UNIDO supports development of first OTEC project in São Tomé and Príncipe

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has taken a step forward in the development of the first floating Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) platform in São Tomé and Príncipe. The contract for an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Scoping Report was signed at the beginning of July, with the Lisbon-based engineering consultancy AQUALOGUS Engenharia e Ambiente Lda. This will guide the final design and requirements of the ESIA, enabling any environmental and social impacts to be identified and addressed, securing the OTEC installation and operations.

The UNIDO support is provided in the context of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) financed project Building institutional capacity for a renewable energy and energy efficiency investment programme for São Tomé and Principe. The assignment has the objective of safeguarding Dominique, the First-Of-A-Kind 1.5 MW floating OTEC platform, as there is currently a small number of OTEC plants globally (USA, Japan, Korea, for example). This is the first time a floating OTEC platform is being developed in a Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Country (LDC).   

Dominique is being developed by the UK-based company Global OTEC and supported by SIDS DOCK, UNIDO and the GN-SEC. It is expected to be deployed in 2025 in São Tomé and Príncipe, located off the West coast of Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea, and offers the potential to be upscaled to 10 MW during the second phase.

The project will contribute towards achieving several UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as undercutting the current levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) by a significant margin enabled by concessionary financing supported by UNIDO.

 “Under the Blue Ocean economy aspect, ocean energy can reduce tropical island nations’ long-term energy costs, generate employment, reduce trade imbalances from fuel imports and face the challenges arising from climate change. This project is not just important for São Tomé and Príncipe but has high potential for replication across other SIDS”, said Martin Lugmayr, from UNIDO.

The efforts are part of the Global Ocean Energy Alliance (GLOEA), which was launched by UNIDO, SIDS DOCK and other partners at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2022, proving to be the shining example to the rest of the world of how diesel fuel imports can be replaced with clean baseload energy from the ocean.

This will be a starting point and the catalyst for a whole portfolio of OTEC projects around the world, with needs for ocean energy already identified in countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Tonga, among others. “The GLOEA has highlighted 700 MW of OTEC projects which are required urgently. Our first-of-a-kind platform de-risks this floating technology for infrastructure investors and will accelerate the technologies rollout through our standardised, modular systems”, highlighted Global OTEC Founder and CEO, Dan Grech.

The 160,000 km2 exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around São Tomé and Príncipe is an untapped solar heat battery, which OTEC platforms could harness to supply carbon-free, baseload power. An OTEC plant can generate electricity at a load factor of 95% throughout the year. This ocean energy project will contribute to the National Renewable Energy Action Plan of the island state, aiming at a renewable energy penetration of 70% in the electricity mix by 2030, mainly based on solar PV and small hydro power. OTEC is now perceived as an attractive means to replace baseload diesel and balance out daily or seasonal fluctuations of other renewable sources.