Regulatory Frameworks for Marine Renewable Energy

The following information on regulatory frameworks is intended to provide an overview of country-specific requirements for environmental review and permitting (consenting) of marine renewable energy devices (specifically wave and tidal). This information is intended for general purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. It does not represent a complete record of the regulatory requirements for a given country, nor is it correct to assume that all the authorizations necessarily apply to all marine renewable energy projects. Please email with any corrections for outdated/incorrect information.

Several reports by Ocean Energy Systems (OES) also provide details for consenting: Consenting Processes for Ocean Energy on OES Member Countries (2015) and Consenting Processes for Ocean Energy Updated on Barriers and Recommendations (2016).



Environmental reviews are carried out by the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and require an environmental assessment. Marine energy projects can obtain consent under the Coastal Management Act 1995. Consent is then administered at the state level.

Victoria, a state in the southwestern region of Australia, has the most developed process to date, structured by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

(Last updated May 9, 2019)


Development of marine renewable activities in the portion of the North Sea managed by Belgium is covered by legal rules and procedures allowing or rejecting a license or concession for the planned activity. The permit system covers concessionary rights and exploitation authorization, including environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

The permit system and the regulating authorities involved reflect the sectoral legal framework. Four permits are required for offshore wind parks: Domain Concession, Environmental permit, Authorization for the construction and operation, offshore cable building permit. Four authorities are in charge of the permitting procedure: Ministry of Energy, FPS Environment, MUMM, and Flemish planning administration. Offshore cable building permit is delivered by DG Energy within the Federal Ministry of Energy.

Rules and procedures have been adapted to stimulate and facilitate the process. The permit system is clearly defined and lasts less than one year.

(Last updated June 29, 2017)


In the spring of 2015, the Province of Nova Scotia introduced its Marine Renewable-Energy Act to provide a more clear, predictable and efficient process to support the sustainable growth of the sector. The legislation was proclaimed in January 2018 and implements the Province’s Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) Strategy, released in May 2012. The Act establishes the regulatory framework for all marine renewable activities in Nova Scotia’s offshore region and maps out an approach to continue researching, developing, and regulating this resource. The Act is another step in an evolving approach to the development of MRE resources—including waves, tidal range, in-stream tidal, ocean currents, and offshore wind–in defined ‘areas of marine renewable energy priority.’ The regulation of offshore renewable energy projects in Nova Scotia continues to be a shared responsibility between federal and provincial governments. To assist developers in navigating the various regulatory frameworks applicable to marine renewable energy development in Nova Scotia’s offshore, Nova Scotia has established the Nova Scotia Federal-Provincial One Window Committee on Tidal Energy: a standing committee of provincial and federal departments and agencies with a mandate to streamline and coordinate the application and approval process for MRE activities. For more information pertaining to MRE in Nova Scotia, please visit:

With regards to federal oversight, all projects must adhere to applicable federal legislation regardless of where the project is located , e.g., Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA 2012)Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999Fisheries ActMigratory Birds Convention ActNavigable Waters Protection Act and Species at Risk Act. For information on the type of projects that may trigger a federal environmental assessment under CEAA 2012, refer to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s website. For a complete list of acts, orders and regulations, refer to Justice Canada’s website.

(Last updated May 5, 2019)


The 2009 Renewable Energy Law of the People’s Republic of China (Amendment) outlines a policy to accelerate and promote the development of renewable energy projects. The Ministry of Finance launched a special funding program for marine renewable energy projects in 2010. The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) created the Administrative Centre for Marine Renewable Energy (ACMRE) to coordinate and manage the special funding programme for marine renewable energy under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance and SOA.

In 2012, China adopted National Marine Functional Zoning for all sea related projects, including marine energy devices. Ocean energy projects are further required to submit to a bifurcated system, where government investments are put through an “examination and approval system,” while privately funded projects are reviewed with a “ratification system.”

In December 2016, the SOA issued the China 13th Ocean Energy Development Five-Year Plan, providing guidelines for the exploitation and development of marine renewable energy, such as tidal barrage energy, tidal current energy, wave  energy, ocean thermal energy, salinity gradient energy, and island marine renewable energy resources. The target period for planning is from 2016 to 2020.

(Last updated June 20, 2019)


Denmark has adopted the Energy Agreement of 29 June 2018 (Energy Bill) for 2020–2024. With the agreement, the Danes' electricity consumption can be covered by renewable energy in 2030. At the same time, the financing of the renewable energy sources are secured to reach a share of renewable energy of approximately 55% in 2030. The agreement includes 3 new offshore wind farms totaling 2,400 MW - which can cover more than all Danish households' electricity consumption.

The Danish Energy Agency (DEA) grants all licenses under the Promotion of Renewable Energy Act for all projects within 200 nautical miles of Denmark. The three required licenses are:

  1. License to carry out preliminary investigations.
  2. License to establish the offshore project (only given if preliminary investigations show that the project is compatible with the relevant interests at sea).
  3. License to exploit the energy source for a given number of years, and an approval of electricity production (given if conditions in license to establish project are kept).

A decision requiring an EIA is made on a case-by-case basis by the Danish Energy Agency and Danish Environmental Agency, which is also the single point of contact to streamline the process.

There is no license fee for use for offshore wind or wave and tidal energy.

