Annual Report 2018
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Country Reports

AUSTRALIA

Mark Hemer and Tracey Pitman (CSIRO) Stephanie Thornton (Australian Ocean Energy Group)

 

OVERVIEW

A key highlight for Australia’s ocean energy (OE) community was re-instatement of Australian membership in OES. Membership is currently supported by a grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and their International Engagement Program. Improved communication and interaction nationally and with international community is already evident. Participation in the OES task groups is proving to strengthen domestic OE community connections and networks, which contributed to a highly successful second annual ocean energy conference in November 2018. 

Notwithstanding the challenges, a number of Australian developers and researchers are engaged in a few well-advanced development and research projects, primarily tidal and/or wave energy. Four Australian companies are developing devices for local sites, and another 2 Australian company projects are planned for deployment outside Australia. One device, MAKO tidal, was deployed in an Australian port in 2018. A national wave energy resource assessment was completed in 2017 and is available via the Australian Wave Energy Atlas. A national tidal energy resource assessment is under way, and a new wave energy research centre has been established in Western Australia. A proposal to establish a centre for offshore wind and wave energy in South Australia has also been shortlisted as part of an Australia-China Science research-funding initiative.  The industry continues to strengthen as a result of the formation of the Australian Ocean Energy Group (AOEG), a virtual ocean energy cluster, which evolved from the Australian Marine Energy Taskforce and seed funding provided by the National Energy Resources Australia (NERA). AOEG will be formally established in early 2019.


 

SUPPORTING POLICIES FOR OCEAN ENERGY
 
 
NATIONAL STRATEGY
The lack of a national Ocean Energy Policy in Australia is a major challenge for the Australian OE sector. This is despite the fact that Australia has considerable wave and tidal ocean energy resources. The development of the emerging ocean renewable energy (ORE) industry could build Australia’s blue economy, while actively contributing to committed carbon mitigation measures (reference CSIRO report). 
 
While there is no government-led policy, the sector has come together to produce a few key documents:
  1. A White Paper (Hemer et al) was also published in mid 2018 to document the recommendations arising from a stakeholders workshop held in late 2016. At the workshop, ocean energy technology and project developers, researchers, academics, policy makers and other stakeholders in Australia’s emerging ocean energy sector came together to identify the challenges and develop possible pathways to grow ocean energy in Australia. The paper is titled: Perspectives on a wave forward for Ocean Renewable Energy in Australia, and is published in the journal, Renewable Energy (2018) 127:733-745. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2018.05.036
     
  2. An ‘economic survey’ was commissioned by the former Australian Marine Energy Taskforce (AMET) and independently conducted by BDO Sydney. The report was completed in December 2018.  The new AOEG is planning to complete a Commercialisation Support Plan in 2019, whose results are expected to contribute to future ocean energy policy development.
     
  3. The Commonwealth Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) commissioned an internal “ocean energy assessment” to review prospects for the medium- and long-term development of ocean energy in Australia. The report, completed and submitted to ARENA in November 2018, will influence future ocean renewable policy.
 
A number of actions were identified in the White Paper on Australian Ocean Energy (Hemer et al 2018), however these actions have not been prioritised. They include:
  1. Technical/ Research actions– 
     
    • Engineering - convergence of the device technologies to a reduced and optimal number of device types that best suited to Australian geographical or economic circumstances would be ideal. Also, some consideration of ORE best integrate with other low-emission energy technologies and storage solutions would help to focus Australian efforts in the OE sector.
       
    • A national test facility – Establishment of a test facility is widely desired.
       
    • Data - Establish multi-year datasets measuring performance and effects of deployment are needed. Also a regular review of the knowledge, and learnings from failures to identify knowledge gaps priorities for targeted research activities. A knowledge base on the potential environmental impacts of device deployment continue to be collected, preferably independent of the project proponent(s)

       
  2. Policy and Regulation and environment actions– 
     
    • Develop a national policy framework to continue the growth of the renewable energy target beyond the current levels set for 2020-2030 in Australia.
       
    • Clear international guidelines for assessing technologies would aid decision making processes. Developers will ideally follow best practice pathways for technology readiness levels. 
       
    • Australian engagement in the international discussion for integrated ocean planning and management with due consideration of ORE is required (Warner, 2012). A framework for management of multiple sectors in the marine environment is needed. Improving the consistency of marine policy between jurisdictions will support ORE project development. Appropriate planning frameworks would ultimately help the industry by smoothing the development process, giving greater certainty and timelines for approvals, providing social license to operate, and avoiding costs associated with potential approval-related project delays. 
       
    • Strong engagement with indigenous Australia should underpin ongoing development of ORE in Australian waters
       
  3. Communication actions - A sectoral voice to inform policy in Australia, via an Ocean Energy network is a strong need expressed by the sector. Great progress has been made in developing the Australian OE community network, with the reestablishment of OES membership, alongside the formation Australian Ocean Energy Group (AOEG). 
 
The national Energy Policy governs ocean energy indirectly in Australia. The Australian government departments that deal with ocean energy include:
  • Department of Environment and Energy
  • The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
  • Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC)
  • Clean Energy Regulator (CER)
 
In November 2018, an independent survey conducted by BDO Sydney assessed the economic significance of the ocean energy sector to Australia. For the year ending 30 June 2018 six ocean energy technology developers (wave and tidal) disclosed combined expenditures of approximately $16.6m. Of this expenditure approximately 60% is paid to Australian residents, a strong economic investment in Australian expertise. Expenditure for next year (for the period from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019) is expected to substantially increase to $29,5m– a 77% increase. This does not take into account the expanded economic value when all associated industry participants are included.
 
Investment in ocean energy research and development in Australia in 2018 included Commonwealth funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and National Energy Resources Australia for ocean renewable energy research projects totalled approximately $AUD1.5m for 2018, with co-investment from project partners adding a further approximately $AUD3m investment. The Western Australian State Government has been another major public investor, via the Albany Wave Energy Research Centre, with a further approximately $AUD1m for research in 2018.  Investment in research of a similar magnitude is expected for 2019.
 
 
MARKET INCENTIVES
There are currently no market incentives in Australia for ocean energy systems.
 
 
PUBLIC FUNDING PROGRAMS
There are three national funding programmes that support ocean energy, including:
  • Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
  • Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)
  • National Energy Resources Australia (NERA)
 
Each of these agencies support a wide range of renewable and clean energy initiatives. This means that finding funding for ocean energy in Australia can be difficult, as any ocean energy initiatives and proposals must compete with more highly developed technologies for their funding.