How Standards help build an industry marine power generation

Issue 42 – September 2012

Marine energy is the new kid on the block. The technology faces many challenges. Tidal energy areas are widely dispersed, machines need to work safely under water and connect to existing systems, performance has to be demonstrated, and regulators and the financial community need the reassurance that their investments are well placed. Participation in Standards development helps address all of these challenges, allowing this industry to grow.

Facing challenges

Marine energy faces many challenges:

  • Rapid development of competing technologies can make it difficult to compare efficiency, reliability, safety, and the ability to connect with existing systems.

  • Tidal energy areas are widely dispersed and often quite difficult to link to existing grids. The complex interplay between local and national regulations, and private or public utilities can complicate cost-efficient energy production.

  • Installing and connecting systems in bodies of water can be technically difficult and requires proof that no harm is done to the environment.

  • Problematic access to funding due to difficulty in convincing public and private investors that their investment is well placed, and that machines are reliable in the long run.

Reducing risk

Active participation in standardisation and the use of international Standards helps build trust with investors because machines are built to a set of third party rules that are accepted by all the players in the industry. Standards provide consistent measurements and testing methods that are used in the certification process. They help assess environmental impact, overall safety, performance, and reliability. Standards also allow resource assessment to identify energy availability and performance evaluation of the systems so that inefficient systems are not being deployed nor money wasted. The electricity produced is subject to standardisation to ensure that it is being safely generated and safely delivered to the community.

Together Standards help build commercial markets and facilitate the deployment of these systems both in the developed and the developing world.

Contributing to standardisation

Participating in standardisation in this pre-commercial industry is critically important for any player who wants to become a leader. Start-up companies cumulate a lot of expertise and technical know-how. Their perspective offers a vital contribution to the standardisation and commercialisation of an industry. Helping to create the market in turn increases the financial opportunity for all market participants.

The marine industry is highly innovative and has many players. It doesn't work out-of-the-box. By participating in standardisation companies make certain that they participate in writing the rules that will guide their industry. At the same time they ensure that their technologies are taken into account so that testing and measurement processes apply. Without Standards it could take a long time for this type of energy to be able to contribute to the global energy mix.

Global market

Any company that has aspirations of selling products in the global market needs to be part of Standards development in one way or another. Working with an international standardisation body, or with their country's task force, being a part of the process, will be critically important for stakeholders to position themselves as this market advances.

Technology independent

Good Standards are technology independent. A good Standard helps companies build products that work and communicate with each other and within existing systems safely, anywhere in the world.

Standards and intellectual property are compatible

In innovative industries, IP (intellectual property) is generally the only way in which to monetise research and development. Naturally that's why it needs to be strongly protected. Contrary to what many believe, participating in standardisation doesn't affect IP; it can actually get a technology on the table. A good Standard focuses on criteria that help industry stakeholders to consistently test and verify the safety, performance, and quality of different technologies in the same space. This builds trust and is the only way how markets can grow and expand.

Summarised from the World Standards Cooperation Newsletter August 2012.

Published in international.