As a fast-growing startup, Simply Blue Group reflects the sustainable ambitions of its founders, harnessing the power of the ocean to drive the blue economy.

“Imagine a structure, out in the sea, that’s almost as tall as London’s highest building, the Shard, and can deliver enough electricity to power 12,000 homes for a year,” says Hugh Kelly.

The almost unlimited potential of the ocean is what inspired Hugh, along with co-founder and lifelong friend Sam Roch-Perks, to form the Simply Blue Group in 2011, with a mission to pursue ocean-based projects that help fight climate change.

“We’re both passionate about the environment and the sea,” explains Hugh, “so it seemed natural to explore ways to release clean ocean energy.”

Having initially investigated wave power, Hugh and Sam felt that floating offshore wind technology would mature more quickly. And where better to focus than in the seas around their native Ireland?

“Ireland has ten times its land mass in marine territory, and thanks to the continental shelf, much of this doesn’t get too deep, which makes it ideal for wind farms. Anyone who’s been in these waters will tell you that it can get pretty blustery!”

Floating wind farms way out in the sea can access higher wind speeds and allow greater spacing between each turbine. There’s also less chance of spoiling the view from the coastline.

With a number of projects in development around the world – off the coast of Ireland and in the UK, Europe, and North America – Simply Blue Group has its hands full.

This is why it turned to KPMG in Ireland to help with aspects of its work.

“We’re only a small team of around 90 people,” Hugh explains. “What a big firm like KPMG in Ireland can bring is learning gained from multiple initiatives around the world, across various disciplines. We’re benefiting from the achievements of its advisors and, critically, the mistakes they’ve seen others make. You might get a lifetime of learning in a single sentence of advice.

“We tend to think big. But in doing so, there’s a greater downside if you fail, so it’s great to have a sounding board, and to know when to possibly slow the pace a bit or alter course.”

As specialists in sustainable growth, KPMG professionals have provided valuable insights into leading practices, with cost-benefit analyses, benchmarking against other comparable projects, assessing routes to market, and support with partnerships, joint-venture terms and contracts.  

“With their reach, KPMG professionals can see what’s happening across the industry. They’ve validated our concepts, helped us tweak or redirect our efforts, and advised us on how far we can push a negotiation and when to hold back. Their advice on fundraising strategy has been critical. In one instance, a paper prepared by KPMG enhanced our credibility as we approached a transaction – it’s all too easy for smaller companies to compromise their future options with the wrong decisions at early stages.”

The scale of Simply Blue Group’s ambition is impressive, with around 10 GW of projects in progress. To put this into perspective, when completed, these wind farms could supply the electricity needs of 7.5 million homes.1

Diversifying the portfolio

Although wind is at the forefront of the group’s minds at present, Hugh has not given up on wave and other forms of renewable marine-based energy.

“Again, the possibilities are massive. Wave power is relatively constant and highly predictable, and complements wind, so by combining the two, you’re more likely to avoid dips in supply. A country like Ireland could actually supply its entire needs from waves.”

Simply Blue Group is also looking into another underdeveloped but promising area of the blue economy: aquaculture. Its aim is to develop, fund and install infrastructure for sustainable salmon fish farming, to counter the current over-fishing that is rapidly depleting the world’s fish stocks and devastating ocean life.

“Looking back to my time at university, I did a final year thesis on global warming and rising sea levels,” recalls Hugh. “Sadly, the predictions I collated proved remarkably accurate, making the need for renewable energy and biodiversity more urgent than ever.”

With the enthusiasm and momentum behind Simply Blue Group, Hugh, Sam and their team are helping to address this need, to counter climate change and usher in a new era of sustainability.

The views and opinions of external contributors expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG International or any KPMG member firm.

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