Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


In January 2020, Italy has presented to the EU Commission 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.

The Blue Italian Growth Technology Cluster (BIG) led by the Italian National Research Council (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.

To restart Europe after the Coronavirus pandemic, last July the EU approved the Next Generation EU, known in Italy as the Recovery Fund. This is a special fund aimed at financing the economic recovery of the EU in the three-year period 2021-2023 with European government bonds, that will be used to support structural reform projects envisaged by the national reform plans of each country. The total allocation is 750 billion euros, to be divided between the various countries and Italy is among the major beneficiaries of this measure. Digitization, research and innovation represent one of the three strategic axes of the Recovery Plan, but the largest share of the resources of the Italian Recovery and Resilience Plan goes to the macro-sector “Green revolution and ecological transition” (about 70 billion euros), a large ambit in which the growth of RES (including ocean energy), hydrogen and sustainable mobility emerges. In the Recovery Plan, it is proposed to increase the share of energy produced from renewable sources in line with European objectives, stimulating the development of a green industrial chain, through investments of 8,6 billion euros and interventions on several scopes.


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, on shore wind turbines, hydroelectric plants and those with purification gas; according to NECP, 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. The Decree defines the criteria to access the registries and the Dutch Auctions and establishes specific limits for the annual capacity eligible to incentives. These limits are set up differently for each kind of renewable energy source and for all the different ways of access to incentives (registries or bid auctions).

In general, the Decree grants a fixed tariff plus, in some cases, a specific premium, to provide incentives to net electricity fed into the grid. The fixed tariff is different according to each source, technology, and capacity range considered. Power plants with a capacity > 500 kW can only receive the incentive (fixed tariff minus electricity hourly zonal price, plus premiums if foreseen). Power plants with a capacity ≤ 500 kW can alternatively receive a Feed-in Tariff composed by the fixed tariff plus, in some cases, a specific premium.

The incentives last for the average conventional plant life of each typology of power plant. 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 direct access to incentive was in force up to the end of 2017, but no plant has benefited from this incentive.

From 2013 to 2016, the total annual capacity eligible for access to registries, and therefore for granting incentives, amounted to 6 MW. To this day, only one project, with capacity of 50 kW, located in Tuscany, participated to the registry. The plant was then realized and presented formal request to access incentives, but such request was rejected.



With about 5 million euros a year, Italy ranks first among Mediterranean countries and second in all of Europe, immediately after the United Kingdom, for public funding for energy from the sea. This was revealed by the first report of the European project OceanSET 2020, which analysed investments and technological development of 11 European countries (Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain).

Thanks to two innovative models developed by ENEA it is now possible to estimate the production of energy from the sea:

  • 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;
  • WAVES: the wave prediction system that guarantees resolution up to 800 meters in marine and coastal areas with high energy potential.

In Italy, 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 concerns 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.

Italy relies on a public research programme aimed at maintaining and improving the national energy system, including the still limited marine energy sector. Such programme, named Ricerca di Sistema (System Research), purses as its main objective the promotion, organization and management, of basic and industrial research, and of the related technological development, finally ensuring maximum fruition of results to all citizens and end users.

The Committee of Research Experts for the Electricity Sector (CERSE) plays a strategic role in orienteering R&D activities towards the innovation of the electrical system, through funding under the EU principles that regulate  State aid for Research and Development and Innovation. 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.


The Italian increasing interest in the exploitation of wave and tidal technology to produce clean and renewable energy can be recognized either in some Government initiatives (e.g. the higher incentive for such sources) or in the research activities.

Mainly universities and companies specialized in research and innovative designs are involved in R&D in this field, thanks to which Italy is at forefront in research, development and demonstration at a prototypal level. The offshore wind farm production is also supported through a special support mechanism. 

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