Increased investments and pre-impact assessment studies key for a sustainable development of marine renewable energies in the Mediterranean basin

The Blue Growth Community discusses on various issues during the second transnational capitalization event on marine renewable energies of November 27-28 in Naples (Italy).

The Blue Growth Community, driven by the InnoBlueGrowth project (Interreg MED), celebrated its second transnational event on Blue Energies in Naples last November 27-28, 2017.

Organized by the IMC-CPMR and with the support of all InnoBlueGrowth partners, the "Innovation for the development of blue energies in the Mediterranean" event gathered stakeholders ranging from regional policy makers to researchers and academia, NGOs, and the private sector.

The event ensured the follow-up of issues highlighted by the MAESTRALE and PELAGOS projects during the Community Launch event of April 2017:

  • Investments and synergies for technology funding,
  • Integrated coastal zone management, Maritime spatial planning, and social acceptance,
  • Environmental sustainability, components, and natural capital assessment, and
  • Awareness raising in education to explain blue growth and energy potential to schools and universities.

After having presented their preliminary results, the MAESTRALE and PELAGOS projects participated in round-table dynamics along with all participants to further dig into the above-listed themes. The aim was to identify the most pressing issues and gaps, the priority fields of action to act, and three main targets to direct concluding messages on a defined timeframe.

Among the highlighted issues were the potential for funding marine renewable energies in the Mediterranean, with a focus on the strategies of the EU in this sense and a relevant parallel with the actual knowledge on potentialities for developing marine renewable energy infrastructures in the basin.

This was conjugated with awareness-raising exchanges regarding the need for a thorough integrated coastal zone management and maritime spatial planning, allowing the enhancement of the Blue Growth sustainable component by identifying synergies between sectors, pushing for multi-level and multi-sector cooperation, minimizing conflicts of uses, and preserving the sea/ocean space and marine resources.

The debates then moved to the environmental impacts that marine renewable energy infrastructures - in particular, wave systems - can potentially exert on the marine environment and ecosystems. To cite a few, the alteration and creation of new habitats, the sound and electromagnetic waves, the presence of foreign species in some areas altering the life of indigenous ones. It is worth noting that research and data still need to be performed and produced in order to concretely evaluate the potential impacts of marine energies on the environment as well as how the environment would respond. Encouraging pre-impacts assessments is therefore of utmost importance.

Lastly, and following the thread of discussions, the focus was brought on the training and educational part of the sector, highlighting the different expectations of the sector in terms of skills and the gaps that still need to be tackled for job creations and a better match between both skills offer and demand.

These debates were put into perspective in the framework of a field visit, during which the participants sailed to observe a wave energy pilot plant inserted in the breakwater infrastructures of the Port of Naples. The idea of this pilot is to evaluate the cost/benefit of such a plant to generate energy for the port itself, and taking advantage of existing constructions (breakwater in this example) to lower its overall building cost.

Other activities such as a speed-dating exercise followed to strengthen the links between all participants and encourage new ways of collaborating in the future. Gathering comments from both projects and external stakeholders also allowed to draw some lines regarding the future development of InnoBlueGrowth. These orientations would indeed be aligned with Interreg Med's priorities and the updated needs of the projects and participants as regards blue energies.

A more technical and policy report will be published soon following this event, and on the road to the Interreg Med and InnoBlueGrowth mid-term events, to be respectively celebrated next April 18-19, 2018 in Rome (Italy), and in November 2018 in Barcelona (Spain).