(Last updated June 4, 2019)

European Commission

In the European Union (EU) there are a number of different directives that affect the development, monitoring and consenting process of ocean energy projects. These directives define final results that have to be achieved. The implementation, monitoring and undertaking of the directives is responsibility of each EU Member States. Member states must adapt their laws and policies to meet the goals sets in the EU directives. There are numerous EU directives that apply to the development of renewable energy sources and to the marine environment, of particular relevance for the ocean energy sector are the following:

  • The Renewable Energy Directive (Directive 2009/28/EC) (amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30) on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. The directive aims at reaching 20% share of energy from renewable sourcesby2020 in the EU, and provide a target for a minimum share of final energy consumption per each Member State. This Directive, as well as previous Renewable Energy Directives, has encouraged a number of Member States to put in place measures to encourage the development and commercialisation of wave energy in the expectation that this industry will contribute towards renewable electricity generation targets.
  • Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) is a transparent and comprehensive process based on stakeholder involvement whose aim is to analyse and plan when and where human activities take place at sea. It is a cross-sectoral tool that must take into account all maritime activities and the environment, based on an ecosystem approach. In July 2014, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted a new Directive establishing a framework for MSP (Directive 2014/89/EU). The Directive has four legal bases related to the environment, fisheries, maritime transport and energy. Member States can add additional sectors (e.g. tourism and dredging) in order to achieve other national objectives. Member States are required to transpose the Directive in their national legislation and designate the relevant authorities by 2016. The implementation of MSP in Member States' jurisdictional waters must then be achieved by March 2021. The Directive does not impose planning details or management objectives. Those are EU Member States' prerogatives. The Directive ensures that MSP is implemented in all EU waters and facilitates cross-border cooperation. The key requirements for the Member States are to: Involve stakeholders; Develop cross-border cooperation; Apply an ecosystem-based approach; Use the best available data and share information; Take into account land-sea interaction; Promote the co-existence of activities and Review the plan at least every 10 years.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (Directive 2014/52/EU amending 2011/92/EU) on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The EIA directive applies to a wide range of defined  public  and  private  projects,  which  are  defined  in  Annexes I and  II of  the Directive.  National authorities  can decide whether an EIA is needed for those  projects  listed  in  Annex  II; which covers the most of EU ocean energy project that have taken place to date.
  •  Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive (Directive 2001/42/EC) on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment.
    • Strategic planning of renewable energy development is of key importance: Early and coordinated environmental assessment procedures under the SEA and EIA, as well as the Habitats Directives, are fundamental in ensuring compliance with the applicable environmental legislation, while ensuring stakeholders involvement.
    • Guidance document on streamlining environmental assessments of projects of common interest has been produced in order to make sure all stakeholders' interests are ensured while environmental legislation is not put at stake.

The application of the SEA Directive is closely linked with the programmes and plans envisaged in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) and Marine Spatial Planning Directive, which have to be prepared and implemented by the Member States. Practice shows that the SEA procedure can improve the quality of the respective plans and programmes and facilitate the implementation of future projects. In addition, it allows integrating environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of the plans and programmes which are likely to have significant effects on the environment in the Member States.

  • The  Birds  Directive  (2009/147/EC) provides  for  far-reaching  protection  for  all  of Europe’s wild birds, including offshore species. The Directive requires Member States to  designate  Special  Protection  Areas  (SPAs)  for  particularly  threatened  species  and migratory  species.  It  also  provides  for  a  ban  on  activities  that  directly  threaten  birds such as the deliberate killing of birds or destruction of their nests and habitats.
  • The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) aims to ensure the conservation of a wide range of  rare,  threatened  and  endemic  species,  including  offshore  species,  and  enables protection of  450  animals,  500  plants  and  some  200  rare  and  characteristic habitat types. It provides a high level of safeguards against potentially damaging developments.
  • For Natura 2000 areas (where both The Birds Directive and Habitats Directive relevant provisions need to be fulfilled before a permission is granted for any project or plan not directly connected or necessary for the management of the Natura 2000 site and which is likely to have a significant effect on the integrity of the site. More specifically, article 6.3 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) requires that Member States undertake an ‘appropriate assessment’ for projects or plans as mentioned above, taking into consideration the conservation objectives of the site. The assessment of cumulative effects, caused by plans or projects that are under consideration in combination with all other existing or proposed plans or projects, is an important part of ‘appropriate assessment’. The two aforementioned Directives also foresee the protection of certain species across the entire range in the EU. The species protection measures should apply to species listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive as well as all wild bird species in the EU. The most relevant provisions are outlined in article 5 of the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) and article 12 of the Habitats Directive.cThe European Commission, aiming to support good practices for the application of the relevant provisions of the Birds and Habitats Directives in renewable energy development, has produced a guidance document on Wind energy developments and Natura 2000, while a guidance document on "Guidelines on energy transmission infrastructure and Natura 2000" is under preparation and will be published shortly. Other general guidance documents prepared by the European Commission relevant to renewable energy developments such as the guidance on the application of article 6 of the Habitats Directive are available on the DG Environment website.
  • The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) is relevant for projects in estuaries.

(Last updated May 9, 2019)


Ocean energy project developers in France must address their request to the French State, which is represented by the regional and departmental Prefects, and fulfill the following permitting and licensing process:

  • If located in territorial waters (in the maritime public domain in France, out to 12 nautical miles), acquisition of a unique permit regarding environmental issues delivered by the Prefect, which includes an environmental impact assessment (EIA), if needed, an assessment focusing on Natura 2000 impacts, and one dedicated to protected species. Within this permitting procedure, a public consultation is organized by the State. In addition, a license delivered by the Prefect to occupy the maritime public domain must be obtained which takes into account maritime safety and the use of maritime territories. 
  • Within Exclusive Economic Zone (out to 200 nautical miles), a unique permit for the occupation and regarding environmental integration of the project is requested, following the article 20 of the ordinance n°2016-2017 of the 8th of December 2016 related to the sea space under the sovereignty of the French Republic. 
  • For farms exceeding 50 MW, acquisition of an authorization to generate electricity delivered by the Ministry of Energy is needed. This authorization is automatically delivered to the laureates of State calls for tender for farms whose capacity is below 1GW. In addition, the developer signs a grid connection convention with the French Transmission System Operator (TSO).

