Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


A number of steps have been taken in 2021 to establish a new legal framework for ocean energy development. On the one hand, the Maritime Spatial Planning Plan continues to move forward in June 2021, the consultation and public information phase of the draft Royal Decree that will approve the maritime spatial planning plans in search of inputs and improvements.
Previously, several rounds of meetings had already been held with the sectors involved: fisheries energy environment maritime transport tourism etc., as well as with the regional administrations. Subsequently, the mandatory strategic environmental study of the Maritime Spatial Planning Plan has been started. This plan will be reviewed every 7 years. Although it is not reserved in any area of priority use for ocean energies because it is still far from its commercial phase, there will be no restrictions to promote R&D projects in areas reserved for other uses provided that the general legal framework is complied with.
In 2013 the European Commission put forward an Atlantic Action Plan to implement the Atlantic Maritime Strategy. The Action Plan went through a mid-term review and identified seven goals under four thematic pillars through concrete actions mobilising all relevant Atlantic stakeholders. The coordination of Pillar III – Marine Renewable Energy – was awarded to EVE (Basque Energy Agency) who presented a roadmap to the Atlantic Strategic Committed. This Committee approved the roadmap and EVE, together with the task force set up for this purpose, worked on its deployment.

Moreover, in March 2021, the final version of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC) was approved, which proposes that in 2030 renewables contribute 42% of the final energy in Spain and 74% of electricity. In its final version, it does not set specific targets for ocean energies, but it appears a section of Other Energies with installed power targets of 40 MW for 2025 and 80 MW for 2030.
And finally, in December 2021, the Spanish Government has published the Roadmap for the Development of Offshore Wind and Energy in Spain, which sets as a goal to reach 40-60 MW of installed power of the sea, basically wave energy, by 2030.


There are no specific market incentives for ocean energy in Spain but for renewable energy installations in general.
Royal Decree 413/2014 established that the support for new renewable facilities is granted through competitive public tender processes. Through these auction processes, bidders propose the initial value for the investment that they will be willing to accept, and the MW auctioned are allocated to the most competitive offers (the lower ones).
Royal Decree 960/2020, of November 3, which regulates the economic regime of renewable energies for electricity production facilities and Order TED / 1161/2020, of December 4, which regulates the first auction mechanism for the granting of the economic regime of renewable energies and establishes the indicative calendar for the period 2020-2025, will allow starting the tender calendar for the next five years. This Order establishes a tender of 20 MW every two years focused on “Other Technologies”, where ocean energy is included, reaching 60 MW for 2025 The next auction is expected for April 2022.
The Basque Energy Agency (EVE) launched a new call of its “Demonstration and validation of emerging marine renewable energy technologies” programme in 2021. The programme has a budget of 2.5 M€ for a maximum of 3-year duration projects.

Consenting processes

There is no specific Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) policy.

Pre-selected areas for ocean energy development have not been defined. Site selection is carried out on a case-by-case analysis. In the Basque country, in the case of Biscay Marine Energy Platform (BIMEP), a MSP approach was used for selecting the site.

The authorities involved in the consenting process are:

  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, through the Coasts Directorate-General – is in charge of the authorizations and concessions regarding the occupation of maritime-terrestrial areas. This ministry will also act as the decision making body for all the environmental aspects;
  • The Ministry of Development, through the Merchant Navy Directorate-General – authorizes the precise activities when they affect maritime safety, navigation and human life at sea;
  • In case of public ports occupation, the competent port authority shall grant authorization or concession;
  • Regional governments can participate in the process depending on their competences. In particular, regional governments (there are 17 in Spain) are the decision-making bodies when the site is in internal sea areas (i.e. sea areas lying between two capes).

The total time needed to obtain approval is approximately two years but this timeframe varies between projects.

For instance, consenting of BIMEP started in July 2008 and ended in 2012 with the concession of marine-terrestrial public domain and the authorization 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 for an ‘ordinary’ renewable energy plant. The reason for such time variability to obtain the final consent is attributed to whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required or not.

The new EIA law in Spain since 2013 aims to reduce the time scale needed for obtaining the Environmental Authorization, establishing a time period of no more than 4 months, or 6 months if there are justified reasons, thus reducing significantly the time needed for this consenting process which was about 3 to 24 months according to the previous law from 2008.

The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce, through the Energy Policy and Mines Directorate-General, is the decision-making body and it is responsible for granting the administrative authorization. However, in practice, there are more bodies involved in the process and developers need to deal with them.

An EIA is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

According to Law 21/2013, of 9 December, all projects devoted to the production of energy on the marine environment are subject to be evaluated through a simplified environmental impact assessment process. The entity responsible for the decision on whether an EIA is required or not is the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

There are not too many experiences related with EIA baseline and post-monitoring steps. The most interesting case can be BIMEP where an environmental monitoring plan was carried out. For example, this included monitoring activities during the installation of the electrical cables.

In Spain, no dedicated consenting process exists ocean energy technologies.

The consenting process is based on three main legal instruments that are briefly outlined here.

  • Royal Decree 1028/2007, of 20 July – 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, of 1 December, which 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 Authorization (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 Authorization (EA) – allows the installations, once the project is installed, to be powered up and proceed to commercial exploitation.
  • Law 21/2013, of 9 December, on Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Law 2/2013, of 29 May, for protection and sustainable coastal use and amending the previous Coastal Law of 1998. 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 the project development) and associated arrangements (e.g. deadlines, transfers and expiry.

Legislation and regulation that have been adapted to better suit ocean energy:

  • The new law for EIA substantially reduces the time for obtaining the Environmental Impact Authorization;
  • Royal Decree 1028/2007 – it is simplified for ocean energy since a competitive procedure between promoters (which applied for offshore wind) is not considered for ocean energy.

Consultation is usually required as part of the legal licensing process. It is usually made after the Environmental Impact Statement is delivered to the authorities for approval.

Advices are asked by the licensing authority to a number of statutory consultees namely Institute of Nature Conservation, port authorities and a number of public authorities responsible for marine resources management.

There are informal consultation activities implemented during the licensing process: usually developers prepare a number of informal public events to disseminate the project and collect the public feed-back on their activities at sea.

It is clear to applicants what permits are required, in what order and what information must be supplied at what time, but no specific guideline (single document) is available for developers.

Deployment at Bimep is already pre-consented so developers do not have to submit a full application comprising all the typical consents providing certain initial conditions are met.

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