Marine renewable energy installations harnessing energy from wind, wave and tidal resources are likely to become a large part of the future energy mix worldwide. The potential to gather energy from waves has recently seen increasing interest, with pilot developments in several nations. Although technology to harness wave energy lags behind that of wind and tidal generation, it has the potential to contribute significantly to energy production. As wave energy technology matures and becomes more widespread, it is likely to result in further transformation of our coastal seas. Such changes are accompanied by uncertainty regarding their impacts on biodiversity. To date, impacts have not been assessed, as wave energy converters have yet to be fully developed. Therefore, there is a pressing need to build a framework of understanding regarding the potential impacts of these technologies, underpinned by methodologies that are transferable and scalable across sites to facilitate formal meta-analysis. We first review the potential positive and negative effects of wave energy generation, and then, with specific reference to our work at the Wave Hub (a wave energy test site in southwest England, UK), we set out the methodological approaches needed to assess possible effects of wave energy on biodiversity. We highlight the need for national and international research clusters to accelerate the implementation of wave energy, within a coherent understanding of potential effects—both positive and negative.