In 2022, the European Commission adopted the REPower EU package which proposes to further increase the 2030 target for renewables from 40 % to 45 % and revise the Renewable Energy Directive to accelerate permitting. Moreover, the European Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy estimates to have an installed capacity of at least 60 GW of offshore wind and at least 1 GW of ocean energy by 2030, reaching 300 GW and 40 GW of installed capacity, respectively, by 2050, which would require less than 3% of the European maritime space.
The marine environment is an ecosystem that supports a set of uses and human activities, contributing to economic and social development. Most of the uses and activities require the use of maritime space, either temporarily or permanently, increasing the potential for conflict with existing and traditional marine uses. The European Directive 2014/89/UE establishes a framework for marine spatial planning (MSP) and requires the competent authorities in each Member State to develop national maritime spatial plans, analysing and organizing human activities in marine areas, applying ecosystem-based approach, involving stakeholders, in order to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives. Moreover, this MSP framework not only intends to mitigate possible present and future spatial conflicts but also contemplates the emerging sectors and the most recent technological development in the sea.
In the context of the EU-funded SAFEWave project (https://www.safewave-project.eu/), the different National Maritime Spatial Plans in Europe and how the Marine Renewable Energies (MRE) have been considered or integrated in different national plans have been analysed (i.e. Spain, France, Ireland, Portugal and United Kingdom). The outcome of this analysis has identified: (i) the approaches to implementation of MSP plans vary by country and sometimes within countries; (ii) differences in the stakeholder or public involvement in MSP (ii) differences in national MRE targets; (ii) different strategies and priorities for raising the issue of MRE within the national MSP; (iii) for which countries MREs are strategics in their national plans; (iv) conflicts with other uses (i.e. Marine Protected Areas), and mechanisms to solve them; (vi) technical, socio-economic and environmental factors considered for MRE polygons identification in national MSP; (vii) the development of national MSP requires a review of the authorization or concession procedures for the allocation or reservation of areas for MREs.
Ultimately, comparing the integration of national plans for marine renewable energy (MRE) into national marine spatial plans (MSP) can inform and guide management strategies, legislation, and policies to support management actions and efficiently plan future MRE deployments.