The Swiss Institute for Disruptive Innovation has been interested in environmental sustainability since its founding. For this reason, we decided to interview Inna Braverman, Israeli entrepreneur and co-founder of Eco Wave Power. She was recognized by Wired Magazine as one of the “Females Changing the World”, by Fast Company one of the world’s “Most Creative People in Business for 2020” and is the winner of the United Nations “Global Climate Action Award”. With her company, Braverman has developed technology that produces renewable energy from sea waves.
Yours is truly pioneering work in the field of Greentech. Every revolution, however, always leads to fractions from the governmental point of view. In Italy, for example, there is talk of erecting offshore wind farms, a proposal opposed by regional governments and freeholders. In this sense, Eco Wave Power seems to have a better impact from the perspective of intervening in natural geographies. What are the points of contact and points of difference with existing technologies?
The similarities between Eco Wave Power’s technology to other renewable energy technologies is in the fact that they all produce clean electricity from different natural sources, which is good for the world and decreases the significant pollution that is caused by power generation from traditional sources such as oil and goal.
As to the differences. The main difference between the wind and solar energy industries is in the fact that Eco Wave Power does not occupy any prime real estate for the implementation of its technology. We only install existing manmade structures such as piers, breakwaters, jetties, and other types of marine structures. These structures are not prime real estate, and they are not used for anything other than breaking the waves and protecting the coastal populations from stormy conditions.
Another advantage, as opposed to other renewable energy technologies, is the fact that the marine structures that we use, have actually damaged the environment (as building cement walls in the middle of the sea or ocean is not good for the environment and actually changes the ecological balance), so we basically take this bulky huge cement structures, that have damaged the environment and we turn them to good use, by producing clean electricity from such marine structures.
Also, as in the offshore wind industry, we do not connect to the seabed and do not create any new presence on the ocean floor. Our floaters also have a significantly more minimal visual impact than wind turbines, and our floaters are only about 1 meter in height, and they are mostly hidden by the marine structure (as they are installed on the external side of the breakwater) and by the motion of the waves, and last, as opposed to wind energy, our technology can be implemented in high population density centers (where energy is actually required) as we do not produce any noise pollution which might disturb the neighboring communities.
Due to the fact that our technology does not infringe on the natural environment, Eco Wave power has won the Climate Global Action Award by the United Nations, is recognized as an “Efficient Solution” by the Solar Impulse Foundation, and is a part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative of Prince Charles and the World Economic Forum.
“No renewable energy resource has the capability or capacity to replace fossil duel alone and solve the world’s energy consumption needs. [but] by combining solar, wind, and water energy sources, global energy consumption can effectively be reduced”.
What is the revolution of Eco Wave Power?
Eco Wave Power has taken a completely different approach than other wave energy developers. Most wave energy developers have decided to install their equipment in the offshore zone (which is 4 to 5 KM into the sea), and this created a number of significant problems:
High Prices – Offshore installation is extremely expensive and complicated, as it requires ships, divers, underwater cabling, and underwater mooring.
Low Reliability – in offshore, the wave energy power stations are exposed to wave heights of 20 m and higher. Man-made stationary equipment has no way of avoiding and surviving such forces, thus many of the offshore installations broke down after a short time frame of operation (i.e. Pelamis, Oceanlinx)
No Insurance – due to the high prices and low reliability of offshore wave energy technologies, insurance companies refuse to insure offshore wave energy solutions, which has also created another difficulty in obtaining debt financing.
Environmental Impact – Environmentalists, who should be the greatest advocates of wave energy, are objecting to offshore wave energy, as it is connected to the ocean floor and disturbs the marine environment.
The key advantages of EWP’s technology are:
- Cost-efficiency – the price of the system is cost-efficient, as most of the system is located on land, just like a regular power station. This enables easy construction, operation, and maintenance.
- Reliability – most of the EWP equipment is located on land and, therefore, it is not exposed to stormy marine conditions. In addition, EWP has patented storm protection mechanisms.
- Insurability– The EWP system is fully insurable by notable global insurance companies
- Environmentally Friendly – The EWP system is 100% environmentally friendly as it does not connect to the ocean floor and does not create any new presence on the seabed. The EWP floaters only connect to man-made existing structures such as jetties and breakwaters.
EWP holds 17 Israeli patents pending and has three International PCTs for its innovative technology. In addition, the company has 6 years of operational experience with the grid-connected wave energy array that it has previously constructed in Gibraltar, and currently the company is finalizing the construction of its’ 2nd grid-connected wave energy array in Israel. This will be the first time in the history of Israel that wave energy will be officially transmitted to Israel’s national electric grid. In January 2022, the company also entered a new agreement for project development in AltaSea in the Port of Los Angeles and is currently holding projects pipeline of 327.7MW in different locations around the world, with the most recent Concession Agreements being in the city of Porto in Portugal and in Port Adriano, in Mallorca, Spain.
What is from an investment perspective the disruptiveness of renewable energy?
