Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


In 2020 electricity from renewable energy contributed around 46% of electricity consumption in Germany - an increase of 3.8 percentage points compared with the previous year. According to Agora’s analysis, gas, coal and nuclear power plants lost 6 percentage points in the generation mix last year, supplying only 50 % of German electricity for the first time. Without corona and the resulting 3.6 % drop in electricity demand, the share of renewables would have been only 44.6 % in 2020. Two-thirds of the increase in renewables is attributable to a good wind year and more offshore wind power; one-third to PV which benefited from both sunny conditions and 4.4 gigawatts of capacity additions in 2020. At 51 terawatt-hours, solar energy supplied more electricity than hard coal (42.5 terawatt-hours) for the first time. (Source:

As a result of the pandemic, Germany's greenhouse gas emissions fell significantly in 2020, coming in 42.3 % below the reference year of 1990. Germany thus met its 2020 climate protection target of a 40 % reduction. One main driver was recession-induced declines in energy consumption, industrial production and transport. In addition, carbon prices were relatively high and gas prices low. A mild winter also led to low heating energy consumption. Two thirds of this reduction are corona effects; without them, the reduction would have been around 25 million metric tons. The reduction in emissions compared with 1990 would then have been 37.8 %. "Real climate protection effects were only seen … in the electricity sector, because here the CO2 reductions are due to the replacement of coal by gas and renewables," says Dr. Patrick Graichen, director of Agora Energiewende.  
Wind turbines in the North Sea accounted for 17.2 % of Germany’s total wind power output of 132 TWh, including 4 TWh from wind parks in the Baltic Sea. TenneT's offshore transmission capacity in the German North Sea has reached 7.13 GW. By 2030 Germany aims to have 20 GW of offshore wind and TenneT will be responsible for connecting 17 GW of that. In its overview of 2020, the TSO points out that the power grid will not be the only tool to distribute the “ever-growing addition of renewables” in the future. Power-to-X technologies, including the use of electrolysers for hydrogen production, and sector coupling will limit the grid expansion (source:

In 2020, Germany held the presidency of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) a cross-border group, currently comprising nine European states (following the UK’s withdrawal) and the European Commission as its members. Apart from Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are members of the NSEC. The focus of the NSEC’s work is on the expansion of offshore wind energy and offshore grid infrastructure. Germany’s presidency in 2020 focussed on the promotion of joint and hybrid projects, where offshore wind farms are linked through an interconnector to at least two member states. This allows not only for the transport of electricity generated in wind farms, but also the mutual exchange of electricity (source: BMWi).

Consenting processes

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is used as a decision making tool in all activities developed in the North and Baltic Sea. However, there are no defined areas for ocean energy in Germany and the MSP regime does not specifically consider ocean energy developments.

Nevertheless, areas for offshore energy power production have been specified and implemented by the Federal Government’s strategy to wind energy use at sea (2002), which is part of its overall sustainability strategy. This plan aims to create framework conditions for offshore wind energy potential to be exploited, in addition, the Federal Government’s Energy and Climate Programme (IEKP) of December 2007 formulates the goal of increasing the proportion of renewable energies in electricity production.

The Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS) has determined the targets and principles of spatial planning for the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the North and Baltic Sea with regards to economic and scientific use, safety and efficiency of maritime traffic as well as protection of the marine environment. The MSP covers all three dimensions of the marine space (surface, water column and seabed), and identifies specific zones for maritime activities. The spatial plan for the EEZ is available for public consultation in the libraries of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency.

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

Within the 12 nautical mile limit, i.e. in the area of the territorial sea, the German coastal states are responsible for the approval of renewable energy, because an approval granted by the BSH for installations in the EEZ is not legally binding for approval procedures involving installations on land and in the territorial sea.

The BSH and the competent regional Waterways and Shipping Directorate also examine whether the project would constitute a hazard to navigation. For a wind farm project to obtain approval, the regional Waterways and Shipping Directorate must have consented to it under the aspect of navigation safety.

The Federal Energy Regulator (BundesNetzagentur) is in charge of approving applications for an offshore grid on economic grounds.

The approval procedure has the following steps:

• Competent authorities like the regional Waterways and Shipping Directorates and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation are informed about the project application and asked to comment;
• A project presentation is offered to the project planner during an application conference. An important aspect of the approval procedure is an early involvement of the German coastal states, which have to approve the laying of land feeder cables through the territorial sea for the transport of electricity to onshore substations;
• If required by the BHS, the applicant prepares an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a risk analysis to be reviewed by the BSH and if requirements are met the project is approved.

There is no specific authority responsible to manage the ocean energy consenting process (“one stop shop” facility or entity).

In the EEZ, the potential impacts of the planned facilities on the marine environment have to be assessed. An EIA is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The responsible for the decision on whether an EIA is required is the BSH. In the course of the approval procedure, the BSH reviews whether the marine environmental features to be protected are at risk by the project deployment and informs the project’s proponent if they are required to perform an EIA. As for offshore wind energy, the process is much clearer since offshore wind farm projects comprising more than 20 turbines require an EIA based on the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (UVPG).

There are also specific standards for the baseline and monitoring of offshore wind projects. In accordance with these standards, baseline and post-deployment surveys have to investigate impacts on features of conservation interest, i.e. fish, benthos, birds and marine mammals in order to determine their spatial distribution and temporal variability during three main stages:

• Pre-construction phase (baseline survey);
• To monitor the effects of construction, operation and decommissioning;
• To establish a basis for evaluating the monitoring results.

There are no specific EIA steps for ocean energy projects, therefore these projects are considered under the existing legislation for the offshore wind sector.

There are no well-defined procedures to obtain consent for ocean energy, therefore these projects are considered under the legislation designed to the offshore wind sector.

The legislation used to regulate offshore renewable energy deployments in the North and Baltic Sea is the Maritime Spatial Plan.

The consultation process starts upon the submission of the projects application to the competent authorities.

A larger number of stakeholders are involved in the process: the public has the possibility to inspect the planning documents. Mandatory consultees include all competent authorities (including the regional Waterways and Shipping Directorates, mining authority, Federal Agency for Nature Conservation) associations (e.g. nature protection, commercial and small craft shipping, fisheries, and wind energy associations) and the public.

Subsequent to the second round of participation, an application conference is held during which the applicant has the opportunity to present the project. Conflicting interests and uses are discussed, and the scope of investigations required to study possible effects on the marine environment is determined.

There are guidelines for the promotion of offshore wind energy use in accordance with the Federal Government’s sustainability strategy. These guidelines can provide helpful inputs for the developers of ocean energy projects.


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