Obtaining the licensing requires several terms, at several steps of the initiation of MRE projects :

  • A public concertation occurring before launching the national tender process, and which is organized by the French State according to the recent ESSOC law . At this stage, only the maximal power target is known.   
  • A public consultation, which can be organized along the authorization process of the selected project. The public consultation stands at a local level as public meetings and is conducted by a representant of the national commission of public debate. For bigger farms projects, the consultation can take the form of a national public debate organized by national commission itself.
  • A public enquiry, which is organized when the project is defined to collect individual and collective remarks, comments and propositions from people living or environmental associations working near the farm project is organized. This enquiry analyses the environmental impact assessment, the notices issued by authorities that has been consulted for authorization and the project of use of the maritime public domain.
  • A favorable opinion on the farm project from administrative (regional council, municipalities…) and specialized public structures (such as the Environmental Authority).

In 2017, the French government modified the procedure for selection of offshore farms developers. From a process of a unique call to tenders, this selection focuses therefore on a co-construction of the projects characteristics between the State and the private sector within a “competitive dialogue” procedure. The French state has also worked on streamlining the legislative and legal framework by developing a permit with variable characteristics, also called envelope permit. This permit enables the MRE developers to ask for authorization including ranges for some variables of the project (e.g. number of turbines, power of each turbine), for which environmental impacts have been evaluated in the EIA, thus allowing the inclusion of up to date technology without increasing procedure delays.  The 2018 law and its application decree of December 2018 relative to the legal frame applicable to marine renewable energies (MRE) move most of the mentioned obligations upstream of the actual permit issuance, thereby considerably reducing the risk for project developers as long as the technical details of the project do not diverge from the initial propositions. For instance, the public concertation will be conducted by the State himself before the launch of the call to tenders and the selection of the project developer. This procedure will contribute to enhance the social acceptability of both the MRE project and its developer. With the “permit envelope” it is now possible to modify some characteristics of the projects, as they have been approved through the licensing process. This flexibility is essential for MRE projects which could be evolutive regarding research progress on technologies and environmental impacts of these technologies. 

In parallel to this simplified consenting process and since the adoption in 2014 of the European Directive France has accelerated its Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) by launching a consultation in 2016, and pursues identification of dedicated sites for ocean energy projects. The new MSP will be implemented within the Seafront Strategic Document which specifies both strategic and spatial marine stakes along each French seafront. Concerning specifically the North Atlantic seafront, two phases have been defined for the implementation of the MSP. Firstly, the “strategic phase” will be held by the middle of 2019 to define environmental and socio-economic stakes, as well as mapping the development of next ocean energy projects in keeping with other marine activities (fisheries, marine transport and security, tourism). Secondly, the “operational phase” will reach in 2021 to set up a monitoring program. All the process is coordinated by the French State with the support of strategic stakeholders like the Marine Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (SHOM). The expertise of the SHOM on marine space is precisely why he closely works with the Interregional direction for the North-Atlantic Region for setting up the MSP in the Brittany region. Other relevant actors from different maritime sectors also intervene in the process, for their expertise (the Cerema on marine risks, environment, mobility and marine planning; the French Agency for the Biodiversity), as well as for their direct exploitation of marine resources and space (the regional and departmental committees for fisheries, tourism agencies, marine renewable energy actors from industrial and research sectors). 

(Last updated January 7, 2020)


Germany has been steadily adding renewable energy to its overall portfolio as part of the Energiewende, or “energy transition”. In 2018 the Coalition Agreement set an agenda and more specific targets for renewable energy. The Renewable Energy Sources Act is one of the key pieces of legislation governing energy projects. The most recent Amendment was passed in 2017 and focuses on a market-based approached for electricity from renewable sources.

The main source of renewable energy in Germany is offshore wind. The Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2017 (WindSeeG) determined that the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) is required to consult with the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) to set up the Offshore Regional Plan (FEP).

The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) also is the federal agency overseeing licensing for renewable energy projects in the EEZ based on the Maritime Spatial Plan for the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The approval procedure has the following steps:

  1. Authorities like the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) are informed about the project application and asked to comment.
  2. Stakeholder and public involvement is encouraged with regard to inspecting the planning documents. A project presentation is offered to the project planner during an application conference.
  3. The applicant prepares an Environmental Impact Assessment and a risk analysis to be reviewed by the BSH and granted approval if requirements have been met.

(Last updated May 23, 2019)


Marine renewable energy is still in its infancy and in demonstration stages in India. Hence there is no formal environmental clearance procedure that is specific to marine energy projects. However, any activity on the shore needs to get Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearances by the Ministry for Environment and Forests (MoEF). There are formal procedures for getting EIA clearances. For ocean energy and desalination projects, clearance by the MoEF is completed in the same manner as for other identified activities.

