Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference Countdown – Profiles in Ocean Energy: Keith Martin of Chadbourne & Parke LLP
Keith Martin is a project finance and tax lawyer with Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Chadbourne has worked on power projects in more than 60 countries and is a franchise name in the business. Martin worked during 2007 for 171 companies on projects in the United States and eight foreign countries. He advises several marine renewable companies and is a member of both the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition and the Ocean Energy Council.
What changes have you noticed in the industry since the time that you began working in the field until now?
My first ocean energy project was an ocean thermal project in Hawaii in the early 1980′s. Ocean energy projects then largely disappeared and there was not much activity, at least involving large law firms, until the resurgence of interest in renewables in the last few years. I have noticed growing attendance at ocean energy conferences. The industry is still in a venture capital stage, but should emerge soon once some of the newer technologies have proven they can work on a commercial scale.
What in your view are the greatest challenges to marine renewables at this time?
The greatest challenges are to prove that the technologies work on a commercial scale – which is key to arranging project financing – and to persuade Congress that ocean energy should be given the same support that other renewables receive. The Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition has been doing terrific job on the latter challenge. Individual companies are hard at work on the first.
What, if anything, makes the marine renewables industry different from other industries that you’ve worked with?
Marine renewables companies face the same challenges as other segments of the independent power industry; they are at the front end of the process. They must prove their technologies work on a commercial scale and then lock down costs and revenue streams for individual projects so that they can obtain project financing. Other wind, solar, biomass and fuel cell companies also went through, or are still moving through the same cycle.
What do you find most exciting about the marine renewables industry?
What’s most exciting to me is to see some very capable veterans of the independent power business move into marine renewables. I have no doubt the industry will succeed with such capable people behind it.
What, in your opinion, are the top two to three developments needed to bring marine renewables to commercialization?
First, the industry needs more venture capital, then tax credits and more generous depreciation allowances on a par with those received by other segments of the renewable energy industry. There also needs to be parity with other renewables in the renewable portfolio standards at the state level. It would also help if the federal loan guarantee program were truly to get off the ground with the government taking the “first loss” position on new technologies.
What are your predictions for the marine renewables industry over the next 3-5 years?
The industry should begin to move out the venture capital stage by the end of that period.