Strategic risk management for tidal current and wave power projects
Tidal current and wave power, as emerging forms of renewable generation, represent innovations that are 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. Although ideas for improving the investment climate can be found, there is a lack of well-founded arguments and coordinated strategies to work towards a breakthrough in the marine energy market. The objective of this research is to provide stakeholder-specific prioritised strategy options for de-risking the commercialisation of tidal current and wave power technologies. A key principle applied is to integrate a wide knowledge spectrum comprising the technology, policy and financing sectors and to compile the information in a holistic and transparent manner. To gain a broad understanding of the characteristics of presently ongoing marine energy activities and the correlated strategic planning, a comprehensive survey was conducted. Based on this multidisciplinary attempt, an all-encompassing appraisal was possible by avoiding over-concentration on stakeholder-specific views or interests. System dynamics modelling was employed to develop a series of cause-effect relationship diagrams of the key interactions and correlations in the field. It was revealed that the circular relationship between two major risks for array-scale projects – reliability and funding – requires coordinated action to overcome. As funding is necessary for improving system reliability (and vice-versa), showcasing “array-scale success” was identified as the game-changing milestone towards commercial generation. Furthermore, it was found that a number of comparably competent manufacturing firms is required to implement major marine energy projects. This would result from fostering a multi-company market breakthrough concept, based on intensified knowledge sharing and trustful collaborative interaction between competitors. Additionally, effective separation of complexity into “detail” and “dynamically complex” constituents was found to be fundamental for identifying long-term, effective solutions. It is decisive to accept this primary classification, as measures appropriately applied on one type of complexity can be counterproductive if applied on the other. Most of the available planning tools and analytical methods do not address the management of dynamic complexity, necessary in innovative environments where flexibility and tolerance of vagueness are indispensable. Successful application of several strategies to deal with both types of complexity in comparable innovation-driven environments was considered suitable for de-risking the commercialisation of marine energy. The challenges for strategy-finding in a demandingly complex and increasingly dynamic environment are addressed in this research by exploiting a case-specific expert knowledge database. The structured information compression and subsequent strategy-finding process is realised based on calculated rankings of impact factors by systems dynamics software and substantiated by representative interview statements. The analysis makes use of multi-level expert knowledge and the application of a control-loop-based methods. The systems approach as applied in this research comprises the combination of interview-based (bottom-up learning) processes and the application of prioritised strategy options in the form of concerted management action (top-down planning). The approach of processing multi-level interview data by system dynamics modelling represents a powerful method to detect and assess ongoing developments and thus to advance strategy-finding. The systematic and unbiased approach to identify the top-level drivers for commercialising marine energy supports the long-term creation of investor confidence, based on a concept of transparency and credibility.