(Last updated May 9, 2019)


The [then] Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources published its Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) in 2014, which provides a framework for the sustainable development of Ireland’s offshore renewable energy resources. The OREDP was accompanied by a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment (documents can be accessed here). Following a public consultation, an Interim Review of the OREDP was published in May 2018. This document recognizes that the lack of ORE development means there is a lack of environmental data or monitoring results to indicate potential significant environmental impacts arising from the development of ORE installations. The Offshore Renewable Energy Steering Group coordinated the design and launch of a dedicated Ocean Energy Ireland portal [] which acts as a ‘sign-post’ to the various supports available in Ireland for the development of the marine renewable energy sector. Information is organised under six areas of activity which provide access to marine data, maps, tools, funding and information relevant to renewable energy site assessment, development and management.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) plays a pivotal role in transforming Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy structures, technologies and practices and is central to enabling research and development of ocean energy through its Prototype Development Fund and the wave energy test centres on the west coast, the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) in Co. Mayo and the Galway Bay Test Site in Co. Galway.

In 2017, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) published finalised Guidance on the EIA and NIS preparation of Offshore Renewable Energy Projects. A second series of documents covers Marine Baseline Assessments and Monitoring Activities (Part 1 and Part 2). The purpose of these documents is to provide guidance to developers and their consultants on the applicable environmental assessments, to outline the data and monitoring required for deploying in Irish waters and to contribute to best practice for the sector’s development nationally.

Work on introducing a new planning and consenting system for developments in Irish waters has been on-going since 2013. This will culminate in the enactment of new legislation which will align the foreshore consent system with the planning system in order to streamline the EIA and AA processes for projects. Currently, to deploy a device at sea a developer requires a Foreshore Licence (for non-exclusive and temporary uses) and/or a Foreshore Lease (exclusive and permanent uses). It is expected that once the new legislation is enacted, responsibility for consenting of offshore renewable energy projects will be transferred. Deployment of an ocean energy device may require an Environmental Impact Assessment depending on its nature, size and location, in accordance with European Union (EU) law and national legislation. Similarly where a development is located in or near a site designated for nature conservation purposes, under the EU Habitats Directive, an Appropriate Assessment may also be required. If a development comprises onshore works (terrestrial), Planning Permission from the adjoining planning authority (County Council) will be required.

Electrical elements of a project are governed by the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999, which requires a developer to obtain a Licence to Generate and Supply Electricity and an Authorisation to Construct or Reconstruct a Generating Station. Processing of these consents is conducted by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). In Ireland, the transmission system (high voltage) is operated by EirGrid; a State-owned commercial company. The distribution system (medium and low voltage) is operated by the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), each of whom issue connection offers through competitive leasing rounds. The CER sets the connections policy but has no specific role in how the application process for connection offers is administered.

Over-arching energy policy is the responsibility of the DCCAE. In line with the EU’s Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation, Ireland must produce a National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) 2021-2030 by 31 December 2019. A draft was produced in 2018 and made available for public consultation. This sets out the energy and climate policies in place as well as measures related to these areas that appear in other policy documents e.g. the National Development Plan 2018-2027.

Alongside work on the NECP, work is also progressing on a new and revised Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS). The objectives of this policy are to:

  • Provide an enabling framework for Community Participation,
  • Increase technology diversity by broadening the renewable electricity technology mix
  • Deliver an ambitious renewable electricity policy to 2030 and
  • Increase energy security, energy sustainability and ensure cost effectiveness of energy policy.

RESS sets out a renewable electricity (RES-E) ambition of up to a maximum of 55% by 2030, to be reflected in the final National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). It is expected that the final version of the RESS will provide for regular auctions, the first expected in 2019 will deliver 'shovel ready' projects and hopefully provide a renewed and strengthened impetus for offshore renewable energy.

(Last updated April 25, 2019)


Italy has transposed the European Union Directive 2009/28/CE into national legislation to promote renewable energy. The principles adopted in this framework are summarized in the National Action Plan for Renewable Energies (2010). The National Energy Strategy (2013) built on the action plan, and was updated again in 2017.

All the support schemes and incentives for renewable energy are managed by the Italian Energy Service Operator (Gestore Servizi Energetici - GSE). Italy relies on a public research program, Ricerca di Sistema to promote, organize and manage research and development of renewable energy, including marine energy.

Offshore energy production from renewable sources is regulated under D. Lgs. 387/2003, specifically Article 12. This provides a simplified procedure in which all components of a project are subject to a single authorization, issued by a single responsible authority. The authority responsible convenes the Conferenza de Servizi to summon interested parties to examine and evaluate the proposed project. The authorization permits developers to install, operate, and later decommission approved projects in compliance with required safety monitoring and reporting. Regions can additionally regulate energy through specific acts that are listed in Appendix 4.2.1.A of the National Action Plan (2010).


Sannino, S. and Pisacane, G. 2017. Ocean Energy exploitation in Italy: ongoing R&D activities. Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development. ENEA, Italy. Link

(Last updated May 17, 2019)


Development of marine renewable energy is listed in The Third Basic Plan on Ocean Policy by the Cabinet Office as of 2018. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry issued the Act of Promoting Utilization of Sea Areas in Development of Power Generation Facilities Using Maritime Renewable Energy Resources, effective April 1, 2019. The source of energy covered by the Act will be wind power in maritime areas.

(Last updated April 25, 2019)


With no experience in marine energy, there is no specific process that includes licenses, consents or permits for project deployment. Proponents should contact the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources and ask for the correct process they should follow to deploy a device in national waters and avoid any Ecological Planning Program. In addition, permission of the local government would be required. It is possible to infer which existing permits and laws would apply to ocean energy projects.

