It’s the Industry, Stupid

by Carolyn Elefant on September 29, 2008

CarvilleRemember It’s the economy, stupid, the phrase coined by political strategist James Carville back in 1992? A similar iteration of that phrase comes to my mind with increasing frequency when I think of the marine renewables industry: it’s the industry, stupid.

What I mean by that is while the United States should be developing marine renewables because they’ll help lead to energy independence and address climate change, let’s face it…those goals are a long way off. Moreover, it’s unlikely that marine renewables, even when fully mature will meet the majority of our energy needs. Yet even with these considerations, there are compelling reasons to pursue marine renewables, and that’s…the industry, stupid.

Take a look at Scotland. According to this
recent news story, Scotland is unveiling plans for the world’s biggest tidal power project, as well as a factory to make tidal turbines and export them to other utilities around the world. In short, Scotland recognizes both the power-generating and industry-building potential of marine renewables.

This opinion piece from by Sam Ghibaldan corroborates that point. As Ghibaldan argues, utilities have generating experience and they’re the ones that will ultimately deploy marine renewables for power. But there are still opportunities for technology companies to license the technology and for manufacturing companies to build it:

Before the utilities can generate marine electricity they need robust, reliable devices, capable of producing power at a commercially viable cost. This is where technology companies, those developing tidal and wave devices, come in. They will license that technology to generating companies to use in new power plants around the globe. If Scotland is to lead the world in marine energy it will be down to the expertise of technology companies and by exporting devices they could become a major part of the Scottish economy.
There is a precedent. Thirty years after the pioneering Danish wind power technology companies started a new industry, they still provide about 40 per cent of the world’s wind turbines.

But marine renewables don’t necessarily just support technlogy and manufacturing. As I posted here, there are all kinds of ancillary uses that marine renewables support such as desalinzation or aquaculture or niche uses, such as powering offshore data facilities.

To say that marine renewables will solve all of our nation’s power problems underestimates their true value, and indeed, will make growing the industry less of a priority. But if we recognize that marine renewables bring another benefit to the table — the ability to create a new economy, exports and jobs — perhaps we can get investors, the government and local communities more interested in these technologies. Clean energy is important, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the industry.

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