The global renewable energy market was valued at USD 1,406 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach a value of USD 2,153 billion by 2025. The past decade has seen a trend of significant global investment in renewable energy technologies; between 2010-2019 an estimated 2.6 trillion USD were invested worldwide in new renewable power capacity (excluding hydropower) which corresponds to about 1.2 terawatts of new renewable energy capacity.
Growth in the renewable energy sector has been largely fueled by increased investment as the world invested unprecedented amounts in low-carbon assets during 2020. A new, broad measure of ‘energy transition investment’, compiled by BloombergNEF (BNEF), shows that the world committed a record $501.3 billion to decarbonization in 2020, beating the previous year by 9% despite the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A geographical split of BNEF’s energy transition investment data shows that Europe accounted for the biggest slice of global investment, at $166.2 billion (an increase of 67%). Europe’s impressive performance was driven by a record year for electric vehicle sales, and the best year in renewable energy investment since 2012.
Globally, renewables investment increased 10% in Japan to $19.3 billion, 177% in the U.K. to $16.2 billion, and 221% in the capacity Netherlands to $14.3 billion. Spain was up 16% at $10 billion, Brazil up 23% at $8.7 billion, Vietnam 89% higher at $7.4 billion, France 38% up at $7.3 billion, and Germany 14% up at $7.1 billion. Other markets seeing $3 billion-plus totals included Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Poland, Chile, Turkey, and Sweden. Continued growth in investments is foreseen, with investments expected to grow by 40% and reach a value of approximately $436 billion by 2025, up from $311 billion in 2019.
During 2020, prominent leaders and governments rose to the occasion and committed to further combatting climate change and promoting sustainable technologies.
With the Recovery plan for Europe, a political push is being made for the development of green technologies. What are the opportunities for those venturing into this area?
In the United States, the second-biggest energy market in the world, President Biden signed an executive order to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, during his election campaign, he pledged that his administration would set a target of cutting the U.S. emissions to net zero “no later than 2050″.
Even specific support for ocean energy is now available, with $22 million in new funding opportunities for wave technology research and development offered by the United States Department of Energy in 2020. This comes in the wake of the DOE’s 2019 report “Powering the Blue Economy™: Exploring Opportunities for Marine Renewable Energy in Maritime Markets,” which outlines the potential of the ocean and tidal energy opportunities in the United States.
In addition, The Rockefeller Foundation committed to investing 1 Billion USD over the next three years to catalyze a more inclusive, green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic25, and in June 2020, the EU launched a 750 billion Euro COVID-19 recovery package, of which 37% is to be allocated towards climate-friendly measures that improve energy efficiency, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and invest in preserving and restoring nature.
The EU’s new climate and energy goals state that greenhouse gas emissions shall be reduced by 55% by the end of 2030, compared to the 1990 baseline. Moreover, in 2030, 32% of total energy consumption in the EU is expected to originate from renewable energy sources.
However, even though the momentum for renewable energy is positive, to meet long-term climate and other sustainable goals, global renewable energy development must accelerate further and incorporate innovative technologies and renewable energy sources.
Significant resources are already being committed worldwide to the expansion of energy production from renewable sources, however, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), for the world to meet the Paris Agreement goals (mentioned above), the share of renewables worldwide needs to double by 2030.
This will require ten trillion USD of current global investment in fossil fuels to be redirected into renewables and the annual investment in renewables will need to rise from 329 billion dollars at the end of 2018 to 737 billion dollars by 2030.
If this were to happen, renewable energy will be able to supply 57% of global power by 2030, an increase of 26% from today.
Is there room for growth, or are we still too dependent on fossil fuels?
No renewable energy resource has the capability or capacity to replace fossil fuel alone and solve the world’s energy consumption needs. To replace fossil fuels completely, the world will need to produce energy from a variety of renewable energy sources.
By combining solar, wind, and water energy sources, global energy consumption can effectively be reduced. According to the Renewables 2018 Global Status Report (REN21), globally today, fossil fuels consumption is 79.5% of the total share of energy consumption, followed by renewable energy sources with 18.2%. If recent progress from the renewable energy sector is considered, the gap between fossil fuel consumption and the renewable market can be closed in the near future.
How much can green technologies solve climate-changing problems?
The UN has identified energy production as the dominant contributor to climate change as it accounts for almost 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, there is a significant need to secure new and clean methods of energy production or else humanity runs the risk of irreversibly damaging our planet we look specifically at the wave energy sector, according to the World Energy Council wave energy can produce TWICE the amount of electricity the world produces today.
In Europe alone, the ocean energy industry is expected to deploy 188GW of production capacity by 2050, meeting 10% of the continent’s electricity demand, and according to the United States, Energy Information Administration wave energy can be used to produce around 66% of all the U.S. energy needs.
What other technologies can be invested in, in your opinion, to produce clean energy? What, apart from your own, are the most disruptive technologies from the Greentech perspective?
We believe that all renewable energy generation technologies should be implemented, as the only way to have a 100% environmentally friendly world, is by implementing all renewable energy sources. All the sources are available in different scales according to their geographical locations, and also during different seasons, months, or hours of the day, and in order to have a stability of energy supply, the optimal path for the world is the implementation of all.
Other insights on this argument: