Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


In 2020 Italy issued the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), setting challenging energy and environmental targets for 2030. NECP was presented by the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructures, but it was prepared with the collaboration of various high-level technical and research bodies.

Renewables are expected to grow remarkably, getting to very high levels of penetration in the electricity sector, around 55%. A key role will be played by mature technologies such as photovoltaic and wind plants, which will be promoted through competitive mechanisms and regulatory actions, however innovative and promising technologies, including marine, are also encouraged to give a contribution to 2030 targets. In that context the NECP announced that ad hoc measurements will be put in force for such innovative technologies, evaluating different supporting schemes. Such provision was also confirmed by the Legislative Decree no. 199/2021 issued on December 15, 2021, concerning the "Implementation of Directive 2018/2001/EU on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources". This decree contains provisions on energy from renewable sources and defines the necessary framework to achieve 2030 targets on RES share and the expected enhancement related to the implementation of the new “Fit for 55” package recently promoted by the European Commission, which aims at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% within 2030 compared to 1990. In particular, the Decree envisages the definition of tenders for innovative technologies.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), the national plan functional to access the funds allocated in the Next Generation EU area, aims at giving a strong impulse for a rapid restart after the pandemic impact on country society and economy. It is divided into 6 Missions or main thematic areas on which to intervene, identified in full coherence with the 6 pillars of the Next Generation EU. The mission with the greatest allocation of resources is that relating to the Green Revolution and the Ecological Transition, to which over 31% of the total amount of the Plan will be allocated, or 69.8 billion euros of the 210 overall. Its goal is to intensify Italy's commitment to the ambitious objectives of the European Green Deal and create new opportunities for growth and development for our country. In particular, the investment 1.3 of Mission 2C2 is concerned with the promotion of innovative plants, including marine energy converters, to which 680 million euros are allocated.

Finally, the cluster “Blue Italian Growth” (BIG), led by the Italian National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – CNR), has continued its progress towards the establishment of an open structure for the aggregation of all the national actors involved in all the different sectors of the Blue Economy, including Marine Renewables. Sectoral Action Plans have been developed.


The Ministerial Decree 04/07/2019 is the latest issued support scheme, with the aim of promoting, through financial support, the diffusion of plants for the production of electricity from small, medium and large size renewable sources. In continuity with the D.M. 06/07/2012 and the D.M. 23/06/2016, registries and auctions are available to access incentives, which are dedicated to newly built photovoltaic plants, onshore wind turbines, hydroelectric plants and those with purification gas; according to NECP and Decree 199/2021, support for innovative technologies will be provided through following ad-hoc schemes, which will evaluate several kinds of promotion, depending on the maturity level of technologies.

D.M. 23/06/2016 was the latest scheme providing support for ocean energy. The Decree identifies four different ways of access to incentives: direct access, bid auctions (Dutch Auctions), registries for new power plants, for fully reconstructed power plants, for reactivated, empowered and hybrid power plants and registries for rebuilding intervention.
All the support schemes are managed by the Italian Energy Service Operator (Gestore Servizi Energetici - GSE), the body in charge of managing incentives to renewable energy.
New, fully reconstructed, reactivated or empowered wave and tidal energy power plants can access directly to incentives if their capacity is not greater than 60 kW, otherwise they must apply for access to registries.

The Directive 2014/89/EU on Marine Spatial Planning is also relevant for the specific Blue Energy Sector, as it establishes a framework for the implementation of maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management by Member States, aimed at promoting the sustainable growth of maritime economies, the sustainable development of marine areas and the sustainable use of marine resources. The Directive has been transposed into the Italian legislation via the D. Lgs 201/2016.


In the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), the investment 1.3 o Mission 2C2 is concerned with the promotion of innovative plants, including marine energy converters, to which 680 million euros are allocated.
The rationale is that achieving the 2030 and 2050 renewable energy targets implies a great deal of investment in the search for innovative energy production solutions, in terms of both technologies and plant configurations.

The project aims to support the construction of energy generation systems offshore renewable, which combine technologies with high development potential with multiple technologies experimental systems (such as systems that exploit wave motion), in innovative structures, also integrating storage. The intervention, therefore, aims to build plants with a total capacity of 200 MW from RES in the coming years. The implementation of these interventions, considering the different technologies used, would make it possible to produce around 490 GWh per year, leading to an estimated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 286,000 tons of CO2.

According to data from the 2021 OceanSET report, in 2019 in Europe, energy from the sea received 42.7 million euros in funding from regional and national research and development programs. The United Kingdom allocated the highest budget for Ocean Energy with 22 million euros, while France was the second with 5.8 million euros. Funds from Italy, Spain, Sweden and Ireland are between € 2 million and € 4.7 million.

Thanks to two innovative models developed by ENEA from 2020 it is possible to estimate the production of energy from the sea thanks to high-resolution forecasts of waves and tidal currents in the Mediterranean:

  • MITO: capable of providing forecasts on the temperature, salinity and speed of sea currents with spatial detail ranging from 2 km up to a few hundred meters as in the case of Straits of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus;
  • WAVES: the wave prediction system that guarantees resolution up to 800 meters in marine and coastal areas with high energy potential. Both models use the ENEA super computer "CRESCO6" with 1.4 million billion mathematical operations per second.
In the Mediterranean, the areas with the highest potential for wave energy are the western coasts of Sardinia and Corsica, but also the Strait of Sicily and the coastal areas of Algeria and Tunisia, where the average energy flow fluctuates between 10 and 13 kW/m. In addition to the waves, a novelty has been introduced in the model: local tides and those transmitted from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar have been included.

In Italy, tidal energy can be extracted mainly in the Strait of Messina. Together with the Strait of Gibraltar, this area shares the record as the most promising site in the Mediterranean: in fact, thanks to the exploitation of its currents that reach speeds of over 2 meters per second, the production of energy could reach 125 GWh per year, an amount sufficient to meet the energy needs of cities like Messina itself.

In our country, attention is growing for the exploitation of energy from the sea, in particular from waves since the extraction of energy from the tides is limited to a single geographical area and technology has a higher level of maturity. Initiatives in this sector are multiplying, but the most significant at public level concern the Research of the Electricity System and the recent establishment of the Blue Italian Growth National Technology Cluster (BIG) which sees in the development of marine renewable energies a driving force for economic growth and for the relaunch of the shipbuilding industry in our country. ENEA, together with the Polytechnic of Turin, is responsible for the activities related to marine renewable energy at the Technical Scientific Council of the Cluster-BIG. In February 2022 a collaborative workshop will be held to update the national action plan that will facilitate the achievement of marine energy objectives.

The Committee of Research Experts for the Electricity Sector (Comitato di Esperti di Ricerca per il Settore Elettrico - CERSE ) plays a strategic role in orienteering R&D activities towards innovation of the electrical system, through funding under the EU principles that regulate  State aid for Research and Development and Innovation. (Communication from the Commission 2014/C 198/01). The CERSE is composed of five members, appointed by the Minister of Economic Development, and is responsible for regulating public funding for research projects of general interest in the electricity sector.


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