I’m often asked to describe doing business in East Asia and immediately find myself pointing out that it’s a complex, diverse region, with each of its markets having unique characteristics and nuances.
But one thing its markets all have in common is their connection to the Pacific Ocean. And it comes as no surprise to me that, as the region is quickly growing in importance in the ocean energy – or ‘bluetech’ space, this is bringing a wealth of opportunities for scaleups from around the world with the right technologies to offer.
Offshore energy leader
Surrounded by the world’s largest body of water, China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan in particular are hotbeds of offshore renewable energy deployments – with a varying mix of wind, wave, tidal, thermal and floating solar energy installations.
Indeed, Asia is set to become an undisputed leader in the deployment of offshore energy.
Its share of the global offshore wind market is expected to grow from 2019’s 24% to 42% by 2025.
The region’s 11 GW of installed offshore wind capacity as of 2020 is projected to surpass Europe, the Middle East and Africa by the mid-2030s to reach a staggering 410 GW by 2050, with 240 GW of this in Mainland China.
Last year, Asia Pacific had a 42.5% share of the global wave and tidal energy market. And, when it comes to floating PV installations, intelligence firm IHS Markit predicts that Asia will account for over 70% the worldwide total in the next five years.
Singapore, for example, recently unveiled one of the world's largest floating solar panel farms, spanning an area equivalent to 45 football fields and producing enough electricity to power the island's five water treatment plants. And, while most deployments around the world are sited on calm, inland ponds, lakes and reservoirs, Singapore is unique in piloting an implementation at sea.
The top-three floating PV markets are expected to be India, South Korea and Vietnam – and these should account for more than half of the region’s total installations if projects continue as planned.
Opportunities for scaleups
Despite the way these deployments are rapidly ramping up in Asia, offshore energy implementations come with many challenges. And this is especially so in a region known for typhoons - expected to continue to increase in number and intensity due to climate change - earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions that hit it along the Ring of Fire.
Japan, at the meeting point of three tectonic plates, is especially cognizant of these challenges!
But, by helping to overcome these hurdles, startups and scaleups from around the globe can have a significant impact.
There are certainly big opportunities in Asia for companies with technologies for predicting, tracking, managing and recovering from extreme weather.
Alongside these, there are openings for innovations that help to maintain fisheries, manage the environmental impact of energy deployments - including reducing detrimental effects on local ecosystems and wildlife – and map and monitor the safest, most efficient transport routes and shipping lanes.
Critically, offshore energy implementations also need to be well maintained, and this gives rise to a pressing need in Asia for predictive analytics, field service and maintenance software, satellite-based weather and wave-related data, geo-spatial information and autonomous drones.
And, given the harsh environmental conditions out in the Pacific, increasing the life span of deployed infrastructure is a major concern for large Asian power producers. They require new materials and modes of assembly for their wind turbines, solar arrays and wave and tidal energy generators; efficient replacement and recycling technologies; novel materials and coatings to prevent weather and salt-induced decay; and anchoring and ballasting technologies that are minimally invasive to the wildlife on the ocean floor.
Vast blue ocean
So, just as ocean energy production is rapidly increasing in global importance, the opportunities for startups and scaleups with the technologies and knowhow to overcome the environmental and maintenance struggles, costs and inefficiencies are growing in parallel.
And with Asia’s heavy industrial manufacturers, power suppliers, and systems and services companies playing such a prominent role in this field, there’s a vast ‘blue ocean’ in the region for those that can help manage all the challenges facing deployments in the Pacific.
To discuss the opportunities for your business in Asia’s bluetech sector, you can contact Oren on firstname.lastname@example.org