There are regulations that are applied for permitting the uses of marine energy resources. The legal and regulatory framework of the energy sector, specifically in renewable energies, is incorporated in the Law for the Sustainable Use of Energy (LASE) and the Law for the Use of Renewable Energy and the Financing of Energy Transition (LAERFTE), recently substituted by the Law for the Energetic Transition (LTE).

The first law states that energy efficiency is sought; including all actions leading to a reduction in the amount of energy needed to meet the needs for the goods and services required by society, as well as a reduction in negative environmental impacts derived from the generation, distribution and consumption of energy. This definition includes the substitution of non-renewable energy sources by renewable energy sources and the use of clean technologies.

It is also important to mention the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Protection of the Environment (LGEEPA), since devices for renewable energies must consider the preservation and, where appropriate, the restoration of soil, water and other natural resources, so that the economic benefits and the activities of society can be compatible with the protection of the ecosystems. This regulation establishes that there must be control over actions which affect the protection, preservation and restoration of the ecological balance and the protection to the environment in the Federal Maritime Land Zone, as well as in the federal zone of the water bodies considered as national Patrimony (article 11, Fraction V).

Within the LGEEPA, art. 22 bis, Section I and II establish that a priority is given to providing incentives for scientific and technological research, incorporation, innovation or use of mechanisms and equipment which avoid, reduce or control pollution or environmental deterioration, as well as the efficient use of natural resources and less polluting energies, Section V also considers the surveillance of protected natural areas (PNAs) as these areas may be close to the coastline and home to representative, endemic, threatened or endangered species. Additionally, art. 51 indicates that the sustainable use of aquatic flora and fauna must be regulated and protected by authorizations, concessions or permits for the use of natural resources in these areas, as well as the transit of vessels in the area or the construction or use of infrastructure within it, they shall be subject to the provisions of the Management Programs. Thus, regulatory frameworks for energy development, its sustainability and the conservation, management of natural areas are all relevant for the future growth, implementation and usage of renewable energies.

(Last updated May 7, 2019)


The specific authority responsible for managing the ocean energy consenting process as a whole is the Ministry of Public Works, Environment and Urban Planning. Authorities involved in the consenting process are the Department of the Environment, the Department of Urban Amenities and the Department of Maritime Affairs. There are no specific laws or regulations for ocean energy. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is required if the project could affect maritime traffic, or the environment in general.

(Last updated April 26, 2019)

New Zealand

Planning and resource consents for all marine energy deployments and developments are judged and approved by regional councils (coastal permits – for offshore and shore crossing activities) and district/city councils (land use permits –for onshore activities). If a project is deemed to be of national significance, there is an alternative process managed by the Environmental Protection Authority (which operates under the Ministry for the Environment).

(Last updated May 14, 2019)


Offshore renewable energy outside of the Norwegian “shelf-line” (grunnlinjen) is regulated by the Ocean Energy Act (havenergilova). For commercial-scale projects the Ocean Energy Act requires zoning by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE), and this process is yet to be completed. For smaller projects, projects supplying oil- and gas installations and for projects constructed for technology demonstration or development purposes, MPE may grant exemption from the zoning requirement on a case-by-case basis. The secondary legislation to the Ocean Energy Act, including the formalization of license application requirements, is expected within 2019.

(Last updated May 9, 2019)


The licensing process of MRE projects in Portugal can be divided into the following components articulated between each other: 1) concession, license or authorisation for the private use of maritime space; 2) licensing of the energy production activity; 3) licensing projects and ancillary facilities on land; and 4) Environmental Impact Assessment. DGEG is the licensing entity for projects with a power capacity of up to 10 MW. Above 10 MW the member of the Government responsible for the energy sector is the licensing authority. The licensing authority coordinates the entire licensing process, articulating the link with the various authorities involved in the process. It is therefore by the licensing authority that all procedures are developed from the delivery of the application elements to the communication of decisions and delivery of licenses to the developer.

The private use of the national marine space is ensured through the “private use title” (TUPEM) which is issued by DGRM. The procedure to obtain TUPEM depends on the designation of the use in the area where the project is to be installed, which is established in the Situation Plan ( If the area to be used by the project is not designated for MRE production activity, the developer may propose the amendment of its designation by submitting an Allocation Plan. The Allocation Plan needs to be appropriately justified and if approved automatically changes the Situation Plan through Council Minister´s Resolution. The approval of the Allocation Plan is the needed condition to issue TUPEM which is essential for the beginning of any use or activity in the maritime space. If the area to be used by the project is already designated for renewable energy production, the application for obtaining TUPEM is analysed directly by DGRM and the emission of the title depends on the compliance of the elements delivered (by the developer) with the legal requirements.

The electricity production by FER is called the "Special Production Regime” (Regime de Produção Especial) and follows specific licensing procedures that vary according to the tariff scheme. The tariff scheme has two main types: Regular Tariff scheme (RTS) and the Feed-In Tariff (FIT). Under the regular RTS, the licensing process of a MRE project begins with a request to the RND (EDP Distribuição) for information on the public grid (RESP) capacity for assigning a receiving point for the produced electricity. If the public grid is positive about the power reception capacity nearby the project location, the delivery of an application to obtain a production license may be submitted in the first 15 days of each quarter of year: 1 to 15 of January, May or September. If approved, the process follows to the delivery of an application to request the respective operation license. To grant the operation license, an inspection to the facilities is carried out by the licensing authority to confirm that all required conditions have been met for operation and, if needed, set further conditions for the power plant to operate. If the operation conditions are approved, the respective license incorporates the production license particularly as regards the operation starting date as well as any other conditions established during the inspection.

The FIT scheme runs under a competitive procedure of public initiative or any other competitive procedure that ensures equality and transparency criteria to the selection of the candidates. This competition or procedure is coordinated by the member of the Government in charge of the Energy sector. The licensing process under the FIT scheme is established in a specific diploma, which after the signature of the contract between the developer and the member of the Government responsible for the energy sector, follows a similar procedure as the one established for the RTS, i.e. request for capacity allocation to a receiving point in the RESP, request for a production license and, if approved, grant of the certificate for operation.

To obtain the TUPEM and the production license it is necessary to have a favourable or conditionally favourable Environmental Impact Statement (DIA) and, when required under the EIA regime (RJAIA), a favourable or conditionally favourable DCAPE or, if applicable instead (depending on the project location and dimension), a favourable or conditionally favourable Environmental Appraisal Statement (DIncA).

In the case of MRE projects with a capacity below 50 MW (or below 20 MW when located in sensitive areas) or wind farm projects with less than 20 wind turbines (or less than 10 wind turbines when located in sensitive areas) a case-by-case screening procedure (Apreciação prévia e decisão de sujeição a avaliação de impacto ambiental) is carried out to decide whether an EIA (AIA) procedure is required. This procedure starts with the delivery of an application to the licensing authority, with the structure and contents defined in Annex I of Ordinance 395/2015.

MRE projects that are not covered by the RJAIA (EIA legal system) and are located in areas belonging to the National Ecological Reserve (REN), protected areas and the European Natura 2000 network are subject to an Environmental Appraisal procedure (AIncA). There is a great similarity between the EIA (AIA) and the Environmental Appraisal (AIncA) procedures, which includes the contents of the report to be submitted by the applicant. If the project is not subject to the legal systems of EIA (AIA) or Environmental Appraisal (AIncA), a favourable advice on the project installation at the proposed location, focusing on its potential environmental impacts, is still needed from the regional authority (CCDR) to license the project.

To license facilities on land (e.g. substations, switch gear stations, power transmission lines, buildings, access paths) a municipal license is required, which is coordinated by the city hall where the facilities are to be installed and should follow the legal framework of the urban development and construction, as well as take in to account the applicable municipal regulations.

The combination of the TUPEM, the production license and the fulfilment of all obligations regarding the environmental impact assessment legal procedures results in the necessary conditions for the exercise of the power production from MRE technologies.

(Last updated May 28, 2019)

Republic of Korea

The Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries (MOF) has established the Marine Fisheries Science and Technology Promotion Act (Act No. 14515) in 2017. MOF has also established the Basic Plan for the Marine Fisheries, Science and Technology Promotion in 2018. It aims to promote marine fisheries, science and technology to create new marine industries and jobs. It is also focusing on the development of the ocean energy which is expected to be industrialized soon.

Public Waters Management and Reclamation Act (Act No. 15607) and the Marine Environmental Impact Assessment Act (Act No. 15662) are required. Besides, the Promotion of the Development, Use and Diffusion of New and Renewable Energy Act (Act No. 14670) has been implemented since 2017. The Energy Act (Act No. 15344), Framework Act on Low Carbon Green Growth (Act No. 16133) and Energy Use Rationalization Act (Act No. 15574) are also being implemented to support the development and use of new and renewable energy in coastal and offshore areas.

(Last updated May 9, 2019)

South Africa

Electricity generation in South Africa is divided into two sectors; Small Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG), which has a capacity less than 1000 kVA; and utility scale Independent Power Producers (IPP), which have a capacity larger than 1000 kVA.

Small Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG):
Ocean energy projects will fall under specific coastal regulations and energy generation permits associated with the municipality the system will be implemented in. SSEG is required to abide by the guidelines set out by the regulator, NERSA (National Energy Regulator of South Africa), which require the registration of generation systems. This regulator was legally put in place by the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA), 2006.

The Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom) of South Africa does not allow SSEG installations connected to the grid for customers supplied directly from them. However, customers who are supplied electricity by municipalities may apply to connect SSEG systems to the grid.

Apart from abiding by the laws stipulated by NERSA, municipalities implement laws and regulations regarding SSEG installations. These laws are defined using legally binding standards defined by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), such as standard SANS 1042-1; as well as non-legal regulations defined by the National Rationalised Specifications (NRS). The NRS 097 standard covers SSEG and specifically, the NRS 097-2-3 proposes criteria indicating the maximum capacity of SSEG installations. These capacity restrictions depend on the type of connection the system has to the grid (shared low-voltage, dedicated low-voltage or medium-voltage feeders). Municipalities may also require a detailed site layout, the installation of new metering equipment, system sign off by a qualified person and a fixed monthly fee. Municipalities do not allow and owners of SSEG systems to be net producers. The customers must consume more municipal electricity than they inject back into the grid, which is monitored via electrical meters.

Utility scale generators:
Ocean energy projects that fall in this capacity category will have to apply through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P). Projects applying through this program must follow the standards defined in the Grid Connection Code for Renewable Power Plants (2016) approved by NERSA.

