Where does your interest in clean energy stem from?
I was fortunate to spend a few years in Germany earlier in the 2000s, where I saw a country positioning itself to take a leadership position in clean energy. As Alvin Toffler, an American writer and futurist said, “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” I sometimes feel that in Australia, we’re still waiting for a future that arrived elsewhere years ago.
What does the ocean power sector need to do to be cost-competitive with traditional energy generation? How is Carnegie Wave Energy working towards this goal?
In the first instance, wave power needs to deploy units at commercial scale in small arrays to demonstrate that it is capable of reliable power generation. Then the focus needs to move onto scaling up to deliver cost competitiveness.Article continues below…
Carnegie deployed a commercial unit in Australia in 2011, and is deploying a larger unit with French power company Électricité de France (EDF) this year, ahead of our first multi-unit array project next year.
What has been the greatest achievement of the ocean energy sector in the past five years?
The big challenge in recent times for all clean technology developers has been accessing capital, and this is no different in the ocean energy sector. It has meant that only those companies with strong technology, strong management and strong partners have been able to continue to raise capital and develop their technologies.
The greatest achievement has been made by literally the two or three wave companies globally that have moved ahead of the pack and successfully deployed large-scale prototypes in the ocean through this period. As a result, Carnegie is one of these companies that are now seen as a world leader in our sector.
What is an example of a government incentive that you have found particularly helpful to the growth of the ocean energy industry?
For the current stage of development of ocean energy, capital grants are the only government incentive that can have a material impact. In two to three years’ time when the first commercial projects are being deployed, then the government focus will need to shift to feed-in tariffs or other market pull incentives that drive scale and cost reduction.
At present, capital subsidy is required to allow developers to span the ‘valley of death’ on the basis that the pioneering developers do not capture the broader public benefit that their efforts generate.
What one piece of advice would you give to new entrants to the clean energy industry?
Expect that it will take twice as long and cost three times as much. Any ocean energy developer that thinks they can develop a commercial product by spending less than $50 million has spent too much time enjoying the recreational aspects of wave energy, and not enough time developing their technology.
What promising technology is your company currently developing?
Carnegie is building on more than $50 million of development spending for its CETO wave technology – Australia’s first wave project utilising an array of multiple wave energy units.
Carnegie’s CETO technology is particularly significant as it is Australian invented and owned, and has the potential to be demonstrated in Australian waters (off Garden Island in Western Australia). Too many times we’ve let similar technologies slip through our fingers and end up in the hands of overseas companies only to buy back their products in the future.
While Carnegie works closely with large international firms such as the French power giant EDF, we have a chance to retain the future value of CETO in Australia and build an industry around a natural resource we possess in abundance.
As Chief Executive of Carnegie Wave Energy, Michael Ottaviano has raised over $45 million in equity, overseen an increase in market capitalisation from $8 million to over $40 million, and secured a total of $20 million in government funding support for Carnegie’s wave technology from Australian, Canadian and French governments. Michael has a Bachelor of Engineering, a Masters of Science and a Doctorate in Business Administration.