Creation of investor confidence: The top-level drivers for reaching maturity in marine energy

Highlights

Key risks for commercial projects (funding & device performance) are directly interlinked.

Decisive investor confidence will be created by the game-changing “array-scale success”.

System dynamics was applied to identify the top-level drivers for the market breakthrough.

The knowledge of 44 experts was integrated to identify the commercialisation strategy.

Abstract

Electricity generation by tidal current and wave power arrays represents a radical innovation and is confronted by significant technological and financial challenges. Currently, the marine energy sector finds itself in a decisive transition phase having developed full-scale technology demonstrators but still lacking proof of the concept in a commercial project environment. After the decades-long development process with larger than expected setbacks and delays, investors are discouraged because of high capital requirements and the uncertainty of future revenues. In order to de-risk the technology and to accelerate the commercialisation process, we identified stakeholder-wide balanced and realisable strategic targets. The objective is to name the top-level drivers for facilitating technology maturation and thus achieving market acceptance. Our analysis revealed that the two major risks for multi-megawatt projects (funding and device performance) are directly interlinked and that co-ordinated action is required to overcome this circular relationship. As funding is required for improving device performance (and vice-versa), showcasing an “array-scale success” was identified as the interim milestone on the way towards commercial generation. By this game-changing event, both mentioned risk complexes will be simultaneously mitigated. We observed that system dynamics modelling is appropriate for an unbiased analysis of complex multi-level expert interview data. The applied research model was found to be efficient and allows a regular re-assessment of the strategic alignment thus supporting the adaptation to a complex and continuously changing socio-technical environment.

Keywords

  • Marine energy commercialisation;
  • Strategic drivers;
  • Investor confidence;
  • System dynamics

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