our Ocean’ as a guiding document for countries to accelerate development of ocean energies like offshore wind and reap the socioeconomic benefits they can offer.
This report was published in response to the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy’s (Ocean Panel) ‘Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy’, a far-reaching political document which highlights the importance of government-industry collaboration and underscores key ways that environmental conservation and economic prosperity can go hand in hand. Ocean-based renewable energy, and in particular offshore wind, is targeted in this document as a key solution to support decarbonisation at the pace needed to keep global warming within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, generate jobs and boost economic growth.
‘The Power of Our Ocean’ report answers the most important questions for governments looking to scale-up ocean-based renewable energy, including:
Watch the official report launch event!
Re-watch the official report launch event, which took place on 3 December on WindTV at WindEnergy Hamburg Digital. Speakers include global thought leaders on ocean sustainability and offshore wind such as Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean and Gonzalo Muñoz, COP25 High-Level Climate Action Champion discussing the main takeaways from this new report, the importance of offshore wind to achieving our climate goals, and we hear from government representatives from across the world on how they plan to build up their offshore wind markets in the years to come.
Market Readiness Assessment Toolkit
To support governments in their aims to develop a thriving and sustainable offshore wind sector, OREAC and the Global Wind Energy Council published the Offshore Wind Market Readiness Assessment Toolkit (OWMRA Toolkit) in December 2020.
This Toolkit offers specific analysis and guidance to policymakers, regulators, market enablers and key industry players in siting, permitting, and policies to scale up offshore wind capacity in a specific market. It enables markets to assess their readiness for this technology and identify gaps that need to be addressed to accelerate deployment.
The OWMRA Toolkit has been designed to use at country scale, in a workshop facilitated by offshore wind practitioners. It addresses 12 key components for offshore wind development:
Offshore Wind Technical Potential Resource Maps
OREAC commissioned a series of maps which demonstrate the fixed and floating offshore wind potential within 200 km of the shoreline of countries and geographies around the world. This technical resource complements the 54 maps of offshore wind potential which have been published by ESMAP to date.
Note: Technical potential resource is a term used to describe the energy resource that is extractable with current technology in waters within 200 km of the shoreline. Links in teal in the alphabetical list below will take you to the World Bank Group’s ESMAP website to download their resource maps for non-OECD countries, and links in navy will take you to an automatic download of the maps produced by GWEC for the Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC).