Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy

A Framework for Offshore Clean Energy Infrastructure
A draft framework for Offshore Clean Energy Infrastructure was released by the Australian national government. A key component of the proposed regulatory process will be the establishment of an enabling Act: The Offshore Clean Energy Infrastructure Act. A process map (shown below) and discussion paper were released in Feb 2020.
The draft bill proposes the Australian Government minister with responsibility for energy matters will make all major decisions under the framework.
The Offshore Clean Energy Infrastructure Act was to be tabled in Parliament in the winter session of 2020. This timeline was COVID-delayed, and a $5M commitment was made in Australian national budget to finalise the policy over the next year.
Two principles of the proposed Act are worth noting:
  • To be flexible and non-prescriptive, to allow for the evolution of the industry over time. A lot of the detail will be left to the supporting policy and regulations, and
  • “Co-use” or “co-existence” for any licencing in the marine environment. Separate licences will be required for turbines and transmission infrastructure. This is intended to provide flexibility, for example to allow transmission infrastructure to have separate ownership and to ensure that exclusive use for turbines would not allow a proponent to lock out other transmission infrastructure.
A National Technology Investment Roadmap
A discussion paper titled: First Low Emission Technology Statement - 2020 was released. Key points from the discussion paper include:
  • Hydrogen is noted as a clean energy transition enabler, with a strong emphasis on green hydrogen, but not exclusively. A price of under $2/kg is targeted.
  • Energy storage, with the recognition of the high installed capacity of solar PV in Australia (18.5 GW), there is strong emphasis on storage technologies to firm supply, including battery and pumped hydro storage. Australia’s Hornsdale 150 MW storage battery is an example of the type of project being encouraged, along with large pumped hydro projects (Snowy Hydro 2.0 and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation) which have strong government support. A price of under $100/MWh is targeted.
  • Low carbon materials are identified as an opportunity, particularly related to opportunities for low emission steel and aluminium.
  • Carbon capture and sequestration: recognises Australia’s large geological storage basins. Also noted is the global dependence on CCS in negative emission scenarios and opportunity to maintain Australia’s coal and gas industries.
  • Soil carbon management: is seen as an untapped potential for carbon sequestration in Australia’s soils, while improving agricultural productivity. Estimated capacity to sequester around 1/5 of Australia’s emissions.
  • Offshore renewable projects: despite an increasing investment portfolio, these projects are being held up by the lack of regulatory framework in place. Offshore renewable energy is not recognised at all in the statement, including amongst watching brief technologies.
More information:
Ocean Energy Policy Initiatives by Australian States
Ocean energy policy initiatives have been introduced by three States during 2020:
Western Australia released a Distributed Energy Infrastructure Roadmap. Despite strong regional growth and support for marine energy in the past, and ongoing market development, the emphasis in this document focuses on PV + storage, and electrification of transport, including rooftop solar, battery storage, EVs / Smart appliances and metering, embedded networks and microgrids

Victoria has released a new marine and coastal policy for Victoria (August 2020). The policy includes clear guidelines regarding marine and coastal structures, specific policies relating to marine and coastal industries, and community stewardship and collaborative management practices.
Tasmania released a Renewable Energy Action Plan (Dec 2020). The plan includes:
  • 200% RE Target by 2040. Tasmania is already approximately 100% renewable energy with high penetration achieved via hydroelectricity. The plan is for a new interconnector to mainland Australia, and that the increased renewable capacity will be exported as green energy to mainland Australia. The vision is that Tasmania becomes the battery of the nation.
  • Within that scope of new generation, Tasmania’s offshore resources, including ocean energy, are acknowledged, and there is a strong support behind the Blue Economy CRC offshore renewable energy program.
  • Attract new load and energy intensive industries to Tasmania – jobs growth.
New national Marine Energy Standards Committee – EL066
EL-066 Marine Energy – wave, tidal and other water current converters, is Australia's new mirror committee to the International Electrotechnical Commission on Marine Energy Standards (IEC-TC114).  This is a first for the Australian ocean energy development sector.
In 2020, the Australian Ocean Energy Group (AOEG) undertook a strategic shift from a ‘coordinating body’ to a ‘market-driven’ organisation. 

In connecting end-users (markets, customers) with ocean energy technology suppliers, AOEG's goal is to accelerate commercialisation of the ocean energy sector through increased market demand. To accomplish this, AOEG launched their Ocean Energy Market Development Program in 2020.  This comprehensive program is focused on market acceptance of ocean energy systems and includes three core components:
  • Market awareness of the technologies and how they can integrate with other renewables to provide solutions to market needs.
  • Market accessibility which addresses how integrated ocean energy systems work and how they can align with specific needs of the market.
  • Market affordability to address customer concerns about cost, risks and energy system integration.  
The focus for the coming year will be on prioritising the key markets for wave and tidal developers in Australia followed by an economic valuation to determine the total potential of that ocean energy market.   
Several public funding programs are in place which supports ocean energy systems in Australia. Programmes with a track record of supporting ocean energy activities include:

Commonwealth Funding Bodies:

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) 
ARENA was established by the Australian Government in 2012, with the purpose to improve competitiveness of renewable energy technologies, and improve the supply of renewable energy through innovation that benefits Australian consumers and businesses.
Presently, ARENA has two active ocean energy projects, including support for the design, construction, deployment, installation and operation of WaveSwell Energy’s UniWave200 200 kW wave energy converter on King Island, Tasmania; and through its International Engagement Program, supporting Australia’s participation in the International Energy Agency Ocean Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Program. Since inception, ARENA has supported 13 ocean energy projects, with a total investment of over $AUD 54m towards total project value of over $AUD 140m.
Current investment priorities for ARENA include Integrating renewables into the electricity system; Accelerating green hydrogen; and Supporting industry to reduce emissions.

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Co-operative Research Centre Program
The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Program supports Australian industries ability to compete and produce, by helping industry partner with the research sector to solve industry identified issues.
The Blue Economy CRC is a 10-yr program launched in 2020, with the purpose of delivering innovation to support growth of Australia’s offshore seafood and renewable energy production, underpinned by a $AUD 70m grant from the Commonwealth CRC program.
More information:

National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) 
NERA is Australia’s Industry growth centre for the energy resources sector, uniquely positioned to support sector-wide transformation and unlock $10b of new value for the Australian economy. NERA’s vision is to see Australia as a global energy powerhouse, and a sought after destination for investment and the leading source of knowledge and solutions.
NERA is fast-tracking the formation of an industry-led ocean energy cluster that will strengthen collaboration, accelerate innovation and increase the current markets for Australia’s ocean energy sector. The cluster – the Australian Ocean Energy Group - facilitates industry collaboration of the ocean energy industry to create significant value for Australia.

 Australian Research Council (ARC)
The ARC administers the National Competitive Grants Program accessible to Research Universities, which is a significant component of Australia’s investment in R&D. The ARC’s purpose is to grow knowledge and innovation for the benefit of the Australian community through funding the highest quality research, assessing the quality, engagement and impact of research, and providing advice on research matters.

The ARC administers several active offshore renewable energy projects across several Universities, including UWA, Curtin University, RMIT, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Melbourne.

Clean Energy Finance Council (CEFC)
The CEFC has a unique role to increase investment in Australia’s transition to lower emissions, to catalyse private sector investment in Australia’s clean energy sector with backing from the Commonwealth. The CEFC invest in technologies at higher TRL/CRL than other funding schemes in the innovation sphere, as listed above, investing responsibly and managing risk prudently. To date, CEFC are yet to support any ocean energy technologies, despite it being identified as eligible technology.

State Programmes:

In addition to Commonwealth public funding programmes, State Government public funds have also supported R&D for ocean energy technologies. The West Australian State Government is the most notable of these, with the University of Western Australia Wave Energy Research Centre being an example, funded through the “Royalties for Regions” Grant from the WA Govt.


The International Energy Agency (IEA) Ocean Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Programme (OES) is pleased to announce the accession of Australia to the OES.

After several year’s hiatus, the Australian Government has issued its intent to reinstate membership of the OES. This has been made possible via the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) International Engagement Program, which supports projects that advance renewable energy technologies along the innovation chain.

The contracting party nominated by the government is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), an independent federal Government funded agency responsible for scientific and industrial research, with an ocean energy presence spanning decades.

The OES Chairman Henry Jeffrey, from the University of Edinburgh, welcomed Australia, stating their membership “underpins the attractiveness of the ocean energy resource in Australia and the important role that CSIRO play in shaping their future energy system.”

The Implementing Agreement was signed on the 6th of August 2018 by Tony Worby, Director of CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere (CSIRO), for and on behalf of the Government of Australia. Tony Worby, said: “CSIRO is committed to supporting sustainable growth of the blue economy locally and globally and to collaboration on opportunities of common interest. Through the IEA-OES we will support the ocean renewable energy sector to realise its potential and contribute to knowledge sharing across marine, engineering and energy domains.”

The new delegate to the OES Executive Committee, Mark Hemer, Team Leader of Sea-Level, Waves and Coastal Extremes at CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, said: “Having arguably the largest ocean renewable energy resource of any country in the world, Australia is in a position to benefit from a mature ocean energy sector. In recent years, a small but united Australian ocean renewable energy sector has emerged aiming to build a local industry. Ocean energy projects in Australia face the same set of challenges as seen internationally in the sector, and through Australia’s re-engagement in the IEA-OES we hope to contribute our knowledge and derive value from others.”


The OES is organised under the auspices of the International Energy Agency (IEA) but is functionally and legally autonomous. Views, findings and
publications of the OES do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or its individual member countries.