(Last updated May 2, 2019)


In Spain no dedicated consenting process exists for ocean energy technologies. The consenting process is based on four main legal instruments:

  1. Law 21/2013, December 9th, on Environmental Impact Assessment. According to this Law, all projects devoted to the production of energy on the marine environment are subject to be evaluated through a simplified environmental impact assessment process.
  2. The Coastal Law (28th July 1988), provides the legal framework for occupation of the territorial sea, as well as governing issues affecting the fishing sector and safety conditions for maritime navigation. Management and surveillance competences relating to the Public Maritime Domain on land (MTPD), which includes the territorial sea, rest with the General Council on Coast and Ocean Sustainability which forms part of the Ministry of Rural, Marine and Natural Environment. Coastal Demarcation Departments are their representatives in each coastal province and Autonomous Community. Therefore, the development of electric power projects in the territorial sea must comply with the legal requirements governing the administrative process for granting titles to territorial occupation (prior to and during project development) and associated arrangements e.g. deadlines, transfers and expiry.
  3. Law 2/2013, of 29 May, for protection and sustainable use of coastal and amending the previous Coastal Law of 1988. It provides the legal framework for occupation of the territorial sea, as well as governing issues affecting the fishing sector and safety conditions for maritime navigation. Management and surveillance competences relating to the Public Maritime Domain on land (MTPD), which includes the territorial sea, rest with the General Council on Coast and Ocean Sustainability which forms part of the Ministry of Rural, Marine and Natural Environment. Coastal Demarcation Departments are their representatives in each coastal province and Autonomous Community. Therefore, the development of electric power projects in the territorial sea must comply with the legal requirements governing the administrative process for granting titles to territorial occupation (prior to and during project development) and associated arrangements e.g. deadlines, transfers and expiry.
  4. Royal Decree 1028/2007 establishes the administrative procedure for processing applications for electricity generating facilities in territorial waters. Although it focuses on offshore wind, it also includes electricity generation from other marine renewable technologies (Article 32). This Decree foresees a simplified procedure governed by Royal Decree 1955/2000 (from 1st December 2000) regulating energy transport, distribution, commercialisation, supply and the authorisation procedure for electrical power plants. RD 1955/2000 also provides that construction, extension, modification and exploitation of all electric installations listed (in article 111) require the following administrative procedures and sanctions to be followed:
    • Request for Administrative Authorisation (AA): refers to the project’s draft installation plan as a technical document.
    • Project Execution Approval (AEP): refers to the commissioning of the specific project and allows the applicant to start construction.
    • Exploitation Authorisation (EA): allows the installations, once the project is installed, to be powered up and proceed to commercial exploitation.

The total time needed to obtain approval is approximately two years but this timeframe varies between projects. For instance, consenting of the Biscay Marine Energy Platform (BiMEP), a test platform for research and demonstration of offshore Wave Energy Converters, started in July 2008 and ended in 2012, the concession of marine-terrestrial public domain and the authorisation for project execution. In contrast, the consenting of the Mutriku wave power plant took less than two years as it is located onshore and consequently was subject to the consenting process applicable to an ‘ordinary’ renewable energy plant. The reason for such variability in the time taken to obtain the final consent is attributed to whether an EIA is required or not. Until 2008, the requirement for an EIA of wave and current technologies was decided on a case-by-case analysis in Spain. Since 2013, the new EIA law in Spain (Law 21/2013, December 9th, on Environmental Impact Assessment) institutes a simplified EIA process to all projects subject to produce energy in the marine environment. Also, the new EIA law in Spain aims to reduce the time scale needed for obtaining the Environmental Authorisation, establishing a time period of no more than 4 months, or 6 months if there are justified reasons, thus significantly reducing the time needed for this consenting process which was about 3 to 24 months according to the 2008 EIA Law.

(Last updated October 1, 2019)


Several legislative acts lay the foundations for offshore renewable energy in the territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in Sweden:

  • The Environmental Act 1998, thereafter regularly revised in parts covers cross-cutting issues – e.g. environmental objectives and considerations, economizing of resources, nature protection, national areas of interest (nature reserves and national parks) including fundaments for the establishment of MSP, land and water quality management, regulations for hazardous environmental activities, and environmental assessments, including regulations for the EIA-process.
  • The National Maritime Policy Bill 2008 brings the concept of an integrated MSP, specifically the need for evaluation and investigation of current planning and responsibility for the territorial waters, the need for legislation for planning in EEZ and a responsible agency to be created.
  • The Planning and Building Act (1987), reinforced by the Act on Technical Requirements for Construction Works (1994). May be needed for on land constructions. 
  • The Swedish Economic Zone Act (1992) and the Fishery Act (1982) as amended by subsequent acts.

An application, plus EIA (+ technical documentation etc.) has to be filed to one of six Environmental Courts, after mandatory statutory consultation with the Regional (Länsstyrelse) and County (Kommun) Administrative Boards. The Environmental Court is the final arbiter, deciding whether to grant the permit. Sweden has a new Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, which has efforts in marine spatial planning and may be simplifying consenting processes of offshore energy projects.

Additional licenses must be obtained from Svenska Kraftnӓt, who manages the Swedish national grid, along with several minor consents from regional and national authorities.

(Last updated May 9, 2019)

The Netherlands

Marine renewable energy development requires a license under the Public Works and Water Management Act. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is authorized to make the decision concerning the granting of the application for the Water Act license.

There are several laws and regulations that have to be considered when licenses in the Dutch Exclusive Economic Zone of the North Sea are required:

  1. Sea Water Pollution Law
  2. Environmental Administration Law
  3. Spatial Arrangement Law
  4. Environmental Protection Law
  5. Water Act
  6. Wreckage Law
  7. Monuments Law
  8. Excavation Works Law
  9. North Sea Installations Law
  10. (Sea) Bottom Protection Law
  11. IMO sea lanes.

Total time for a decision is up to 6 months from submission. Important elements of the license include 1) construction of the wind farm must be started within 2 seasons after permit issue, 2) a bank guarantee must be given for the decommissioning of the wind farm and 3) it is not allowed to sell the licenses without permission of the minister.

