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There are no quick fixes to long-term energy challenges. To find solutions, governments and industry benefit from sharing resources and accelerating results. For this reason the IEA enables independent groups of experts - the Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs1.


Tidal stream converter under development (Strangford Narrows, Northern Ireland).*

Pilots, projects and potentials

Policy context
Current world electricity demand is 17 500 TWh. There is the potential to develop 20 000‑80 000 TWh of electricity generated by changes in ocean temperatures, salt content, movements of tides, currents, waves and swells. These technologies are proven. However, there are siting and environmental issues. Ports, coastal waters, and the open sea are divided into fishing permit areas and shipping routes. To capitalise on this energy source, international collaboration is necessary. Policies and measures to support deployment of ocean energy include financial support for continued research, financial and market incentives, and schemes to support development of industry supply chains.

The aims of the ETI focusing on ocean energies (OES) are to accelerate the viability, uptake and acceptance of ocean energy systems in an environmentally acceptable way. This includes unbiased, quality analysis of technologies to generate electricity from ocean movements (waves, swells, tides, currents), temperature differences or salt concentrations; as well as technologies related to desalination. There are currently 21 Contracting Parties, including China, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and Monaco.

Multiple types of learning are needed for ocean energy technologies: adaptation, or applying lessons learned from other technologies or industries to ocean energy; gathering experiences with technologies already deployed; and innovation spurred by ongoing research and development.

In order to take advantage of potentials and projects for electricity generation from the ocean, the OES has recently prepared worldwide inventories of resource endowments, and experiences with demonstration projects and innovative processes.  

First, the group established global maps of ocean energy resources: wave, tidal, thermal, and salinity gradients. These maps, together with technology developments, cost reductions, synergies with other industries, markets, policies, and challenges for ocean energy have been synthesised in An International Vision for Ocean Energy. This vision includes a goal of installing 337 GW of capacity, creating 1.2 million jobs and reducing 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050.

Second, through the OES work on environmental issues, seven participating countries collaborated to create a searchable, publically available database of research and demonstration projects (Tethys).

The Tethys database collates results of environmental monitoring and research efforts on wave, tidal and current energy development worldwide. Developed through a partnership with the OES, Tethys drives an interactive map of ocean energy environmental monitoring and research projects, process status, key environmental issues, the status of environmental impact assessments, the name of the project developer, the technology type, scale of the project, total installed capacity and a description of the installation. A photo of the installation completes each case study.

These in situ data document the interactions among wave, tidal, and current devices, marine wildlife, and physical ocean systems. Taken together, the world resource maps and database of projects worldwide enable policy makers, investors, industry and ocean technology developers to more accurately gauge the potentials of ocean energy worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Marine Current Turbines.


Current projects

  • Environmental effects and monitoring efforts
  • Exchange and assessment of project information
  • Grid integration
  • Guidelines for development and testing

For more information:


1.Information or material of the IEA Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs (formally organised under the auspices of an Implementing Agreement), including information or material published on this website, does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of the IEA’s individual Member countries. The IEA does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) in respect of such information (including as to its completeness, accuracy or non-infringement) and shall not be held liable for any use of, or reliance on, such information.