The electrical connection point of the wind farm onshore must be discussed with TenneT, the national TSO, in what is effectively an ad hoc process. The permits of the cable route must also applied by and be discussed with the responsible local authorities.

(Last updated May 3, 2019)

United Kingdom

The marine licensing system in the United Kingdom is complex. Consents are required at various levels of central/federal and sub-national levels of government, each having different levels of responsibility in different maritime zones and thus variations in requirements.

In general, consent from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is required to construct, extend, or operate any offshore generating stations with a capacity between 1 and 100MW (Section 66 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009; Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989). Safety zone consents may also be required (Section 95 of the Energy Act 2004). Stations that would generate more than 100MW are classified as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and require a Development Consent Order (DCO) granted by the Secretary of State. The local planning authority for each region permits onshore planning and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) regulates the decommissioning of projects under Energy Act 2004.


There are two regimes for consenting renewable energy projects in English waters which are ultimately based on the size of a proposed project:

  1. Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP)  applications are processed by the Planning Inspectorate and recommendations are made to the Secretary of State. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is a key consultee in the process and responsible for monitoring compliance and enforcement of Deemed Marine License (DML) conditions.
  2. Projects less than 100 MW Require a marine licence from the MMO (Section 66 of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009). Projects greater than 1 MW in 0-12nm and greater than 50 MW outside 1nm require Section 36 consent (Electricity Act 1989) to build and operate an energy generation site. 

(Last updated May 30, 2019)

Northern Ireland

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) accepts applications for marine projects through an online system. The general license process is as follows:

  • Pre-screening consultation with Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA);
  • Formal EIA screening and scoping (if applicable);
  • Preparation of documentation, e.g. Environmental Statement (ES);
  • Formal application;
  • Consultation, feedback, and mediation;
  • License determination and issuing of licence(s) (if needed);
  • Management of returns, e.g. monitoring reports; and
  • Decommissioning (if required).

Some laws that a project must adhere to include the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended), the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended), and the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

(Last updated May 30, 2019)


The Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MS LOT) is responsible for the oversight of all marine renewable energy development in Scotland. MS LOT provides a “one-stop shop” for all marine license applications in Scottish waters and is responsible for the assessment of applications, ensuring compliance with legislation and appropriate consultation and liaison. Marine Scotland works closely with Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies, including: Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Local Planning Authorities, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Northern Lighthouse Board, and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The Marine Scotland Guidance for Marine Licence Applicants was produced in June 2015 for the purpose of guiding developers on the process, roles and responsibilities of the developer in respect to marine license applications, as well as other required consents. To simplify the process for applicants, Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team is the single point of application and initial inquiry for all Section 36 and marine licence applications. The application for Marine Renewable Energy Projects in the Territorial Sea and UK Controlled Waters Adjacent to Scotland describes the requirements in accordance with the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

(Last updated May 30, 2019)


Natural Resources Wales (NRW) issues marine energy licences on behalf of Welsh ministers in compliance with the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.Projects must also attain a European Protected Species (EPS) Licence, which prohibits deliberate disturbing, capturing, injuring, or destroying any breeding site of resting place of an EPS, issued under Regulation 53(2) of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.

In March 2011, the Welsh government published a Marine Renewable Energy Strategic Framework to investigate possibilities and streamline development processes. The Marine Energy Plan for Wales was published in 2016 by the Marine Energy Task and Finish Group and describes current status, goals, and recommendations for the consenting process going forward.

(Last updated May 30, 2019)

United States of America

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asserts regulatory jurisdiction over marine and hydrokinetic projects in the United States as an extension of its authority under the Federal Power Act to regulate and license hydroelectric projects on navigable waters (approximately within 3 nautical miles of shore), and on any projects with an onshore grid connection. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) asserts regulatory jurisdiction over marine projects on the outer continental shelf (seaward of 3 nautical miles offshore). These two agencies work together to provide a comprehensive, combined approach to permitting marine renewable energy development.

All marine energy projects require FERC authorization unless they fall under a specific exception, such that the deployment is experimental, short term, and has no effect on interstate commerce. The FERC offers an optional preliminary permit to secure first rights to a license application for a specific site to the entity that is studying a site in state waters. In order to maintain the permit, the permit holder must submit status reports every 6 months that show significant progress.

Construction and operation of a project cannot begin until a FERC license is issued, and the FERC will not issue an official license until BOEM has issued a lease for a project. BOEM offers three types of leases:

  1. A limited lease (usually 5 years) authorizes site assessment and technology testing, but it cannot be converted into a commercial lease.
  2. A commercial lease gives rights for production, sale, and delivery energy as well as easements required for cables and support facilities. These are generally 30-year term leases, with 5-year site assessment term and 25-year construction and operations term.
  3. A research lease is only for government agencies or state universities, and it authorizes testing and research. These types of leases are not issued in any area where they could interfere or compete with commercial marine renewable energy development activities.

Additional permits may also be required from BOEM, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the US Coast Guard (USCG), with substantial further agency consulting or permits required for environmental protection.

At the state level, strategies for regulation of marine renewable development include marine spatial planning (MSP) and development of a coastal management plan in accordance with the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). These methods are applicable only in territorial state waters (generally extending to 3 nautical miles) and can require additional permits based on the location of the planned development site. Requirements and the extent of marine energy specific regulations vary significantly by state.

For more information on the detailed and complex structure of US marine renewable energy development permitting, see Handbook of Marine Hydrokinetic Regulatory Processes (2020)

(Last updated June 21, 2021)